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How Being in the Military Prepared Me for a Successful Career in Tech

My time in the military is what brought me into the technology sector as a veteran founder. Seeing how inefficient the healthcare claims administration process was and how challenging it could be for veterans was what kept me determined to build a better way.

Published on:
June 29, 2022

As a founder and the CEO of Wisedocs, I realized I hadn’t always done justice to the history of the company by sharing my why - so in the previous piece I delved deeper into that side of the business and the founding of Wisedocs. Now, having explored the why behind Wisedocs, I wanted to discuss the “how” it all happened and what brought me to this role.

I was in the military for years prior to launching Wisedocs. My time in the military is what brought me into the technology sector in the first place. While in the military, I worked as a claims administrator in healthcare. I experienced firsthand how inefficient the healthcare claims administration process was and how challenging it could be for veterans and I was determined to build a better way to review and understand medical records. My experience working with other service members and seeing the healthcare side of work-related claims wasn’t the only thing I brought with me when I made the switch to tech. I also picked up other skills along the way that led me to be a veteran founder. 

Why you should invest in veteran founders

According to Fast Company magazine, veterans are resilient, agile, and forward thinking — qualities that make them a great addition to any team. Whether it’s being familiar with cutting-edge equipment or knowing how to work towards an organizational goal, skills learned from the military are a fantastic asset for someone leading a technology startup. Here are 5 of the ways being in the military prepared me for my tech career:

In the military, I learned the important startup founder skill of perseverance

Every business has its ups and downs and startups certainly experience a lot of volatility. Founders often find themselves elated one day and disappointed the next. The military taught me that any plan is only good until the line of departure, so it’s important to be adaptable This mentality was useful during the pandemic, when medical claims assessments went on pause and the only healthcare open was the emergency room. Like many businesses, the pandemic drastically shifted our strategy and plan. Industries that processed medical claims suddenly moved into the digital space and remote work environment and we had to adapt to suit their needs. I think Dwight Eisenhower’s quote best reflects this as he stated “plans are of little importance, but planning is essential”. The Military teaches you how to do this very effectively. 

At Wisedocs, we had to adjust how we supported our customers and team. These hardships made us stronger, more resilient, and more capable as an organization. Looking back, the challenges we faced were what helped push us to the next level of expectation and success. Embracing what hurts, what is uncomfortable, and what is unpredictable provides solitude when you face the next hurdle. You soon realize what you think is terrible and difficult is not as bad as what you have previously experienced. 

In the military, I learned the important startup founder skill of having an ‘operator first’ mentality

In the military, you’re a soldier first. No matter what you do as a specialization, whether you’re a cook, mechanic, nurse, driver,  you have to know how to function holistically as a team. The ability to understand basic skill sets, practices, disciplines, and doctrine are integral for defending and supporting your fellow team members in combat, hardship, and difficult environments. This mentality lends itself well to leadership.. When no job is too small or too large for anyone in the organization, it’s easy to jump in and be a team player - especially if you’re leading by example. 

By not expecting anyone on my team to do something I wouldn’t do myself, my military experience taught me to understand every aspect of our mission as an organization, and how we can accomplish it together.

In the military, I learned the important startup founder skill of discipline

Whether it’s waking up at 5 AM or keeping your uniform up to regulation standard, following the rules is a critical part of being in the military. Although as an institution these rules and expectations may seem rigid at times but it directly emulates a process of thinking which is repeatability and execution. When you are put into highly stressful and dynamic situations this discipline is the bedrock and default in which you can depend on. How the military instills this in you is critical in your ability to react, problem solve, and persevere. This self discipline lends itself easily to a tech career, and specifically leading a startup, where taking your team to the next level is all about keeping your work consistent and pushing past your limits. Reacting in a way that can be objective, making good decisions, and keeping your business healthy. 

In the military, I learned the important startup founder skill of structuring teams

Discipline is important, but it doesn’t do much for an organization if it comes at the cost of morale. Being in the military taught me that you’re only as good as the team member beside you. Supporting your team means knowing how to bring out the best in everyone, finding each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and supporting them in expanding their ideas about what they can do. Trust in the process but don't be afraid to push the limits when you see potential. A leader’s ability to create a force multiplier effect is what drives exponential growth, whether you are in the military or leading agile tech teams. Your team is everything, it is core to your ability to succeed, and it is essential for your success.

In the military, I learned the important startup founder skill of acting on a strategy

Planning, forecasting, and setting goals is different from building a product and making a strategy come to life. Being in the military taught me how to not only act on plans, but do so in alignment with what my command intends. Putting plans into action is a big part of working in tech (and any organization!), so knowing how to be ‘time on target’ is crucial. Understanding a “one up two up philosophy” propels alignment with mission. Your mission as a leader is to ensure your team is moving in one direction and towards a singular goal and vision. Being able to carry out those actions to bring goals to life is key. 

Veteran founders have the skills necessary to persevere in the challenging startup climate

My experience in the military not only gave me the motivation to create Wisedocs, it also gave me the tools to get there. While working in tech has been a shift from the traditional military environment, I’ve enjoyed finding ways to adapt. Learning to experiment is something I’ve had to adjust to, and showing vulnerability, being a social media ‘evangelist’, and having a sales focused mentality are skills I’ve picked up along the way.  

Tech requires you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable and adapt quickly to change. Being in the military gives you lessons in resilience you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. In tech, I found myself able to use my military skills in a whole new way — and I see other veterans doing so, as well.

Connor Atchison
Founder, CEO of Wisedocs

Connor is the Founder and CEO of Wisedocs. Connor Atchison founded Wisedocs to reimagine the claims space and bring automated and intelligent document processing of medical records to insurance, legal, and IMEs.

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