Starting over is never easy. But I was fortunate to get the right opportunity at the right time to harness my passion for protecting people into service through a new-collar career in the private sector. The key was developing the right skills to transition successfully from the military. I served in the U.S. Air Force for eight years as a staff sergeant, where I conducted IT work and tactical and combat communications. During the last four years of my service, I worked in special operations with both the Navy and Army Special Forces. I traveled all over the world programming to ensure that deployed service members could communicate on the ground and in the air.
In 2010, I left the military to focus on my family and pursue a career in the private sector. While I was unclear of the path ahead, I was confident that the technical and leadership skills I had built during my military career would translate into corporate America. However, like many veterans, I found the transition to the civilian workforce was harder than I thought, since I had entered the military almost immediately after high school. After leaving the Air Force with eight years of IT experience programming routers and switches under some of the worst conditions imaginable, I came back home, put together a resume and sent out applications, but couldn’t get an interview. It was pretty hard.
I enrolled in college, but after a year, I felt an itching to return to work. While maintaining a full class load, I made use of my project management skills and secured a job at TD Bank North America as a project specialist in fraud management. During that time — while attending a career fair for veterans — I learned of a free skills training opportunity through IBM’s Veteran Employment Accelerator program. The week-long intensive program includes training and certification in cutting edge IBM software (i2 Analyst’s Notebook), which helps financial institutions detect and fight fraud. I signed up and became a certified data analyst. The program’s interactive setting exposed me to real-world examples that in turn led to real-world applications. I quickly gained technical proficiency in fraud detection
The certification helped me propel my career as an expert in IBM software to help protect consumers from financial fraud. In my current role as a senior business analyst, I play a significant role within TD Bank’s North American Fraud Analytics team, and spearhead the implementation of a new IBM cloud analytics platform. I plan to continue to advance my skills by honing techniques in IBM’s predictive analytics software to help improve customer satisfaction and manage risk.
After leaving the military, I never thought I would find a job that could meet my personal passion for service. Yet after five years in consumer data protection, I found purpose in a second career that makes me excited to go to work every day. The free IBM skills training I received helped equip me with the tools to accelerate my career track. In addition, I find so much value in what I am doing. Just like serving in the military, I am protecting people.
An Air Force veteran and mother of four, Felicia Barnett is a senior business analyst with the North American Fraud Analytics team of TD Bank — a partner in IBM’s Veteran Employment Accelerator.