From Military to Tech, These Veterans Are on a Mission

Three local vets share perspectives on aligning the skills they acquired in the service with technology roles.
Written by Kim Conway
November 11, 2021Updated: November 17, 2021

When Gavin Mohrmann returned to civilian life after serving in the Army, he was faced with a challenge to relearn his way of thinking. “Initially, I felt like an outsider who believed that their way of thinking was the ‘correct’ way,” he explained. As the military taught him to do, he put his entire self into the mission — but this time, the mission was personal. The journey that followed led Mohrmann to business school and therapy, which ultimately granted him the capacity to grow, finding a refreshed and educated approach to relationship building as senior director of business development at Foursquare

Across the industry, veterans are finding outlets to apply their military experience in civilian tech roles. For the last 26 years, fintech has allowed Ana Cobb to carry over the leadership skills, integrity and responsibility that guided her through serving in the U.S. Army Reserve. And Bill Leinert noted that the extensive background in telecommunications he received in the Navy and Navy Reserves seamlessly transferred over into our extensively connected world.

Knowing that tech is always changing and their military experiences will always be a part of their respective stories, all three of these veterans agree that the path forward for future veterans considering a career in tech must include learning opportunities. Whether you decide to keep your skills sharp and relevant by continuing your education or you focus on gaining a deeper understanding of your relationships and the impact technology has on and around them — only good will come from furthering your personal and professional reach. 

Built In LA met with these military veterans employed at PennyMac, Foursquare and Boingo to learn how their service helped them advance their tech careers in the civilian world. Through their stories, we learned about the skills they’ve since developed and the advice they would offer to fellow veterans seeking a similar transition.

 

Ana Cobb
VP, Outage, Problem and Change Management

 

How and where did you serve your country? What is your current role, and what are you working on right now?

I served in the U.S. Army Reserve for eight years, primarily in Illinois and finishing in California. My journey started in communications, electronic warfare intelligence and signal corps, working as a 31C teletype operator and ending as a sergeant overlooking signal teams. 

Today I am the VP of change and outage management in IT infrastructure at PennyMac. It is an exciting time within the company, as we grow and mature our information technology infrastructure library standards and rapidly expand as a unit to meet significant corporate growth. We are always looking for and utilizing the newest technologies available to adapt quickly and maintain our standards. 

My experience taught me not only how to lead, but how to collaborate and bring out the best in people to achieve a common goal.”

 

What aspects of your military service have helped you build a career in tech, and what are some new skills you’ve developed since you left the service?

The military shaped my sense of responsibility, honor and integrity — all which have been significantly important throughout my 26 years in financial technology. These attributes also helped me understand the field as I was finishing my degree and encountering new and different technologies. Being in the Reserves allowed me to continue working on my education, while growing as a soldier in environments where learning and exposure to other fields was encouraged. Similarly, as a sergeant with experience leading people from many different backgrounds, I expanded my ability to manage individuals outside the military. My experience taught me not only how to lead, but how to collaborate and bring out the best in people to achieve a common goal. 

 

What advice would you give to fellow veterans who are looking to build a career in the tech sector?

My advice is to always be ready and keep learning. Technical fields change all the time with new tools, environments and thinking processes. Continue to focus and improve your interpersonal skills as the world becomes closer through technology. Remember that your skills will only take you as far as you can communicate and share your experience. 

 

 

Gavin Mohrmann
Senior Director of Business Development

 

How and where did you serve your country? What is your current role?

I received my commission from West Point, attended ranger and airborne school, and was stationed in Hawaii. I was deployed to Iraq from 2008 to 2009 where I conducted combat and noncombat operations with a platoon of 40 soldiers.

I’m currently a senior director of business development, responsible for identifying revenue opportunities in the financial services industry.

 

What aspects of your military service have helped you build a career in tech, and what are some new skills you’ve developed since you left the service?

I bring a sense of urgency to everything I do. Whether I was responding to an improvised explosive device event, conducting a raid or ensuring a city had access to clean water, the military taught me to place my whole self into the mission. I bring this same level of intensity to the private sector.  

An area of development I’ve focused on since leaving the service is empathy. In the military, you live in a bubble and have minimal interaction with nonmilitary organizations. When stepping into the civilian world, you’re immediately exposed to diverse groups of people who have different approaches to forming personal relationships. Initially, I felt like an outsider who believed that their way of thinking was the “correct” way. It was only through further educating myself at Columbia Business School and addressing my mental health with therapy that I began to rethink my approach to relationships.

While your military experience is extremely valuable, you shouldn’t let it be the only experience that defines you.”

 

What advice would you give to fellow veterans who are looking to build a career in the tech sector?

My two pieces of advice to any vet are fairly simple. First, it takes time to adjust to post-military life, and it’s normal to feel isolated and overwhelmed by the transition. Second, while your military experience is extremely valuable, you shouldn’t let it be the only experience that defines you. It’s important to seek out educational opportunities and experiences that are different from your own. 

I also love speaking to vets and encourage them to reach out to me on LinkedIn.

 

 

Bill Leinert
Vice President of Operations

 

How and where did you serve your country? What is your current role, and what are you working on right now?

I served in the U.S. Navy beginning in 1987, with assignments ranging from avionics technician training in Millington, Tennessee, to F-18 training at Naval Air Station Lemoore in California. My first sea duty assignment was part of VFA-192 — an F-18 squadron stationed on the USS Midway when it was forward deployed in Yokosuka, Japan.  

After several squadron assignments and 10 years of enlisted service, I began my civilian career. In 2004, the call of naval service and camaraderie of being a member of the military triggered my entrance into the Navy Reserve. For 10 years I was part of fleet logistics support on the C-130 Hercules aircraft with assignments at Naval Air Station Willow Grove and Naval Air Facility Washington in D.C.  

Today I am vice president of operations at Boingo, where I manage the infrastructure and operations of critical connectivity networks at government locations. Our projects span more than 74 military facilities and three federal law enforcement training centers. The Boingo operations team provides full network life-cycle support with design, deployment, upkeep and expansion to serve members of the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps with Wi-Fi and ethernet access in the barracks and support buildings, such as dining facilities and gyms.

Connectivity will forever be a vital part of our daily lives, businesses and military operations.”

 

What aspects of your military service have helped you build a career in tech, and what are some new skills you’ve developed since you left the service?

The military hones character traits — such as drive, integrity and courage — that make veterans desirable employees and both good leaders and followers within a chain of command. The training I received in avionics and electronics offered me transferable skills in radio frequency propagation, signal distribution, networking, and computer and platform integration. These skills align extremely well with careers in the telecommunications industry.

At Boingo, I’m constantly learning new skills. A couple that I’ve developed in my current role include construction management and project management surrounding telecommunication systems. This includes a deeper understanding of digital television systems; the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, LTE macro and micro cells; ethernet; and Wi-Fi networking. These skills hold great career benefits, as connectivity will forever be a vital part of our daily lives, businesses and military operations.

 

What advice would you give to fellow veterans who are looking to build a career in the tech sector?

To fellow veterans, my best advice is to leverage every opportunity possible for training and expand your education to align with professions in demand. The rank or military occupational specialty you hold may not directly translate to a civilian career, so work with your base’s transition resources to find a position that excites you. And check out Boingo — it’s a great place to work that proudly supports our country’s veterans.

 

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