Marsel Gray is a former Army National Guardsman who served six years in Clarksville, Tennessee. He currently works as a Junior Software Developer at NJI Media and in this interview, Marsel shares with us his journey from the military to his professional career. He also shares what he misses about the National Guard and what it meant for him to get letters from friends and family during his time in service. Here’s what life after the military is like for Marsel.
What were your motivations to join the military?
I had a few motivations for joining the military. The first was to serve. I believe everyone should find some way to serve whether it is military service, community service, volunteering with your church. I also wanted to challenge myself. I was in a rut at the time and needed something more stable and challenging.
During your military career, what were the three main lessons you learned that have helped you in your professional career?
I was a medic in the military and now work as a web engineer. While those two don’t seem similar there is a lot of cross over in terms of approaching problems. Here are my three lessons:
1. Thinking logically through a problem
As a medic you are presented with a patient and finding what is causing their illnesses isn’t as straight forward as I would like it to be. Computers are much the same, figuring out a computer bug involves a lot of logical thinking and problem-solving.
2. Being smart will get you far. Being a hard worker will get your further
I’m a big believer in giving everything 110% and I think that really helped me land my current job because I think my employer recognized a hard worker when he saw one.
3. Be flexible and adaptable
In the military, plans and situations change constantly. These same happens working in technology, technology changes, languages go in and out style and your client needs may change. Being flexible and learning to go with the flow Instead of fighting the current really helps with my current career.
What were if any challenges you faced finding your next career path and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge finding my next career path was a sense I got from the military actually. Once it became clear that I wasn’t going to re-enlist I felt like my leadership just figured well he’s leaving so we don’t need to worry about him anymore. I overcame this by just using the resourcefulness I learned in the military to chart my own path forward.
What did it to you to get letters sent to you during your time in basic?
Well, I did basic at Fort Sill and when I was there, it was always great to get letters from home since these days, no one really sits down to handwrite letters so it’s nice when you got one during training. I remember the letters from my dad having a profound impact on me as we shared our bible study with each other which strengthened our bond.
What’s one thing you miss about the guard?
I miss the family bond that I had with my unit. I worked with the state medical command and there wasn’t much turnover so it gave our unit a chance to get tighter with each other. In essence, we developed a family like atmosphere and it’s been a little bit of challenge to find that same type of camaraderie that I had when I was in the service.
For any transitioning service member or a veteran who is looking for their next career path, what is a piece of advice you could share?
For those transitioning, I have two pieces of advice. One is to start networking and job search as early as possible. Go to career course, practice interviewing in the mirror and really sit down and figure out what you want to do. Talk to your buddies that have already transitioned and ask them for advice. The second piece of advice is don’t just look at your MOS as something to do on the outside also. Look at career fields that are going to be needed 10, 20 years from now.