Mike Bosco, senior vice president of Army Mission Solutions at Sev1Tech LLC, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding the challenges of making the transition from the U.S. military to the public or private sectors as well as the drive for greater collaboration between the government and industry during the latest Executive Spotlight interview.
You can read the full interview with Mike Bosco below.
ExecutiveBiz: What advice would you give to someone who is or wants to make the transition from a past military career into the public or private sectors? What are the most important aspects to understand in order to successfully make the transition?
Mike Bosco: “This year is my tenth anniversary of retiring from the U.S. military. I officially retired in July 2012, and I quoted Morgan Freeman’s character Red’s infamous line from The Shawshank Redemption, ‘These walls are funny. At first, you hate them and then you get used to them. If enough time passes, you get to depend on them.’
I had been in the military since 17 and everything was under a specific structure, so reentering civilian life was a transition. Change can be hard and nerve-wracking, but it’s all about having the right mindset and creating a plan of action. Most importantly, it’s about networking and that can be unnatural to a lot of ex-military people who are known as quiet professionals.
As a part of making the jump to this industry, you must be willing to come out of your shell and enter a brand-new ecosystem. You must promote yourself and ask questions as you learn your chosen second career and adapt to civilian life.
The best advice that I’d give to our military service members is to own your transition timeline. If you’re getting ready to make the jump, you need to own it. You need to take advantage of transition events and opportunities and like in the military you must ‘backwards plan.’
Another note from my own personal experience is that the military transition assistance programs, like Soldier for Life, which are mandated by Congress for military personnel coming out of service, are teaching the basics.
They’re providing wave tops of information but, it’s not going to be everything you need, and you can’t put all your eggs just in that basket. Therefore, you need to network, seek mentoring opportunities, and you must reach out.
Platforms like LinkedIn are a great way to connect with those who have retired or moved on to ask questions and learn more about how veterans have made the transition. Just doing a little research on LinkedIn and creating a profile can be a good first step as you make this transition journey.
I’m by no means an expert, but you can also leverage a third party and work with nonprofit transition programs as well. There are some programs like the Honor Foundation that I’m personally a part of that are fantastic organizations that aid in developing your transition plan, allow for mentorship, and networking, and get the ball rolling.
I think one of the best secrets out there for transitioning service members to take advantage of is the DOD Skillbridge program. Sev1Tech is a partner in the Skillbridge program. It’s ultimately a strong internship that helps you transition in your last few months in the military, and you spend as much as six months with an industry partner learning different roles in your chosen business or industry.
It’s a fantastic opportunity to make that soft entry into a new civilian environment. It’s great for the industry. It’s great for the military and I’m very glad to see that our leadership has also really embraced this because during my time, you got every bit of juice out of yourself to serve our nation and you retired. That mindset continues to change.”
ExecutiveBiz: How can industry and the federal government work together to increase greater collaboration and drive more innovative solutions for everyone to use to address the latest challenges of today?
Mike Bosco: “First and foremost, the exchange of talent from both sides. The truth is that the process is much easier for industry to acquire talent from the government, but the process for the government to bring in top talent from industry is extremely hard and takes a long time.
The federal government is aware of this, but it would still take several months to get hired into a government role. In most cases, talent has moved on to something else in that time. I think the critical challenge for the government to make is to streamline how they’re bringing industry talent to provide new perspectives.
They can bring some transformative ideas to the table, but the government has been stuck in the long and legacy processes. I’ve had a lot of conversations and seen many people make the move from industry to government and get incredibly frustrated with the process, but I do think we’re on a very positive turn and the talent gap is being addressed on the government side of things.
After more than two decades in the Army, I coined the phrase, ‘We train for wars of the past. We plan for the wars of the future, and we’re stuck in the present.’
As we focus on the technical challenges, we can use modernization as a good example. I recently had an insightful chat with the Army Futures Command Network – Cross-Functional Team, who provided a great analogy for this situation. Remember these numbers: 70, 29, and one.
Up to 70 percent of the U.S. Army’s modernization priorities are legacy. The service branch is stuck in quicksand on legacy systems. They’re also trying to modernize another 29 percent of the time and that just leaves one percent of the circle that’s been transformative of where our nation needs to be by 2030 to 2035.
With a one percent turnaround of modernization initiatives, there’s no way we can transform our military by 2035. As a result, the challenge now becomes how to get technology from Silicon Valley into government hands and figure out how to drive greater collaboration for the sake of our collective future.
If we look at the civilian sector as well, its innovation is driven by new technology that provides great value to customers while building efficiencies and adopting them as the new norm. Warfare falls into a similar path, but innovation normally occurs during a conflict.
You can see the impact of the commercial low-cost drones and even medium-cost drones that are being used in Ukraine. MEO/LEO Satellite communications, such as StarLink, and everything that’s happening is something to watch. Open-source data is thriving. All the while, the federal government is stuck in its legacy systems and mindset.
I think the communication between industry and government is good. Aided by technology exchange meetings or quarterly briefs. And though these exchanges are good, there is the need for streamlining acquisition and security processes to match the pace of technology so as to transform how we fight and win future conflicts.
The government is keenly aware of all this. I’m not identifying anything new, but as I see this from an industry perspective, we have the same challenges. How do we help fix policy and the processes? That’s the big question that we need to answer as soon as possible because we don’t have the time to waste.”
ExecutiveBiz: An important part of a company having strong business ethics in the federal sector is about helping and giving back to the greater community. Can you speak to the various charities and work with other organizations that Sev1Tech does to make a difference?
Mike Bosco: “As we talk about the greater community and the community service find of things, we work along with our clients and workforce on several impactful initiatives. For instance, our organization ‘Sev1Cares’ allows our employees to support the community service initiatives directly within the communities we serve.
Our employees get to nominate the service or initiatives in their local communities and find others to participate. Our company has a long legacy of doing this. Our CEO Bob Lohfeld Jr. started Sev1Cares off with the origins of the company, which really inspired me.
Most recently, our people volunteered hundreds and hundreds of hours last year so we’re going very strong into 2023. Our summer employees received the 2021 President’s Volunteer Service Award. We’ve seen a lot of success and we’re proud to have our people represent the Sev1Tech ‘Employee-Centric’ mindset in that way.”