“Diversity leads to better outcomes… better decisions, increased innovation, stronger financial returns, and a great place to work for everyone” said Janet Van Huysse, Head of People at Cloudflare during our Q1-2020 kickoff. Veterans, people who have served in the military, are a vital element of a diverse workforce. We come in diverse shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and orientations. We bring diverse skillsets, experiences, and perspectives.
If you haven’t served in the military and haven’t worked with many veterans, here are some of the things that you can expect from your colleagues or direct reports that are veterans.
Veterans know what it means to SERVE. Indeed, it is a truism that living in service to others is a life well-lived, and that service to others is a foundation of esprit de corps. Though relatively few of us have seen combat, we have all signed a blank check to our nation made payable for any amount, up to and including our lives. This is what it means to become part of something bigger than oneself. This translates to putting our common shared interests ahead of our personal interests even when that means becoming an instrument of a foreign policy we might not agree with.
Veterans know what it means to be part of a TEAM. The phrase “I’ve got your back” means a lot when it comes from a veteran because they’re referring to the blank check. Just about every veteran you ask will tell you they really miss being part of something bigger than themselves. Companies and organizations in the civilian world that can connect the dots in this way, like Cloudflare’s mission to help build a better internet, unlock the magic that accomplishes the seemingly impossible. We see this at Cloudflare in the incredible pace of product releases AND product improvements. We see this at Cloudflare when people go to the mat for their customers and when people come together to fix a problem.
Veterans know what it means to focus on a MISSION. When people have bought into the mission, everything and everyone aligns to achieve it. We know that together, as part of a team, with solid leadership, strategy, and tactics we can accomplish the mission. Veterans will help you drop things that are extraneous to the mission and help you focus on the things that will get the mission accomplished. When a veteran on your team asks, “What problem are we trying to solve?” or “Why are we doing this?” you can bet a paycheck that they’re trying to draw a straight line to the goal of the mission.
Veterans know what it means to COMMIT. Most people view the military as a top-down, hierarchical organization because, well… it is. But most people don’t realize the level of consensus-driven decision-making that happens prior to an order being given. “Because I told you so” is just not enough of a reason for people to risk their lives or for them to effectively execute their part of a mission. So the military involves their people in mission planning where alternatives are thrashed out, often with great conviction. But when time is up and the mission commander makes their call on how the mission will be carried out, veterans know it’s time to put aside their personal opinions, get onboard, and do whatever it takes to make the plan successful. Jeff Bezos famously calls this “disagree and commit” and veterans are well-practiced in this skill.
Veterans know the importance of MORALE. We’ve seen the unit with everything going for it fail, and we’ve seen the underdog come out on top. We’ve seen troubled units turn themselves around, seemingly overnight. Veterans know how the days drag on endlessly when morale is low, and we know the joy that comes from playing their part in a group that is proud to be doing what they’re doing.
Veterans know how to make DIVERSITY work. We had to because we had no choice in who we worked with in the military. Every year one-third of the people in our units left and new people showed up out of the blue. They were selected by someone else and we couldn’t fire them. So veterans get good at onboarding themselves into new organizations and onboarding new people to their teams. Veterans get good at figuring out what people have to offer and where they have gaps so the team can reshape itself to maximize performance.
If you’re a veteran reading this, know that Cloudflare has a seat at the table for you. This can be your opportunity to transition into the civilian world, transition into tech, or accelerate your career in tech at a rocket-ship that appreciates what you have to offer.
Supporting veterans is distinct from supporting their country’s foreign policy. Most Americans recognize the mistake we made in not welcoming home veterans of the Vietnam War because we didn’t support the war at-large. Nowadays, “thank you for your service” is a meaningful phrase most veterans hear with some regularity and I’m here to tell you that it means a lot. And it especially means a lot to those veterans who carry the lifelong burden of combat action.
So we Cloudflarians that are also veterans also want to say thank you to all of YOU for welcoming us into this company, this culture, and this team that is doing so much more than helping to build a better internet. We are proud and grateful to serve alongside you at CLOUDFLARE.