April 30, 2021

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Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in the army? 

“I was always interested in serving our country in some capacity through the military. At the same time, I also wanted to attend college, so I did both. I graduated from CSU, Fullerton and then immediately after, started my military career as a Second Lieutenant in the Signal Corp. I was temporarily stationed at Fort Gordon, in Augusta, Georgia, to go through Signal Officer’s training. From there, I went to my more permanent location, Fort Lewis, WA. That was at the same time as the Persian Gulf conflict, so it wasn’t long before I was sent over to Kuwait, Dhaharan and Ryadh, which was a 12 month rotation for us. After returning home and having friends working for companies like Microsoft and Apple, since there were no Amazon or Expedia’s at the time, I became interested in some of the things they were working on. By taking what the Army was teaching me about technology, I was able to get a job doing database work at Microsoft and some other IT companies.”

How has your past army experience helped you with being in technology leadership at Nortal? 

“My past army experience has been a huge benefit. There’s a huge level of responsibility and ownership that’s given to individuals in the military right from the start. When combined with a focus on getting the mission and job done, it’s provided me with some very valuable lessons and experiences that I’ve been able to bring with me throughout my technology career.”

Can you tell us about your transition from the army to the technology industry?

“It wasn’t a hard adjustment for me. The Signal Corps is the Army’s IT organization, so I already had some base skills that the private sector was looking for at the time. The fact that I was only in the military for about four years also made it a bit easier for me to transition. The military can take you away from your family a lot, so I was really looking forward to being able to spend more time with them. No more deployments, missed birthdays or holidays. Overall, I was pretty excited about the change. Industry wise, I felt well prepared, but had to make some adjustments. There’s a very clear accountability structure that’s not always well defined in the private sector, it was a bit more ambiguous, and I had to accept and get used to that.  However, I feel the military did a really great job in preparing me to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings and to stay focused on the things that were most important.”

Were there any unanticipated skills you took away from being in the army that you have leveraged at Nortal?

“Mission first! People always!” I remember that being reinforced during my officers training.  It’s never one or the other, nor one without the other. Your goal or mission is your North star, but it’s the people that allow you to accomplish them. Take neither for granted.”

How long did it take you to switch industries? What advice would you give to someone looking to make the transition?

“It was a pretty quick transition for me as I was able to find a job before my last day in the military. I don’t know how common that might be because I happened to be at the right place at the right time to make the shift since this was Seattle in the 1990s after all. I’d recommend that anyone looking to transition, first understand the career shift you’re looking to make.  Understand what skills are being sought after and how competitive it may be. Beyond that, reflect on the training and lessons you’ve learned while in the military, since many of them have been adopted by business and corporate leaders because they’re well proven.”

How has your career grown while working at Nortal?

“I’m very thankful for the level of encouragement and support Nortal has provided me in my career over the last couple of years that I’ve been here. When opportunities or new challenges are surfacing, there’s always someone available to learn from and be a mentor. There are so many talented employees here that are willing to share knowledge and experience that you can’t help but learn and grow from them.  It’s been a big factor in allowing me to take on more accountability and responsibility while I’ve been here.”

How have you seen the delivery organization grow throughout your career at Nortal?

“When I started, we didn’t have project managers, which sounds a little strange today because now we wouldn’t even think of engaging a client without one. More recently, we have been seeing growth in program level delivery roles. I think this is a natural consequence of our growth within accounts as well as our overall delivery maturity. Another area I’m excited to see some delivery organization growth in is product management. We now have several Product Owners here in the US which is very cool.”

What types of projects have been your favorite to work on at Nortal?

“I can’t really pick any favorites.  All the work we’ve engaged in has been pretty strategic for our customers with a lot of value attached.  Knowing that you’re delivering work that’s really important to them is very rewarding in itself. We’re given quite a bit of responsibility in helping to achieve key results and you really feel a lot of satisfaction in a job well done.”

What are you looking forward to most when we are able to all work in the office again?

“The in person social interaction. I think this will be universal for a lot of people. There is something you feel is missing when interacting with others virtually. I don’t know that I would have recognized it so much if it had not been for working from home so long.  I am seriously looking forward to getting back in the hallways, enjoying some impromptu conversation, team lunches, and being around people in general. It’s been too long.”

Interested in working at Nortal? Visit our careers page. To learn more about Shawn and his background, visit his LinkedIn profile.

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