If you’re aspiring to enter the High Tech Industry, Tech Qualled is designed to help you get there… for free. They offer a 7-week program that teaches you the skills you need to succeed in your first job, and they pair you with employers at the end of your training. Nick talks about his experience starting Tech Qualled, which is also a great perspective for listeners who aspire to start their own company. We talk about training, about the scars of entrepreneurship, about sales and how important this is to entrepreneurship, about education and the tradeoffs a degree entails, and much more.
Nick Breedlove is a co-founder and the CEO of Tech Qualled, the nation's first enterprise dedicated exclusively to training Veterans and Early in Career individuals for customer-facing roles in the High Tech sector. Through a competitive, immersive and intense training program, Tech Qualled helps motivated Veterans achieve new levels professional potential in the Tech sector. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served as a helicopter pilot in the Navy for ten years, achieving the rank of Commander while serving as an Instructor Pilot for a Navy Boeing 737 squadron. After his military service he got his Masters in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, prior to starting Tech Qualled.
StoryBox- People trust each other more than advertising. StoryBox provides the tools and supports businesses need to take the best things customers say about them, and use them to drive more sales and referrals. StoryBox offers a 10% discount to companies employing veterans of the US Armed Forces.
BTU #190 - Navy Veteran to Pinterest & Tech (Jimmy Sopko - Rebroadcast) - Jimmy got a job in High Tech right out of the Navy, and he started out in a consumer-facing role, just like Nick talks about in this interview. This is a great example of why Nick's advice is so spot-on for Veterans.
Service Academy Business Mastermind podcast - Nick mentions this as another podcast worth checking out. It exposes to businesses out there run by Service Academy grads.
Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business - how team-based business creation should occur. Shows you how there is always one person who is the ideas person, and one person is the ideas person and how they can work together.
Financial Intelligence, Revised Edition: A Manager's Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean - a short book, completely designed for Veterans who are the operators or the idea people or the executors who are NOT the accountants. Since we don’t deal with budgets in the military in the same way as they do in the civilian world. It gives you the terms and understanding of profit and loss, balance sheets, etc without making you fall asleep aright away.
Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me today from Fort Worth, Texas is Nick Breedlove. Nick Breedlove is a co-founder and the CEO of Tech Qualled, the nation's first enterprise dedicated exclusively to training Veterans and Early in Career individuals for customer-facing roles in the High Tech sector. Through a competitive, immersive and intense training program, Tech Qualled helps motivated Veterans achieve new levels professional potential in the Tech sector. He started out at the Naval Academy, after which he served as a helicopter pilot in the Navy for ten years, achieving the rank of Commander while serving as an Instructor Pilot for a Navy Boeing 737 squadron. After his military service he got his Masters in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, prior to starting Tech Qualled.
What lead you to start Tech Qualled?
Tech Qualled is very focused and very niche. When I was in grad school, I was there with my co-founder who is also a Navy Academy graduate. We were also there with a couple guys who had been working in high tech sales. We sat down one day and talked about veterans that want to go into high tech sales but might not have a software or engineering background. So we were thinking about where to put veterans like that. For a long time the industry has loved veterans because they have a lot of intangibles like work ethic and teamwork. So they would put these people in a lot of operations roles. But veterans wouldn’t ever get to be the person that’s doing sales. So Tech Qualled helps bridge that gap to get more veterans in those customer facing roles.
How would you explain what you do at Tech Qualled?
We have a battery of interviews and tests that we put a candidate through and then we would potentially offer them a full scholarship spot in our Tech Qualled program. In the program, we’re giving them a greater understanding of IT, cloud, and networking. It’s everything from prospecting to how you get in touch with potential customers. It’s a seven week program and at the end companies are introduced to participants and can hire them for various positions.
I love that this is a short-term program that directly provides you exactly what you will need to succeed in this industry.
That’s right. We were talking to companies that wanted to hire veterans but wanted veterans with some knowledge of this industry. We’ve also taken some non-veterans into our program that were early in their career. This allowed for great synergy and new networks to be formed.
