MJN Spotlight: Eric Wright

Military Job Networks is starting a new type of blog post in which we highlight veterans’ different experiences transitioning out of the military. This week, we are featuring one of our own bloggers and his journey from the military to co-founder and CEO of Vets2PM.

Eric Wright, PhD, MPM, PMP® served two tours in the military. His first military experience was with the Navy in the late 80s and early 90s. He spent time taking care of nuclear reactors and welding. After September 11, 2001, Eric was activated to Title 10 orders with the California National Guard. “I really thrived on doing projects,” he said. “I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time!”

His transition out of the military, as it is for many veterans, was difficult. “It was tough,” Eric said. He jokes that he had “12 years in the job desert” after his time in the Navy. While in the military, Eric said he “didn’t have an understanding of, hey, you need to prepare for a civilian career for the next 40 years.” As he wondered what he should do, the experts around him told him to get an education. He spent many years amassing half a dozen degrees and many certifications. After the National Guard, Eric got an advanced degree, but still had not found what he truly wanted to do. “The key was, I still hadn’t found any mentors to help me over the fence,” Eric said.

For Eric, it all changed when he was put on a project and loved it. His boss became one of his mentors, introducing him to the field of project management. For him, the military gave him invaluable training that, at the time, he didn’t even know he was getting. Eric said he “learned a lot about how to lead and how to follow” through his military experience. “The military prepared me to be a manager and leader,” Eric said. He got his project management certification in 2008.

In 2014, Eric was in the midst of creating a project management curriculum when he got in contact with fellow veteran Tim Dalhouse. The two had a phone call about their experiences in and after the military, and together decided to create The Missing TAP (Transition Assistance Program) Class. The two founded an organization called Vets2PM that helps veterans obtain project management certifications, training, and careers in this lucrative field. Tim trained the veterans to be project managers, and Eric used his story to show veterans that they had the skills needed to enter the field. After working in a Department of Defense agency and in a university, Eric began working full-time at Vets2PM in 2015.

Vets2PM accomplishes four main goals with their veterans. The first is to translate their military strengths into commercially viable civilian experiences. The next step is to put the veterans through a training program to get their project manager certification (PMP). Vets2PM then helps write resumes and create LinkedIn profiles, and provides the veterans with skills needed to succeed in interviews. The veterans come out of the program with a lifelong network and job placement assistance.

“I would encourage any veteran transitioning out to read The Project Management Professional Examination Content Outline,” Eric said, “specifically the tables on pages 5-12.” He believes the project management field is a great opportunity for a person coming out of the military. “Every vet that has ever read it, a light bulb goes off in their head,” he said.

His other piece of critical advice is to a service member transitioning out of the military is to find a mentor. “Resources to do so these days, there’s a myriad of them,” Eric said. Mentorship was crucial for him in the military, and his time in the service taught him the importance of being a mentor. Now that he is out of the service and established in his career, Eric makes a point of making sure that people who come in contact with him do not leave without a mentor.

Eric also encourages veterans to “identify industries you want to land in.” Once you have that information, “look for some of the big companies [in that field] on LinkedIn,” Eric said. Form relationships with the company, and people working for them. “Look for people who are going places in that organization,” Eric said. “Find mentors who can help light the pathway.”

For more information about Vets2PM, visit their website at www.vets2pm.com.