Welcome back to another episode of Return to Base! Today’s special guest is Josh Duntz, a former Navy EOD tech and current sales manager at Shift.org.
If you don’t know, Shift.org is a company that helps Veterans get introduced to the tech world and the opportunities within. Tech companies need Veterans as much as they need engineers; they just don’t know it yet. Shift.org helps companies understand the value that Vets bring to work every day and helps Vets tell their story in a way that the private sector understands.
Josh talks about his career in the Navy and what led him to transition after 10 years. We also dive into how a pandemic can really put the brakes on a newly transitioned Veteran’s career goals, as many of you have likely already experienced.
Return to Base Podcast Ep. #17: Josh Duntz & Shift.org
Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Return to Base Podcast. I’m Cliff, your host. Today we have an excellent guest Josh Duntz is a former Navy EOD guy. So that means he looks for bombs and ordnance and blew them up cool stuff like that. And since he’s gotten out of the military, he’s done a couple things. But right now what he’s doing is he’s a sales manager over there at Shift.org.
Shift.org, of course, if you don’t know is a company that helps place or introduce Veterans to tech companies or startups in the tech industry. So it’s a really cool company doing a really cool cause and can’t be more excited than to have him on the podcast. Enjoy!
Hey, Josh, what’s going on man?
Josh Duntz 01:10
What’s up Cliff? How’s it going, brother?
Going pretty good here. So you’re in Florida, right?
Josh Duntz 01:15
Yes, down in South Florida. I’m just about an hour north of Miami in a little town called Boca Raton [phonetic 01:20] for anyone who’s familiar with the area.
Nice. That’s east coast, is that right?
Josh Duntz 01:27
East Coast, yes.
Do you get on the waves of it or…?
Josh Duntz 01:32
I try to, we’re like in a weird spot right where I am. Where we get a lot of a swells get blocked by the Bahamas. So we either have to go a little bit north or a little bit south. But yes… [Crosstalk]
Or wait for a hurricane?
Josh Duntz 01:49
Or wait for a hurricane. Exactly!
Yes, I have family up in Jacksonville and in St. Augustine, it seems like they get pretty good waves better than I ever expected. I was like what… How are you surfing in Florida? [Laughter]
Josh Duntz 01:59
That’s like the worst part about where I live is like literally 30 minutes north like is not blocked by the Bahamian islands. So it’s like it’s everywhere but this little stretch of beach where I am that’s just in the perfect path of like any swells that are normally coming from the Atlantic unless it’s like a north to south swell. We get some good waves but yes, other than that, it’s especially summertime like we’re not getting much but that’s typical everywhere.
Yes. So… interesting thing! So Josh is a Navy Veteran but I don’t imagine you spent a lot of time on the water considering you were a part of EOD, right?
Josh Duntz 02:39
Yes, I think I probably spent a cumulative time of maybe like 10 days on a ship the whole time I was in the Navy for 10 years. So that’s like a shock to most people when I tell them I was in the Navy that “Oh, what kind of boat were you on? Or something?” I was like… actually, you know, try to explain the situation. But guys you know like, unless you’re a part of that community, it’s kind of… people expect what they see in movies and stuff, you know?
Yes, right. Right. So the question is how the h*ll do you find yourself on a boat? [Laughter]
Josh Duntz 03:14
So we actually… so yes, the first team I was on was actually like a mind counter measure team. So I was on like a dive team basically. And they have ships called MCMVs that basically go out and hunt for mines and then EOD teams get attached to them. So they would go out kind of run their radar, find some points that they thought were mine like objects, and then we would actually go down and dive on them. So I spent a little bit of time on some of those ships during my first deployment. And then the other, the only other time I was [unintelligible 03:49] on a ship was when carriers come back from deployments. Before they come into port, they have to do an ammo [phonetic 03:55] offload, and basically get rid of all their like missiles and like you know major and ammunitions that they have.
So they’ll fly overboard. [Crosstalk] [Unintelligible 04:05] You’d be surprised honestly man like oh! some super sketchy stuff was going on. But basically, they’ll fly out a teammate, EOD guys, just to be on the ship in case anything goes wrong. But yes, there was like the first time I was like a new guy the first time I went. So I’m on like the flight deck and helicopters are picking up these huge crates of like missiles and stuff. And like I see this helicopter lift off, get over the water, and then like the crate just like falls out of the sling. They didn’t hook it up right into the ocean. And I was like… oh sh*t! That’s going to suck. Like we have to go dive on that right now and they’re like… Nah happens all the time like we just leave them… I was like, what like we just did. Yes, I was like okay… Well, I guess there’s you know probably a bunch of pretty cool sh*t down the bottom of the ocean somewhere.
[Crosstalk] All at the same spot, right?
Josh Duntz 04:59
Yes, yes. Well, there’s like some you know I forget what like there was some like barrier like it has to be so far offshore and stuff like that because they do a lot of you know, not great stuff for the environment I’m assuming so…
Yes corral. That’s it. Right. Yes, you know it’s funny, the… I spent a little bit of time on a Navy base, you’re probably familiar… Santiago Island [phonetic 05:26]. One of my first trips after joining my team is we flew out to Southern California. I’m from San Diego so it was kind of cool. And then flew over the water to Santiago Island. And my team actually supported the dive team who parachuted in and funny enough is in the channel between just maybe a miles or two off of Santiago Island on the East Coast though, just completely burned in an entire rib.