Can you speak to the value veterans can bring to the high tech industry?
A lot of veterans don’t reflect on the skills they’ve learned in the military as they’re getting out. There’s three skills most veterans have that jump out to me. The first is that you bring a diversity of thought. You think about problems in a different way than your non-military counterparts. Second is your work ethic. There is an element to the high tech world that is very dynamic and growth based. So people need to have a certain work ethic. Within high tech, people that don’t have a high work ethic don’t last. Third, is being mission oriented. More and more today, companies want people that care more about the team than themselves. The first place they look for this is the military.
Are there any resources people can use to increase their value in the market?
You’re building the plane while you’re flying it. So the day that your active duty service ends, you’ve got to build your own personal skill set while you’re entering a new industry and taking care of your family. These short term courses are short and compact and really take your understanding of an industry to the next level. Graduate degrees are great but not everyone has the time and resources to dedicate to this.
Can you talk about the importance of selling?
When I left the military and got my graduate degree well into my 30s, I still thought the word “sales” meant used cars, insurance, and vacuum cleaners. These are all business to consumer sales. What I was ignorant of was the business to business sales concept. These are much more sophisticated sales but also very psychologically and financially rewarding. You’re helping a company achieve their mission.
So why is sales important in any career? The CEOs of all Fortune 500 companies have spent time in sales. You have to understand this to be good in business. Understanding the business comes from understanding the customer.
Can you share a little bit more with us about your experience as an entrepreneur?
There are three things that I learned that jump out to me. First is that it’s a lot of learning rather than leaning. When you start your own company, you have to learn about what each position does because it all rests on your shoulders. Second is that money impacts founder relationships. It doesn’t matter how many founders you have or how you met them, money affects these relationships. You can’t be starry eyed or blind to that. And then third, we’ve seen at Tech Qualled. 90-95% of the veterans that go through our program are extremely grateful and do everything they can to pay it back. But what was surprising for me was that other 5-10%. They turned their back after receiving what was a free service for them. They didn’t want to give back or help. That hurts when your company is trying to help get people get to a better place and then they bite the hand that feeds them.
What are your thoughts on the value of an advanced degree?
If you don’t know what you want to do, grad school can buy you some time and help you build great networks of people. You have access to people and resources that can help you. I went to the Harvard Kennedy School to earn a Masters in Public Administration. It’s a one year program and you have to have ten years of work experience to get in. They let you take any course from any Harvard, Tufts or MIT program. Only 100 Americans get into the program each year and out of those 100, 20% must have a military background. So even though I was getting and MPA, I did most of my coursework at Harvard Business School.
If you’re dead set on entrepreneurship or business, there's probably no better option than an MBA. But if you don’t have the time or resources, there are other great options out there.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced starting your own company?
Somethings that come to mind are learning about fundraising, legalities, and all the different job functions within your organization.
Our number one challenge has been scale. We met and unmet need with the mission of Tech Qualled. We were able to prove that quite quickly. But the challenge has been scaling that to impact a greater number of veteran lives.
Do you have any resources you would recommend to our listeners?
Your podcast is really striking a vein of gold that I think a lot of veterans can tap into. Another good podcast is Service Academy Business Mastermind.
One book I recommend is Rocket Fuel. It really goes into the nitty gritty of how team based business creation should occur.
Another great book is Financial Intelligence. It’s a short book designed for non-financial people. This book really gives you the terms and understanding behind profits and losses and balance sheets.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners?
One thing that is most shocking to me about veterans that come to our program is how ignorant most veterans are about the industries that are out there. I would encourage military members that are preparing to transition to call people you know in the corporate industry and just talk to them about what they do. This will help you refine what you want to do and learn about different jobs that are out there. Don’t be shy or afraid because everyone I know is willing to put 20-30 minutes aside to help a veteran that comes to them with a humble attitude and a desire to learn.