Recently, Sandboxx News had the opportunity to interview Ariana Pybus, a former US Navy officer and one of the first women to become a submariner, who now works at Anduril, a defense technology company.
Ariana’s service and transition from active duty has all the potential to become a blueprint for how to successfully transition from the military.
What made you decide to commission in the Navy and why did you choose to become a submariner?
“I come from a very Navy family. My father was a SEAL and served for 34 years. My grandfather and great-grandfather were also in the Navy. It was fate that I joined the Navy.”
“As I was looking into schools in my final years in high school, I searched for ways to pay for college. The military offers many such opportunities through the academies and the Reserve Officer Training Program (ROTC). In the end, I chose and was fortunate to be accepted into the Naval Academy. Going to the Naval Academy was a far more excellent decision than I envisioned at the age of 17.”
Ariana chose the submarine force during her junior year in the Naval Academy. She felt attracted to the mission set, uniqueness, and camaraderie of the submarines.
“There is no room for failure in the submarine force. You’re on your own, thousands of miles away from home. It’s up to the team to push through. So, you have to rely on your shipmates. I learned a lot there and also had the opportunity to work with Naval Special Warfare, SEALs and their SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV) teams.”
How easy or challenging was your transition?
“I’m still transitioning. I’d say to servicemembers to put in the work before getting out, and it will pay off once you do. I started my transition one year before my ETS.”
“You’re still learning new skills and you’re operating in an entirely new environment as a veteran. You still have things to learn and things to watch out for – you must be open to continually learning and getting out of your comfort zone.”
“The Honor Foundation prompted me to think about my transition and what I was looking for. It also pushed me outside my comfort zone by requiring me to build a network. Networking to most veterans is a dirty word. Military members don’t understand the value of networking and they assume it’s a dishonest practice because you do things outside of your circle, outside of your chain of command. But in the commercial practice that is natural and expected.”
As a transitioning exercise, Ariana was assigned to do 25 “cups of coffee.” She had to seek out other veterans and professionals and sit down with them physically or virtually for a cup of coffee. That way, she would be able to learn more about career paths that might interest her. LinkedIn is a great way to start this process, and there are a lot of people who are willing to share their time and experiences with those willing to seek them out.
There are no recruitment commercials on how to become a doctor or a lawyer. Saving lives in the emergency room might sound cool, but there many other parts of a doctor’s life. Similarly, the TV series “JAG” or the movie “A Few Good Men” might get you interested in becoming a lawyer, but they don’t really show the profession’s day-to-day life. So, every nugget of information from someone who has been down that path is invaluable for a veteran looking for the next challenge.
“The idea behind this concept of the 25 cups of coffee is to give you the data you need to make an informed decision about your next career. It gives you a bit of direction on what job you see yourself doing in the future. I started with 25 cups of coffee and ended up with 100 cups. It was around the 100 cup mark that I found Anduril. It was lots of work, lots of time taking notes, but it was worth it.”
When looking for new hires, particularly from the veteran community, Anduril values the determination and leadership skills veterans can bring from the get-go. Transitioning veterans bring their recent defense experiences to the team, which are invaluable in the company’s work to solve complex national security challenges. Equally important is the fact the veterans act as a bridge to Anduril’s customers and understand better the needs and problems of the warfighter.
Approximately 20 percent of the people working at Anduril are veterans. As a result, there is a support community in place that makes the experience of transitioning veterans that much easier and smoother.
“Anduril can’t function without our community of veterans. I say that not only because of the sacrifices they have made for our country, but because of the invaluable work the veterans we hire do within Anduril,” said Anduril CEO Brian Schimpf. “About 20% of our company is veterans, and that’s because they viscerally understand the problems we’re trying to fix, and they bring a combination of operational and strategic thinking that’s hard to find elsewhere.”
In the end, Ariana recommends that transitioning servicemembers do the following:
- Start planning your transition early
- Do your research
- Build a network
- Use transitioning programs that the military offers
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Find your ‘why’ and ‘purpose’
- Translate your military skills into skills that the industry can recognize