[Crosstalk] In the water like on a boat beneath them and whoa man! Seems like we’re missing a parachute. And you hear just slap and yes they were like oh, a lot of sensitive items. And they’re like it’s too deep. Nobody can ever get that stuff man [unintelligible 06:18] crushed right now. And it was like… wow, okay. But… but yes, that was a miserable evening. Less for me than it was for them because then they got to I think climb up a mountainside covered in cactus. [Crosstalk]
Josh Duntz 06:33
Yes, I feel bad for whoever the rigger was that was responsible for that rip because he probably got his *ss handed to him. [Laughter] [Crosstalk]
Yes, don’t feel bad for him. Come on. [Laughter] [Crosstalk] We all make our own bed, man. We all pack our own show too. I mean, excuse me. Jacob cut that out. Some people do. Anyway so yes… So what on earth did led you to becoming an EOD guy in the Navy? And everybody has different paths, it’s always interesting to hear like, where are you from? Were you an outstanding athlete or a complete loser in high school? How did you end up in the military and dealing with tinkering with bombs?
Josh Duntz 07:22
Yes. I grew up in Florida kind of like moved around quite a bit as a kid. I think I went to like eight or nine different schools before high school. I say I grew up in the Clearwater like Tampa area. That’s where I went to high school and graduated from, and joined the Navy from so that was like where my formative years I guess as a child was spent. Definitely not like an amazing athlete by any chance or I probably would have never joined the Navy. I would have been a professional athlete or played in college or something. Yes. I played a bunch of sports growing up… played high school football and basketball. And then when I graduated high school, I went up to Tallahassee… I did not get. I applied to Florida State… didn’t get in. Had a couple of buddies that got into Florida State and then a couple of us degenerates that didn’t get it-
[Unintelligible 08:16] Followed them along?
Josh Duntz 08:18
-Just followed them to Tallahassee, to the TCC, which is like the community college up there. Quickly realized that [unintelligible 08:30] I wasn’t in the mental headspace as far as like discipline wise to be on my own at that point-
No way man!
Josh Duntz 08:37
-Yes, right. So probably a very similar path to a lot of people that end up in the military. Right back home, didn’t have the best like home life growing up so as soon as I got back… I was like I can’t stay here. I was looking for a way out. And I had a buddy of mine from high school that had recently joined the Navy and I was kind of keeping in touch with him and he was like… Hey, there’s this recruiter down the street, go talk to him whatever.
[Unintelligible 09:05] right? You’re like, dude, those dungarees [phonetic 09:09] look tight.
Josh Duntz 09:09
Well, so as a like a younger child, I have a bunch of family in Pensacola which is where like the Blue Angels are from. So like I grew up like me and my cousins every year, in July, we would go watch the Blue Angel show in Pensacola. And that was like you know a family tradition basically growing up. So we at all like that was our dream was to become like Blue Angel fighter pilots. And so literally like I walked into the Navy recruiter’s office, and I was like… I want to be a f*cking fighter pilot dude. And like I just remember like the recruiter just starting to like laugh in my face, basically. Because I had like no idea what that entailed you know, right. I just dropped out of college.
He was like… Well, step one is you have to have a degree and like go back to school and all this sh*t. And I was like… Alright, well, that’s definitely not what I wanted to. So I was like… What are some other options? I knew I didn’t like I knew a little bit and enough about the military that I was like I know there’s a bunch of sh*tty jobs that I don’t want. And so he handed me you know like a SEAL [phonetic 10:18] packet and EOD packet, a Navy Diver and then I think like rescue swimmer, which was like all the cool jobs that Navy has. And a couple of those are like suspect as far as like whether they’re actually cool.
[Crosstalk] [Unintelligible 10:30] Man that sounds sexy.
Josh Duntz 10:33
Sounds cool as [unintelligible 10:35] a bunch of people that ended up going that route… Not very cool. They’re basically like glorified helicopter maintenance people from what I’ve been told.
Josh Duntz 10:43
So yes, went back home and kind of like… I was actually proud of myself at this point for how young I was like… Did a ton of research into all the different paths, try to talk to a bunch of people that were SEALs, EOD guys, and like get the real scoop of like… Hey, I can see what’s in this pamphlet but like what’s the real life? You know. And what attracted me I think, to EOD vise by going like the BUD/S route was just, it seemed like EOD got to do a little bit of everything instead of just being a shooter, which was like really attractive to me. I grew up diving like always around the water and stuff so like that was really cool. Like you know part of our pipeline is going to dive school and stuff like that. So that sounded cool to me. Like… Hey, I get to blow sh*t up, I get to dive in. I also get to shoot and jump out of planes and stuff like that. So that was kind of like what led me down to that path to go towards EOD…
Right. Yes, right on man. And do you find… Do you find that a lot of people suspect that EOD wasn’t your first choice? I’ve met a lot of EOD guys who you know for one reason or another, were in BUD/S and then became EOD. Do you have to tell people like… No dude, I wanted to be an EOD man.
Josh Duntz 12:02
Yes, well it’s definitely like a thing to show up like when you show up to commands like… Alright dude, like… Are you a bud stud [phonetic 12:11] or what you know. And then yes, for me like… No you know, I went straight from boot camp to the EOD pipeline, never went to BUD/S [phonetic 12:15]. So yes but that’s like kind of like an inside community joke, for sure. It’s like half of EOD techs are people that failed out of BUD/S and then EOD was their second choice. And they decided to go very different pipelines as far as like EOD is much more of like an academic pipeline once you make it through dive school and stuff, whereas BUD/S is obviously like very physically enticing or challenging for their pipeline. So yes, it’s interesting to see a lot of like BUD/S that make it to EOD school, and then just like can’t hack it from like the academic standpoint too just because it’s like… It’s so different from what they were signed up to do, you know…
Yes, I mean, isn’t the only calculation you really need is like MSD divided by 2… I’m guessing.
