When the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, World War I officially ended. However, it was seven months earlier, in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, that the fighting actually ceased between Allied nations and Germany.
In November 1919, President Woodrow Wilson dubbed November 11 as the first Commemoration of America Day. Originally dedicated to the veterans of World War I, it was changed to include all U.S. veterans in 1954. In honor of this year’s Veterans Day, we are shining a spotlight on a few of our own veterans’ patriotism and service, and sharing their inspiring stories.
“One of the things I worried about missing after leaving active duty was a sense of community. Slack’s ERGs are central to our company’s strong sense of community and culture, and the Veterans ERG is a great way to contribute to that culture.”
From gender-neutral fitness tests to plaid socks
Socks are what originally drew Kim Hale to Slack.
Upon leaving the Air Force, Hale wanted a job as a data scientist, but wasn’t sure where, so she attended the Service Academy Career Conference (SACC) in Washington, D.C. “I had used Slack at a nonprofit and loved it, but I wasn’t looking for a job in tech or in the Bay Area,” she says. Nonetheless, she visited the Slack booth: “I heard Slack had the best swag: the famous plaid socks.”
While she didn’t get the socks, she did get an interview, and she is now a senior manager on Slack’s business analytics team. “The more I researched Slack,” Hale says, “the more I thought it was a great fit for me and the perfect first transition job.”
Hale’s father served for 30 years in the Air Force, which meant she spent most of her childhood around military bases, from Stuttgart, Germany, to Clovis, New Mexico. When it came time for college, she wanted to both fine-tune her education and play soccer. “I was already familiar with the Air Force Academy and, like many who join, the ideals of service and giving back appealed to me,” she says.
Hale spent her first assignment earning her Ph.D. in policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. Over the next seven years, she was an operations research analyst and quickly learned the art of structuring ambiguous problems to get answers, like how to create a gender-neutral physical fitness test for Battlefield Airmen. “The fitness test project was so successful that the team is building out similar fitness tests for other career fields,” she says.
Hale often uses this strategy while working at Slack, as well as another military skill: asking about the speed/accuracy trade-off up front. “Many times, an 80% solution is good enough, especially if we can get to it quickly,” she says. “Other times, we need higher accuracy, even if it will take six months.”
“The more I researched Slack, the more I thought it was a great fit for me and the perfect first transition job.”
Failing forward in the military and at Slack
Jonas Bergen’s journey to the military started in college, where he studied aerospace engineering while in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. Bergen didn’t love engineering, but he wasn’t sure what would be a better fit. He enlisted in the Air Force, serving as a Security Forces member for two years in New Mexico. In 2013, he joined an Air National Guard unit in Iowa, where he cross-trained and was commissioned as an intelligence officer while working full-time at a tech company.
His next stop was Denver, where he happened to see a Denver Post headline announcing Slack’s plans to open a local office. A short time later, he joined a small group of Slack’s first Denver-based employees, and is now a security engineer on the risk and compliance team.
“It’s been a fun and easy transition using skills learned in the military—time management, problem-solving, cross-functional partnerships—and applying them here to maintain our customer’s trust and the security of Slack.”
“I truly enjoy showing up to work every day,” he says. “I attribute that in large part to the people who work here. You’re encouraged to utilize your skills and background to tackle problems and challenges in a way that’s unique to each individual.”
Part of being successful in the military, Bergen says, involves flexibility, cross-functional teamwork and problem-solving skills. “It also requires that you ‘fail forward.’ It’s impossible to always make the best decision, but how you use failures to learn and improve is vital,” he says. “All of these skills are put to good use at Slack. In the ever-evolving security sector, the military skills I learned have been invaluable.”
“I truly enjoy showing up to work every day. I attribute that in large part to the people who work here. You’re encouraged to utilize your skills and background to tackle problems and challenges in a way that’s unique to each individual.”
A military-inspired change in perspective
Though his grandfather served in World War II, Jeremy Hemsworth’s family doesn’t have a storied legacy in the military. He saw the military as a way to serve his country and pay for college. “I grew up the son of a former sharecropper who escaped the Jim Crow South to support his family alongside my mother as taxi drivers,” he says. “We didn’t have a lot of money, so it was either the military or scholarships, and I wasn’t the best student.”
Hemsworth joined the Army National Guard after high school, and then worked full-time while pursuing his undergraduate degree on nights and weekends. “The skills I learned in the military and from my hardworking parents changed my perspective and work ethic,” Hemsworth says. After more education, various military schools and a deployment to Iraq, he graduated from the University of Minnesota with a 4.0 GPA. He loved school so much he earned an MBA and ultimately landed a full-time role at Slack as a senior solution marketing manager.
“While I no longer conduct intelligence operations or manage drone flight-route planning, I leverage my analytical and presentation skills to plan and execute marketing programs and events at Slack,” Hemsworth says.
“The project management skills I learned in the military empower me to work with various stakeholders and vendors to build marketing content. Most of all, the military taught me teamwork and problem-solving, which are integral to success at Slack.”
Celebrating and recognizing fellow vets’ courageous choice
At Slack, seven employee resource groups (ERGs) aim to drive belonging by providing support, professional development and connection across Slack’s global offices. This includes the Veterans ERG, which increased in size by 48% in 2021.
Even during the pandemic, when Hemsworth joined Slack, he felt welcome. “The Veterans ERG gave me the opportunity to meet people across the business, ask questions and get advice,” he says. “Without it, my onboarding would not have been as smooth.”
For Hale, the ERG was a seamless transition from the camaraderie of the military to Slack. “One of the things I worried about missing after leaving active duty was a sense of community,” she says. “Slack’s ERGs are central to our company’s strong sense of community and culture, and the Veterans ERG is a great way to contribute to that culture.”
Each month, veterans can expense lunch and join a Zoom to meet one another and chat. “In typical military tradition, we created a challenge coin for our members to celebrate and recognize colleagues, clients and military units, among other things,” Bergen says. Traditionally, these pocket-sized medallions are given to service members as a mark of camaraderie.
“Being part of Slack’s Veterans ERG is a unique experience since we aren’t bonded by something we were born with, or that’s visibly evident, but by a choice we all made at some point in our lives,” Bergen says. “Veterans come from all manner of nationalities, genders and walks of life, but we all volunteered to serve our respective countries.”
The group often brings in speakers, like recent guests and Medal of Honor winners Kyle White and Florent Groberg. They also host military-themed trivia events and Ask Me Anythings (AMAs) in #hello-veterans, which is a general awareness channel for veterans and their allies.
In honor of Veterans Day this year, the ERG will hold AMAs with new members and host a celebratory, non-military Airbnb experience as an opportunity to build camaraderie. Anyone can participate in a “fun run,” whether virtually or in person in Denver, to raise money for the Colorado Veterans Project. Slack’s Veterans ERG is also joining additional programming that the Salesforce veterans group is planning, solidifying bonds and connections across companies—both on November 11 and beyond.
“Being part of the Veterans ERG has allowed me to build relationships throughout our company that I otherwise might’ve never had,” Bergen says. “It provides a space to recount shared life experiences, provide mutual support and advocate for fellow veterans, past, present and future.”