All the way back in BTU #92, I interviewed Justine Evirs about her incredible work helping military Veterans in their transition to a civilian career. Well, since that time, Justine started a new company, called The Paradigm Switch, which is committed to unleashing the potential of military spouses by leveraging the power of technology and in-demand skills that resonate in our technology-driven economy. I am a BIG fan of Justine, and after interviewing today’s guest - who is the Chief Operations Officer at The Paradigm Switch - I am even more excited about this new company. Laurent is a Veteran herself, and goes into the reason why The Paradigm Switch is SO crucial - because, of the 45k organizations that help Veterans, less than 35 of those help spouses! We delve into this problem, and also go through an overview of both Program and Project Management.
Lauren Grimshaw is the COO of The Paradigm Switch: an organization committed to unleashing the potential of military spouses by leveraging the power of technology and in-demand skills that resonate in our technology-driven economy. There are over 45,000 organizations serving veterans and transitioning service members - and fewer than 35 serving spouses - yet military spouse unemployment is 3 to 5 times higher than veteran unemployment. Lauren started out at the University of Virginia, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer for over four years with time on the USS ANZIO and the USS MOMSEN. She herself is a Navy Spouse, and also holds an MBA from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
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Transcript & Time Stamps:
Joining me from Naples, Italy is Lauren Grimshaw. Lauren Grimshaw is the COO of The Paradigm Switch: an organization committed to unleashing the potential of military spouses by leveraging the power of technology and in-demand skills that resonate in our technology-driven economy.
There are over 45,000 organizations serving veterans and transitioning service members - and fewer than 35 serving spouses - yet military spouse unemployment is 3 to 5 times higher than veteran unemployment. Lauren started out at the University of Virginia, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer for over four years with time on the USS ANZIO and the USS MOMSEN. She herself is a Navy Spouse, and also holds an MBA from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Can you describe what your departure from the Navy was like?
I transitioned back in 2011. I looked around and realized that I wasn’t interested in the jobs that would be available to me if I continued to stay in the military. So I decided to look at what was available on the outside. As I started to do that, I got all this pressure to stay in. I knew it would be comfortable to stay in but I decided to get out because I was ready to try something new.
When I got out, I considered a couple different industries. I ended up working in cloud computing in Los Angeles.
What were the other industries you considered?
I was also looking at green tech and the non-profit space. I set up information interviews at companies in each of those industries. I grew up out in the country on solar power so that’s what drove my interest in green tech.
Those informational interviews were huge. I found veterans that were working at companies I was interested in and I messaged them on LinkedIn.
Can you talk a little bit more about project management?
When I got out, I had to do a lot of research on the different forms of project management. There are at least three PM roles that come up consistently - project management, product management and program management.
Projects have a start and an end. If you want to be a project manager, your job is to take this evolution from start to finish. That’s what I did when I first started working in cloud computing.
The second piece is product management. That’s looking at the whole life cycle of an app or product.
And then the third piece is program management. There are multiple programs and products that are included in in any project. So you’re dealing with all those different elements, making sure everything is working well together.
Can you talk about your experience working with SADA Systems?
When I joined, there were about 25 people working there. We worked with companies like Google and Microsoft, helping them develop their cloud programs. So when I started there, I worked on developing and implementing what is now G Suite. It was a great place to get my foot in the door. Over time, I got exposed to all different kinds of products and project styles. I started in project management and then eventually moved over to program management.
Do you think having a PMP certification is critical for this career path?
It is definitely critical. If you want to go down this road, you need to get your PMP. If you don’t have your PMP, you are holding yourself back in your ability to bid for projects and jobs. It really opens doors.
What was it like starting COVI Consulting?
After about five years at SADA, I was ready to try something else. As I was transitioning from that position, there was a family emergency. It was one of those beautiful moments in life when I had the opportunity to step back and think about what I was passionate about and where I wanted to put my time. Out of that, COVI Consulting was born. I learned more about myself during that year period of founding COVI than in the previous ten years. Entrepreneurship makes you a better citizen and person because you can’t hide. You have to be involved in everything if you’re starting your own company.
How did the desire to work with Paradigm Switch come about?
Justine Evirs and I go pretty far back. We know each other through our husbands. We have completely opposite trajectories. But we realized we were facing similar problems.
So Justine started Paradigm Switch and brought me into it as the COO. We had a great year last year and are looking for the same this year.
We’re an organization founded by military spouses for military spouses. We believe that technology is a game changer. We provide scholarships that give military spouses skills that they can apply in today’s technology driver world.
One example is digital marketing. Ten years it wasn’t really a thing but in today’s world, pretty much every company has a digital marketing department. Military spouses can be great in this area.
There is recent research that suggests that underemployment and unemployment of military spouses is huge. 40% of employed spouses make $10,000 per year or less. Most families are dual income so a spouse being underemployed is an issue.
What can military members do to support their spouse?
The service member has to understand that there is an opportunity cost component to what is happening in their spouse’s life. In many cases, because the cost of child care is so high, you end up breaking even if you are working and putting your kids in child care versus not working and saving the cost of childcare. There is a cost to staying home though because years later if you want to get back into the workforce, you may have a more difficult time.
There’s also a job versus career distinction. People say, “There’s plenty of jobs for military spouses.” There are but if that job is not connected to your past jobs and future jobs, then really it’s a job and not a career.
If someone wants to get involved with Paradigm Switch, how can they do that?
A good place to get started is our website. Last year we launched a scholarship program. Please get on there because there are going to be a lot of new information and announcements soon. Justine and my contact information can be found there.
Where is the Paradigm Switch going in 2019?
All of our goals can be found on our website. This year, we want to distribute 200 scholarships. We also want to up our membership from 1,000 to 5,000.
How can someone evaluate whether an MBA is right for them?
If you can apply it in real time, I say you should go for it. If not, your return on investment is going to be much lower.
For example, by the time I started my MBA, I had already started my own company. So I was able to apply the knowledge from my MBA in real time to my company. So if you can take those skills and apply them to working on going after your dream position or your dream job in the future, that’s great. But if you just want to get an MBA because you think it’ll look good on a resume, that’s probably not such a great idea.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with listeners?
The spouse experience is different from the member experience. Being a veteran and now also being a spouse, I see how different they can be. A lot of times the spouse’s time is viewed as expendable but it’s important that the spouse’s time is not taken for granted.
I have an amazing spouse that supports me 100%. It’s important that you talk to your spouse and make sure you’re on the same page.