Josh Duntz 13:07
Yes well, the hard… The hardest part about that pipeline is like it’s 10… Like actual EOD school is 10 months long if you go straight start to finish. And it shows like death by PowerPoint for 10 months straight dude. Like learning about all these different types of ordinances and fuses and stuff. [Crosstalk]
[Unintelligible 13:26] Cool f*** ordinance by the way, like [unintelligible 13:30] blows away what the Army has.
Josh Duntz 13:31
And then you get to like your first command. And you actually like… You’re like… Well, all that sh*t was useless. Like I’m not going to use any of that information in my real job just because like for most EOD techs… Like you don’t ever see real ordinance like it’s all IEDs, you know what I mean? Like the other branches like army and air force they’re… They work a lot on like ranges and stuff in the States and like they’re the ones dealing with like U.S ordinance and stuff like that all the time. I don’t think I ever even saw like in a real world environment like a piece of real ordinance that wasn’t like an improvised explosive device…
A real piece of ordinance that wasn’t being dropped into the ocean…
Josh Duntz 14:16
Right. Yes, exactly.
[Unintelligible 14:18] Missiles…. Goodbye. Yes that’s super interesting, man. So 10 years… And what year did you get to the Navy?
Josh Duntz 14:27
I went to boot camp in February of 2010. And then I got out in December of 2019.
Okay, cool. And in that time period, I imagine you got to see some pretty cool stuff. It’s kind of on the tail end [phonetic 14:45], obviously of Iraq, and Afghanistan. What’s going on… Did you get to go to any of those beautiful locales or did you experience some… experience the world some other way?
Josh Duntz 14:52
Yes. No, I didn’t go to Iraq or Afghanistan. I did my first deployment was to Bahrain on that dive team. We were there kind of when the big scare was like Iran was going to mine the Straits of Hormuz [phonetic 15:08] which is like a huge shipping channel for the entire global economy. So that’s why we were there. We were doing like a lot of exercises with partner nations as far as like what do we do if they mine the Straits of Hormuz? And then the other two deployments I have… I was actually attached to Army SF team, seventh group down in Destin. And we deployed to South America a couple of times [crosstalk] and didn’t do any great deployments. I got super lucky, I guess, depending on how you look obviously like most people that joined the jobs that we did like you want to go to combat or like see that stuff.
That wasn’t the life’s calling for me at the time, I guess. But you know I had a great time doing what I did. Got to travel to a bunch of awesome places do a… You know a lot of cool stuff that still most people never get to do. So I’m grateful with what I got out of the military. That was why I decided to get out because after [unintelligible 16:09] for 10 years straight… Man like I tried like… I don’t you know I was supposed to be around all the cool teams and you know, the CRIF [phonetic 16:17] team with the army guys like that was supposed to be you know, the top tier stuff. It’s just wrong place wrong time for me, I guess, you know…
Yes or right place, right time… [Crosstalk] Think about it… I mean yes, it happens to a lot of us you know we’re… It’s crazy if you think about it… Outside of, I don’t know like… 2003 through 2008. It’s sometimes… It’s hard to find people who actually deployed and we had all these wars going on, still. And it just seemed like they kept on picking from the same people. [Crosstalk] [Laughter] We know all about that.
Josh Duntz 16:59
Like before we started this, you were talking about like mental health and stuff and that was like a big challenge for me when I was getting out. Honestly, it’s because like you have this like imposter syndrome, right. It’s like especially everyone you talk to they’re like… Oh! You were Navy Special Operations, whatever like they put this… like they put you in this bucket automatically. And that was like a challenge for me. Because it was like at one point, at one side of it, it’s like yes, like I was that… I deserve to you know have that title, whatever.
But the other side is like you know I lost some buddies like close friends of mine that actually like, you know, went to war and like died for this country and like doing the same job that I was doing. So that was a challenge. It’s still a challenge today. I think I’m super open about like my experience because I’ve, I guess, matured to a point where it’s like… Hey, it is what it is at this point. And like you said, I know a ton of people that have, are still and that have done a lot more time than me that still never got the chance to go into a combat theater. So it’s you know… It’s all kind of luck of the draw really when it comes down to it. And again, it might be more lucky to not be that experienced as well too you know…
One guy… I was deployed one time with a guy who was affectionately known as a bullet magnet. We’re all pretty excited about that as we were in combat or in a combat zone. And we’re doing a lot of fun stuff but… Oh, right yes, we got John with us. And he’s always like people always shooting at him. Let’s get it on. He actually said… He’s like… Hey boys listen, you can wish your *ss into a firefight but you can’t wish your *ss out of one. Okay, that makes sense.
When I started to view the world from that perspective, I realized he’s absolutely right. But also you know nobody should be, you know, yourself or anybody else should ever discredit your service because you did what your country asked you to do. And you know there’s a such a variety of things that our country does ask us to do even the guys out there who are, let’s say, stationed in Germany and don’t ever get to go anywhere on deployment or anything. But yes, they’re in Germany. They want to be at war. But what they don’t realize is…
Hey, their role is probably strategic, right. People on an aircraft carrier who never get to get off the aircraft carrier except [unintelligible 19:32] of calls, they are our strategic arm just as you were in the Strait of Hormuz. So we thank you for your service for that man. And you know like you said, you could have… You could have drawn a completely different straw and maybe we wouldn’t be having this conversation. So, yes… [Crosstalk]
Josh Duntz 19:50
I appreciate it.
