Sometimes, two issues can be resolved simply by someone realizing that they should be put together. It becomes even more interesting when those two issues are seemingly unrelated.
You might have seen the moving Speaking Exchange ad campaign in the spring of 2014 by FCB Global. Young Brazilian students learning English were connected, via video chat, with lonely Americans living in nursing homes. The result? New friends for the elderly and improved fluency for the students. Two seemingly unrelated problems, one ingenious solution. A similar project connected Dutch students with nursing homes in the Netherlands.
The idea behind these why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-earlier solutions can be eloquently summarized by something Gloria Steinem once said: “Like art, revolutions come from combining what exists into what has never existed before.”
We ran into one of these perfect match situations just over a year ago, and it led to the launch of one of our most important initiatives yet. Together with the leadership at Salesforce, we identified two major problems facing the tech industry and our military veterans.
Malik Gray: Veteran success story
Problem one: As Salesforce rapidly acquires customers and enhances its already robust functionality, a need for individuals with a strong understanding of the platform has quickly developed. However, within the current pool of available job candidates, companies are citing a lack of Salesforce-certified administrators. As a result, this position is in high demand.
Problem two: The high veteran unemployment rate. RockTech’s CEO Dave Gowel, a former tank commander in the U.S. army, is one of many to point out this issue. He often speaks to groups discussing how many veterans returning from active duty struggle to assimilate into civilian life. Some may be injured physically, some may not know how to translate their military skills into job requirements, and some simply lack the technical skills required to obtain a career.
We started to piece together these two issues and with the leadership of some great professionals at Salesforce (some, military vets themselves), VetForce was born. VetForce is designed to get 10,000 military veterans and their family members trained, certified as Salesforce admins, and placed in jobs. Everyone is pitching in: Salesforce provides the resources needed to develop a community for the program and provides the training courses and exam vouchers for free to all veterans. RockTech provides free licenses to our software, which helps users learn the material needed to prepare and participate in the training course and ultimately pass the certification exam. Veteran service organizations (VSOs) help source the veterans, training partners like Accenture and Bluewolf provide instructors to lead the courses, and companies like GE and Uber sign on to hire veterans who have been through the program.
Dan Streetman, Craig Newmark, and Dave Gowel at DreamLift 2014
We formally launched the program at Dreamforce 2014 with several sessions and panels, a success lounge for veterans to network, and what’s now referred to as DreamLift – a helicopter experience for 50 senior tech execs in the bay area designed to demonstrate the availability and technical expertise of returning veterans.
We now have over 1500 veterans who are currently in the VetForce program. At Dreamforce 2015, VetForce was recognized by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff during his keynote address to an audience of thousands. The program has been highlighted by the VA, VentureBeat, and Fox Business.
If you are (or know) a veteran, employer, or VSO who could benefit from this incredible resource, you can find everything you need to get started at https://veterans.force.com.