So, getting fast forward a little bit to your 10 years of service and stuff, and on the tail end of it, what was the like “aha” moment you’re like… You know what, I could do this for 10 more years or I could just call it quits now.
Josh Duntz 20:11
Yes, I was sitting outside of our Destin beach house while we were on deployment attached to seven Special Forces’ groups. For the second time in Destin on like we did two, four months like deployments are… It was really like… They call it like a ford operating, you know, base because we were like on alert to go down to South America basically. And I’ve seen some of my like peers get out a couple of years before me and they were just like doing really cool sh*t in the civilian sector.
I was probably 25, 26 at the time and that was kind of like when I just kind of called it quits at that point. I was like… Alright man like I got… I’ve… I’m on this CRIF team like I’m still not getting to do what I’ve signed up to do from my perspective. At the time I was like I gave it 10 years like do I want to do this for another 10 years, taking the chance that I still might never get to go to combat?
And So I decide like… Hey, I’m done, you know, this was probably like three years before the end of my contract. So I knew pretty early on, I guess, compared to like some people that decide six months before the contract ends, you know, which was ended up paying off tenfold for sure for me were like… I had a ton of time to prep for my transition and take advantage. Yes, have a plan, which still didn’t work out as you know it never goes to plan. But I got to take advantage of a bunch of transition resources and groups and stuff.
And that network that I built over the past couple of years doing that definitely like helped me you know make a transition, be what somewhat successful I guess I would say, in my eyes. So yes, I was very fortunate compared to like a lot of people that I see going through the transition where it’s either forced upon them like very late where they don’t have a lot of time to prep or some people just don’t think it’s that serious, right, don’t realize how hard it can be. So they don’t spend the time planning and coming up with a solid plan you know. So…
What was your… what was Plan A?
Josh Duntz 22:34
So originally, my plan was to get out… I got my bachelor’s degree when I was on active duty. [Crosstalk] Thank you. Yes, so my original plan was to go back to school and like get an MBA… I kind of fell into the trap during my early stages of transition, where again, I was like… I saw all these people that I looked up to that had got out before me and like that was the route.
There were a lot of people that I looked up to were going and it was like go get an MBA, go get a job as a consultant or on Wall Street or something like that. So I was like… I guess that’s what I’m supposed to do to be successful. You know I, deep down I knew it wasn’t the right path for me because I don’t like traditional education. Like I love learning and I like reading stuff but like it’s on my time in the topics that I care about and I’m passionate about.
Even like getting my bachelor’s degree online on active duty was just like terrible. I hated it. I was just like-
Where did you go?
Josh Duntz 22:34
-University of Charleston, West Virginia.
Josh Duntz 22:34
Yes. I got some bullsh*t degree like organizational leadership or something, you know what I mean, like something I’ll never use in my life. [Crosstalk] Yes, check in the box, right, you know. So yes, like the more I started studying and prepping for like GMAT and like looking into all these MBA programs… I decided that wasn’t the route for me. So actually when I got out, a couple months before I got out…
I started my own company like a health and wellness company that I tried to… I ran full time for like 18 months up until I got this job like 10 months ago at Shift. So that’s what I’d been doing up until I got Shift, the Shift job, which was my first like job in the private sector outside of the military. So yes, it was an interesting journey from there to now and then even like before I got the job at Shift, I went back down the MBA route.
I got into UM down here in Miami. And then like once I got accepted, the job opportunity came up from Shift and I decided like… Hey, this is… I need to go take this job instead of go back to school but that’s kind of like where I ended up now.
You said you got out in 2019. This is a pretty solid time to get out considering what happened in 2020, right? [Crosstalk]
Josh Duntz 25:03
[Crosstalk] I know… I got like four months before the height of the pandemic so it was really interesting time to go through it. It was a struggle dude like that first… All of 2020 was the most stressful mental health like time of my life by far like without a doubt like way worse than anything I dealt with like in the military or even like as a child. I left all my friends in Virginia Beach. I moved back to Florida. I didn’t have a job. I like was burning through all my savings trying to make my own startup work by myself like working you know crazy hours just by myself like being trying to start your own company is super lonely for most people anyways. [Crosstalk]
Exactly, yes. And so it was a struggle man, like getting the job at shift was a huge turning point for me from a mental health standpoint, for sure, just like having that reliability of like a paycheck coming in and like being around. Also another group of, you know, a lot of our employees are Veterans too. And the CEO, Mike like I… He was a Navy EOD officer. He was actually my OIC. We went through the training pipeline together. So like… I had that relationship and status so it was a big deal for me. Yes.
Yes, that’s pretty cool. And you know one thing to note for instance, I myself or as I went through the pandemic as a civilian, actually right before the pandemic… I got laid off. Our company just shut down. The part of my company that I was working in… And I really liked that job. And then the pandemic hit. But you know I did 20 years, 1 month, 9 days in the military and have a lot of bumps and bruises along the way.
So I had a really heavy safety blanket. Whereas folks who transitioned out of the military prior to 20 years obviously don’t you know and I… I can’t even imagine that level of stress. It’s just something that is completely foreign to me. Thankfully for me but for you had it been pretty significant to know… Oh s***! right. Like maybe I should have stayed in because that was a guaranteed paycheck. [Crosstalk] They were paying people in the military not to come to work…
Josh Duntz 27:41
I know right. It was like yes, worst timing right, to get out because like all my buddies were sitting you know sitting in Virginia Beach like bullsh*tting at the gym like not going, working remote for the military. And I was like what does that even mean? Dude like [crosstalk] it is an interesting time. I was also going through like a month before I got out of the military… I went through or started to go through my second divorce as well. So it was just like a sh*t show. Like timing wise, it was like I was getting out of the military. I didn’t have a job. I was going through a divorce like moving to a new state, leaving behind all my friends.
It was just like a whirlwind of a bunch of bad sh*t all happening in my life at the same time. It’s good. It was good times, man. Like obviously like now looking back at it. I was like… Hey, you know, you build resilience when you go through stuff like that. And I’ve always seen stressful sh*t out in my life to be better prepared for stuff like that. But it was a big like eye opening moment for me just because I’d never felt that way before. Like from a mental health standpoint… I never got it. Like when people were like… Oh!
I’m so stressed out or I’m depressed. I was just like… It was hard for me to relate because I’d never gone through that personally myself. And then now having gone through them like holy **** like that’s no joke. Like… I understand now where people are coming from when they talk to me about that stuff. So…
Yes. I think it puts you in a unique position to help Veterans. For those of you who don’t know, Shift.Org helps members of the military. I’m going to read this here. So I didn’t memorize this, which would have been super cool, but Shift.Org help some members of the military, past and present, discover careers, acquire new skills, and embark upon new job experiences with the best companies in the world.
Hope I didn’t butcher that. Explain kind of you mentioned you had a relationship with the CEO of Shift.Org from your time in the military, but like what led you to consider Shift and you know… Was it a passion for other Veterans or what was it?
Josh Duntz 29:56
Yes. When I started going through my transition process… I became like very heavily involved in like that I guess community or like the transition space, right. Like I had gone through the Honor Foundation tuck [phonetic 30:09] next step elite [phonetic 30:10] me like all these you know communities and networks for transitioning Veterans. I helped start our own foundation for Navy EOD techs and Navy divers.
So it was a personal… So this was like I felt like this was my way of giving back to the community because I didn’t get to serve in combat, right. So that was like a really important thing for me personally like selfishly… I guess is like… Hey, this is my chance to kind of like feel like I was actually a part of and like giving something to this community. So that played a huge factor in it.
And then I just loved what Shift was doing. I loved Mike like I had a great time working for him when I was in the military. I thought he was a great leader. And so… and it was also an easy thing for me to get into, right. So I actually did. When I got out, I did a Skill Bridge Internship with one of shift’s partner companies, which was like a small you know series… a startup out in San Francisco.
That was my first experience like working at a startup and working outside of the military, really besides like bullsh*t high school jobs, you know. But during that skill bridge internship I realized like… Hey, I don’t really give a f*** about what this company is building or the product and the mission. And I realized how important that was for me like because if I realized like… Hey, I don’t care about what they’re doing, and that affects my performance at work because I don’t care so I’m not giving it like my best effort. Whereas-
People who gave him a chance on the skill bridge… [Crosstalk] [Laughter]
Josh Duntz 31:56
-But they knew that you know like that’s why I ended up not taking… [Crosstalk]
[Crosstalk] wouldn’t have benefited them to keep it.
Josh Duntz 32:03
Exactly! And with shift I was like… Dude, it’s so easy for me to get behind that mission, right. Like I want to help Veterans transition. I want to help companies hire Veterans. I know the product like I’ve done it myself. So like what… What better? And I’m in sales, right.
So like who better would you want to do that than someone who’s lived it and has a story to tell and can relate to both the candidates that we work with as well as the companies that are hiring our candidates. So it was just a very natural transition and path for me to get into. And that was ultimately you know why I decided to kind of pursue the opportunity.
Yes, that’s great. And so let’s dive in a little bit more into Shift and in some of the things that it does. I know you mentioned Skill Bridge… I kind of didn’t use [phonetic 32:58] Shift. I kind of build my own Skill Bridge when I was going out with a startup at a Nashville called Haven Law [phonetic 33:06] and founded by a former [unintelligible 33:14]. And before that I really didn’t know anything about the skill bridges except you know…
I think we traveled down very similar roads, I did a [unintelligible 33:20] meet, and start getting real involved with networking, which is super important. But tell us about Shift.Org’s mission and how it was maybe when you started it and to how it’s evolved to now.
Josh Duntz 33:36
Yes. So Mike started it, originally it was like called Vet Tech Trek where he… So Mike’s background like dude’s just crazy. Graduated from the Naval Academy, got his master’s at Harvard, and then became a Navy EOD officer. And so when he got out of the Navy, he was having difficulties finding a job in tech, which was like blew my mind, right. Like with his background and stuff. And so he was like…
Well, s***! If I’m having an issue, imagine like, my enlisted soldiers are like people that didn’t go to an Ivy League school or the Academy schools… How hard must it be for them to break into tech? And so that’s kind of like where the original idea sparked from.
So he started just like lining up these treks where he would get a bunch of military Veterans. They would go visit like a tech startup in San Francisco. It was kind of like a meet and greet from what I understand just to like introduce recruiters and hiring managers into this new untapped talent pool that they weren’t taking advantage of at the time. And it’s evolved, you know, quite like a few different times over the lifespan of Shift.
The company’s been around for five years now, I think. Originally, like when I went through and did my Skill Bridge Internship, they were kind of acting almost as like an agency would [phonetic 35:02], right. So they would work like individually with candidates and companies. And a company would say, “Hey, we’re looking for a project manager,” and shift would go out, find a candidate that they thought would be a good fit, and kind of do that one to one matching.
Whereas now, we’ve evolved into… We’ve built our own software, we have a marketplace that we… It’s like a SAS product, right, that we sell subscriptions to companies. And then we feature military talent on that product spread out throughout sales, customer success, project management, software engineering, and data science, you know, people ops in HR… typical roles, right.
They’re going to find out a growing startup company and it’s just an easy way for those companies to source military talent from. And that part of that is, you know, a subset of those candidates that we have are eligible for that Skill Bridge Program. And then we’re Shift is kind of like capitalize on the skill bridge opportunities like we have an umbrella agreement with the EOD where so any company that we partner with, is automatically approved to, you know, to utilize skill bridge interns.
And then we handle kind of all the back end paperwork between the candidate and their military command. So the company doesn’t have to work directly with the military. We’re kind of like that middleman for them because as you and I know like one skill bridge process to get approved can be a sh*t show for both the candidate and the company.
And then most of these like early stage technology companies that we work with, don’t have Veterans on their team. So they don’t know even how to start that process. And frankly like they don’t want to… They don’t want to do that. They just want the candidates. So we made it just super easy for them to do that.
Right. Now that’s pretty cool. And I love the evolution from the one on one to the marketplace. It seems like that’s a really interesting way to go as a business model. And is the revenue generated primarily through the subscription model?
Josh Duntz 37:12
Yes, yes. So it’s all like all of our services and programs are free for all of the candidates. And then we also like… So that’s our kind of B2B business. We also have some big contracts from AFWERX in the military for a program that they launched or we launched called Defense Ventures Program, which is actually cool. It’s for active duty folks. So we have… And so it’s an immersion like a Technology Immersion Program.
So we pair active duty service members with either early stage startups or venture capital firms with the idea being that… Hey, these active duty service members are going to go into these organizations and learn like what is the greatest technology and innovation that’s going on right now in the private sector and then bring that back into the military.
We found out that like we’re pretty behind the power curve compared to like China and some of our competition as far as like bridging that gap between the private sector and the DOD community. So this program is kind of stood up to hopefully bridge that gap. Super cool program for active duty folks.
No, absolutely. That’s pretty cool. I had no idea about until a little bit earlier when I was cruising the website and so congratulations on that. And where is… What is the best way really for a Veteran who is good now to connect with Shift.Org? And maybe find out if even they’re like who are you looking for?
Josh Duntz 38:51
Yes so definitely someone that’s looking to get into technology, right. A candidate that’s looking for one of those roles I mentioned, right… Sales, customer success, project management, if you’re an engineer like a data science person or like people ops in HR… If you want to either break into one of those careers or actually right now like 50% of the candidates that we actually work with are Veterans that are already in the private sector and are just going through a career change, right. Where they’re either looking to break into a new company or new role.
And they know they come back to Shift because they know that our partners are dedicated to hiring military talent, right. So they just want to be featured to those companies on our marketplace. So those are like the candidates that we’re looking for. As far as like branch enlisted [phonetic 39:45] officer, we don’t care, we try to mimic actually what you would see in like the active duty population. So like right now, I think, you know for the most part 80% of our candidates are enlisted, 20% are officers. Most are probably like you know junior enlisted that have 4 to 10 years of experience. We definitely work with you know people retiring and stuff like that. But yes that’s kind of like what our population would look like typically.
Right. And for the Shift, candidates are what you called members, [unintelligible 40:22] members who end up having a lot of success. What are some of the attributes or at least tips that can help somebody be successful? [Unintelligible 40:35] obviously, Shift I… listen I don’t know this, for sure but I can probably guess that you’re not going to like sign up for Shift, and Shift’s just going to be like… By the way, we’re going to find you a job and you just sit back and then collect the paycheck. There’s a lot of work to be done by the candidate.
Josh Duntz 40:49
Yes, for sure. That starts off with like the application process, right. So that’s like step one for the candidates to kind of get into that network or be featured on that marketplace. And then we have a lot of programs like designed for them to make them successful with that process. So like we have a… it’s called Navigating Next. It’s designed specifically for transitioning service members that don’t know what they want to do next, right. [Crosstalk] So all these jobs sound cool but I don’t know where my background and skill set really line up into one of those careers. So that’s kind of… the outcome of that program is to help.
Okay like… What did you do as whatever your MOS was? Like what were your day to day duties? What projects did you run? What kind of skills do you have? And then like okay let’s look at where that lines up with one of these job functions. Like for me, for instance, like EOD obviously, there’s no clear path into any one of those jobs, right. [Laughter]
[Crosstalk] something like software you need to be destroyed, maybe I could… I could probably work on that.
Josh Duntz 41:59
But you start to like break down what most of us did on a day to day basis and you can like start to see parallels, right. Like okay… what is a con up? That’s a pitch deck, right. You’re pitching that to leadership to get them to approve you to go on this mission…. kind of what I’m doing on sales calls, right. Like I have a pitch deck… I’m pitching this idea to you like, you know obviously, all of us work like pretty collaboratively across different organizations, even countries, different you know special forces, groups, whatever.
So that’s a huge benefit to companies like a lot of especially the startups, right… Where they’ve typically been in this kind of bucket where they get their talent from the same place all the time. Now, you see all these huge like you know DEI [phonetic 42:50] initiatives from these companies where they want to hire diverse talent because we know that’s what breeds great organizations, frankly that’s why the military is like successful, right? [Crosstalk]
[Crosstalk] It’s not as homogenous as people want to think.
Josh Duntz 43:04
It’s the most diverse organization in the world. And that’s like one of our value props [phonetic 43:12] of like why we think companies should hire military Veterans, right. It’s like I think 43% of Veterans come from another underrepresented background on top of being a Veteran you know as a diversity standpoint, too. And then just like the resilience, the adaptability, you know all those things that as a Veteran, you take inherently because that’s what you did on a day to day basis.
That’s not very common in the private sector, right. Like most people that took a traditional path and went from high school to college to the private sector, like they haven’t dealt you know I’m obviously speaking by specific [unintelligible 43:55] [crosstalk]. In general, like most people didn’t deal with the same kind of like hardships or whatever stressful environments that you did in the day to day military.
That’s really attractive attributes to small growing startups who want people that can come in, get behind a mission, and take action. Don’t need someone to hold their hands every step of the way or someone that’s going to like come up to a roadblock and then ask 1000 questions. They want someone that can like work through that and just figure out hey, this is point z, where I want you to go I don’t care how you get there, just go do that.
That’s uncommon for people to find that type of attributes and is very common in the military. So people don’t realize like how marketable you are to these startups. You just have to be able to confidently tell that story.
And that’s where a lot of Veterans struggle and that’s where we try to come and help out with kind of building that persona, building that LinkedIn presence, building that resume, you know, having that elevator pitch, having talking points for you during the interview where you can start to connect that gaps because you know if you look at a typical Veteran resume, it’s like to someone in the private sector… it means nothing… it’s a bunch of hogwash. [Laughter] But when you can start to dissect that and like use the language that they’re used to hearing, you become very attractable very fast to some of these companies.
That’s a really interesting point. So it’s basically translating buzzword soft skills that are just very, very hard to define sometimes. And I like what you said about the military Veterans are, are different especially. Listen, we all know like not all the military is you know, is super great. There’s a lot of people who don’t do sh*t, and didn’t do sh*t even to get in, right. Like sometimes they’re basically… all training is easy but there’s a lot of people who do a lot. And the fact is probably 85% of the military has on purpose made themselves uncomfortable, right. And conversely I think, in the private sector, civilians at least put nowhere near the same percentage of people have purposefully made themselves uncomfortable, right. Nobody’s ever been hungry.
Okay, nobody’s ever really been so tired that they could possibly die, right, on purpose. And it’s just like a weird… it’s a weird community to draw from and the fact that Veterans are so underrepresented in tech, still is a little bit alarming. So you know from… so I got out a couple of years ago… Myself, Veteran, 20 years Special Forces, MBA grad, and presents the same challenge. I have no idea what I want to do. And even though I’ve talked to a lot of people about it, I don’t really even know how to tell you what I want. And I enjoyed like… My first few job interviews were like yes… What is it you got? Like what do you want to do? What do you have? Tell me what you have. And I can, luckily, somebody took a chance on me because I interviewed with a company and my boss was just like… I don’t know what we’re going to have you do but we want you on board. Thank God.
But yes, this just goes to show like it doesn’t matter where people come from or even what their pedigree is. It’s just hard to talk about yourself and not make it sound like you’re writing your own evaluation report, right. So I’m super glad that folks like you who are out there and Shift.Org are helping in that regard. I like to also talk about you know… so your title sales manager, is that correct? So what does that mean? What do you do in sales? It seems… listening to seems like an easy question to a lot of people out there if you’re listening. They’re probably like we know sales is they sell thing, right. But it’s more complicated than that. Obviously, can you tell us a little bit about like your daily responsibilities and kind of what led up to that?
Josh Duntz 48:44
Yes. So I started off as an account executive, which is kind of like entry level sales, I would say. We didn’t have a BDR organization when I started as an account executives, [crosstalk] Business Development Representative. So that’s how I guess, right, really entry level sales. Those are typically the positions within companies that are responsible for sourcing opportunities for [crosstalk]. Yes, top of the funnel creation for account executives. And then account executives are typically like the closers.
So you know, a BDR would introduce them to a prospect and account executive would kind of take over that sales process from them and hopefully close that account to become a new customer. So when I started… I was doing the full sales process so prospecting, discovery, and then demo and closing. And then just recently, we’ve kind of really scaled our sales team. So now we have a really cool BDR program that we actually have like Skill Bridge, people doing military [unintelligible 49:52]. So we’re basically building our own internal pipeline for our sales team.
And so when that opportunity… when we kind of kicked that off, we actually promoted the first couple of BDRs from our first cohort of that to account executives recently, about a month ago. And so I took the sales manager position now where I’m managing a small team of account executives and still also like maintaining my own quota as an individual rep as well too.
So that’s kind of like my weeks are typically split. How I’ve done is like Monday and Friday are kind of my team days where I kind of, you know, knock out everything I need to do for my team. We have a lot of team meetings and stuff like that. And then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays are kind of my personal pipeline days where I’m you know on the phone with prospects or doing demo calls, closing deals like whatever kind of a day to day of the actual sales position does. So that’s kind of how I broken down my week. Yes, I don’t know if that answers the question.
No, it does actually pretty, pretty perfectly actually. In then the product that you’re selling is pretty unique. You’re selling [unintelligible 51:12] I mean, you’re selling an intermediate to a product, right. Because the product is the Veteran itself and the intermediate would be your software… your platform marketplace. And I can’t imagine that your close rate is 100%. So what are the things holding back tech companies from you know putting down their subscription fee and sign a contract?
Josh Duntz 51:41
Yes. It’s typically just an education gap. I think on recruiters and hiring managers and leadership because it really takes kind of like a top down and bottom up strategic initiative to make like a Veteran hiring strategy work, right. You have to buy in from not only the recruiters to source the candidates, you have to have buy in from the hiring managers to interview the candidates.
And then typically you have to have buy in and action from the leadership to make this a companywide initiative and put metrics to it. So those are the companies we see most successful is like… Hey, this is actually an initiative that leadership has put out and they put metrics to it. A lot of companies say, “Yes, I want a diverse workforce, I want to hire more diverse talent.” And that’s as far as it goes. It’s like its words but it’s hard to put words into action if you don’t tie data to that, right.
Okay, we’re… 5% of our workforce by 2023 is going to be Veterans like okay, now we can make a plan to make that happen. So the problem is that… the biggest problem I see with companies that don’t get it right is they don’t understand Veteran talent. They don’t understand the soft skills that Veterans bring to organizations. They’re looking for that box. They’re looking to put candidates in this box that they built, right where it’s… Hey you need 3 to 5 years of industry experience or you know, you needed crypto experience if it’s a web [unintelligible 53:22] company or something like that, right. And it’s like what we’ve found is actually the good companies can easily train people on all the hard skills that you need that technology like okay…
Hey, Veteran is not going to have 3 years of Sales force experience coming out of the military, right. Like it’s just… You don’t have it because it’s not something we use in the military. But how hard is it to teach someone how to use Sales force like, right. You could do it in a day. Yes. I learned how to use our entire technology stack, you know, in the first month of being at ship. I came in as an account executive with zero sales experience like ever in my life.
And 10 months later like now I’m leading a team of salespeople, right. So it’s not rocket science, one. It’s those soft skills are much more important than the hard skills because the hard skills aren’t easily be taught and trainable. And especially as a Veteran like you’re so used to learning new stuff all the time because typically your jobs constantly changing. So it’s not new to you like you can come in and learn stuff very easily, especially from like technology standpoint. Like you know my job was a little more technical than some jobs in the military because we dealt a lot with like robots and we were using software and drones and all that stuff.
But again, none of this stuff is like rocket science, right. Like you don’t need to go to Stanford [crosstalk] [laughter] and so like that’s what we found is like the most successful companies that get it are like… Whoa! Yes like we can easily train someone on that we actually care more about those soft skills, right. Like we want someone that’s personable, that has good communication skills that can tell a good story, that has great resilience, right.
Like these startups, especially now with the economy and kind of the world we’re living in now, like a lot of these companies are in a very stressful situation where, like you said, civilians haven’t operated in that environment. For Veterans, it’s like… Oh dude like okay, the economy is down like…
Is that all you got for me? Like it’s not a huge stressor to where it’s going to affect their performance, if anything, they might perform better than they normally would, right. So those are the companies that are like super easy to sell to and that like understand it because they’re actively looking for people that are outside of that box that a lot of companies are trying to place candidates into.
Yes, cool, man. Well, we’re right about time. So I’ll give you the last word as to how people can find Shift.Org and any, any advice you have to people considering getting out.
Josh Duntz 56:16
Yes. So Shift.Org, obviously go to the website, happy to connect with people individually too if they have questions about transition or want to know if like Shift is the right path or want to talk about any other transition resources we have. Again, this is something that’s kind of near and dear to my heart. And so as much as I can give back to the community, I want to. They can find me on LinkedIn or I can give you my email address, happy to chat with anyone that wants to learn more. As far as like a piece of advice…
I would say the hardest thing probably for most people is discovering your own path. And like realizing like… Hey, just because your peer group or people you look up to are doing a certain thing that doesn’t mean that’s the right path for you as an individual. We’re very different creatures. We all have different things that you know, we’re passionate about and we want to do. So don’t be afraid to carve your own path and go the non-traditional route.
Even though if you don’t see other people that look like you or act like you doing that. That’s been the biggest thing I think that I’ve learned is like… Hey, I know I’m different than everyone and I’m going to carve my own path. And that might p*ss people, some people off or whatever. But like that’s the world we live in, right. And then the second piece is, you mentioned this earlier is like… I can’t stress this enough how important it is to have spent as much time and dedicate as much time you can to that transition, right.
Like, as early as you can start the process, take advantage of it. Then, your network is everything that was something that you don’t really learn in the military, right. It’s like how important those friends and those connections can be. Every opportunity I’ve had in the private sector has come from my network and people that I know and trust. And like I just see that getting exponentially bigger, the longer I’ve been in the private sector.
So I can’t stress that enough like start to build your network, realize that those relationships and those people that you have that care about you, those are going to be people that are going to open up doors and opportunities for you when you’re getting out of the military. So, you know, value those relationships and treat them as such. Yes, man.
Well, I appreciate your time. I know you’re a busy man with the busy schedule and stuff. So thank you very much for coming on the Return to Base podcast.
Josh Duntz 58:31
Yes. Thanks, brother. Appreciate it.
Everybody, so that is a wrap for this episode of the Return to Base podcast. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to Josh Duntz of Shift.Org not just for joining us on the podcast but for what they are doing for the Veteran community, getting Veterans in those tech world jobs that are really cool but sometimes hard to break into. It’s really important work that they’re doing and I really appreciate it. If you want to learn more, you can visit Josh’s LinkedIn that’s going to be in the show notes. You could also go to Shift.org.
If you haven’t already, please subscribe to our podcast using whatever podcast service you listened to us on. We’d really appreciate it. Visit VeteranLife.com when you get a chance, read some of our blogs, make some comments, and share it with your friends. Until next time! Have a great day.
This is RTB signing off.
Check out our last podcast: Return to Base Podcast Ep. #16: Brett Allen and “Kilroy Was Here”