Episode 288 Terence Bennett From Navy to Tech Innovator Transcript

This transcript is from episode 288 with guest Terence Bennett.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Hey everybody. Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Today I’m joined by Terrence Bennett. Terrence is a navy veteran who is here to talk about his transition out of the Navy and into his career in, in the tech world. So welcome to the show, Terrence. I’m glad to have you here. Thanks.

Terence Bennett: Yeah, really happy to be here.


Scott DeLuzio: absolutely. So, uh, for the viewers, for the listeners who are maybe not familiar with you and, and your background, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Terence Bennett: Yeah, absolutely. Um, so yeah, so I spent, um, I spent four years down in, uh, Annapolis, Maryland, um, before [00:01:00] commissioning, uh, in the Navy. Spent two years on a destroyer out of Pearl Harbor, including about, um, six months off the coast of Iraq doing security operations, um, with the Iraqi Navy.

Um, I was actually out in Bahrain during Arab Spring, which really motivated me to better understand geopolitics and everything else out there. And I ended up making a jump over to intelligence, um, truly thereafter. Was an Intel officer for about five years, finishing up at N C I S and then, uh, made the jump over to Google.

Um, and we’ll, we’ll chat a little bit more about that, but that’s really kind of its own interesting kind of, uh, chapter. Spent two years in Google Cloud, then two years in, um, uh, on Google’s red team doing cybersecurity work before I got, uh, getting the itch to go into the startup world. And so that’s where I am now.

And I’m leading a small, uh, software company called Dream

Scott DeLuzio: Factory. Yeah, that’s awesome man. I. I’m really interested in hearing all of this, uh, the transition into tech and what, what you’re doing now [00:02:00] because, uh, everybody’s career path is different and, and when you get out of the military, um, you know, you, you, a lot of times you think you got everything together and then.

Curve balls get thrown your way and, and all that kind of stuff. So it’s, it’s gonna be really interesting, I think, to hear more about that. But, um, you know, your, your time in the Navy is, you know, to me kind of interesting as well, uh, just talking about your, uh, your time with N C I S and, and, uh, when. When you talk about that, the, the show immediately comes to mind.

Um, you know, and I, it, I can’t help but ask, you know, how much of the show, if you, if you even watch the show, is, is stuff that, uh, you’re like, yeah, that never has ever happened. Or this is stuff that like happens all the time, you know? What is your experience like if you ever watched that show? So,

Terence Bennett: um, ironically the only show I’ve ever seen of N C I S was on the watch floor as a joke in the middle of the night.

One night we, we put the show on one of the big TVs to watch. Cause like none of us have ever seen it. Um, you know, like as with all tv, it’s, it’s [00:03:00] largely fabricated. I think the mo, the only accurate thing is probably the name. Um, but, but joking as I, NCIS has a really interesting, and maybe this is the reason they picked it for the show.

It sits at the sort of cross section of both counterintelligence intelligence, um, and criminal investigations. And it’s one of the only agencies that has this absurdly broad sort of, uh, mandate across all those different areas. And so, um, You know, in, in the Intel world there’s a bunch of kind of, um, laws around like who can have access to what kind of information.

So the watch flow’s really interesting cuz you have a civilian law enforcement specialist who, who can only look at that data. And then you’ve got uniform folks who are, who are looking at the intel piece of it. So really interesting place to work. Um, I imagine it’s a good reason why they picked it over other places to show about, but the show itself is, Is is

Scott DeLuzio: a little bit silly.

Yeah. You know, I kind of imagine that was going to be the answer that you’re gonna give. But, uh, you know, for, for me it’s just, it’s interesting, you know, talking to someone who, who’s been there and actually experienced [00:04:00] it. You know, is it, is it anything along the same lines? But Yeah, I, you know, it, it’s a Hollywood dramat dramatization of, you know, what, what goes on.

I’m sure. Um, you know, it, it’s not, um, Like you said, outside of the name, it’s probably nothing similar to that.

So, um, we talked a little bit about, uh, your time in, uh, N C I S and Naval Intelligence. Um, how did your time in the military shape you as a person and as a professional to kind of.

Such the stage for your next career in, in technology?

Terence Bennett: Um, it’s an interesting question. I, um, you know, occasionally people ask me like, oh, what’s the military like? And I sort of joke it’s this like esoteric question almost because it’s such a defining part of like who I am and my life experience. It’s hard to sort of un, un unravel myself from that experience.

But, um, I think, um, you know, as a young man I was really driven by, with a sense of purpose to [00:05:00] serve. I didn’t know exactly what that meant. And, and the military and the Navy specifically gave that to me, gave me, gave me that fulfillment. Um, and I think for me, jumping straight into a leadership position, um, in uniform was a really, really powerful, it was incredibly demanding, um, a role to be in as a, you know, 21, 22 year old.

But it really defined me and it, I think it sort of, um, combined that with a sense of purpose to serve. Has given me real direction and drive in life. Um, you know, I spent two years on a ship first, so serving leadership in those roles and then ultimately on the Intel side as well.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, and I can imagine the.

Not, not just the leadership, uh, side of things, but also the, the discipline and, uh, the, the rigor of your, your military life and, you know, the things that you did on a, a day-to-day basis in the military helped you, uh, as you stepped into that, that civilian role where [00:06:00] a lot of times in, uh, in civilian world, The discipline is, is kind of lacking.

Uh, I, I found with, with some of the people who haven’t served in the military. Right. So did, did you see yourself kind of standing out from the crowd when it, when it came to, uh, comparing yourself against your peers as you’re getting into some of the roles that you were in, um, that as you’re getting outta the military, be, and would you attribute that to your experience in the military?

Terence Bennett: Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think discipline is part of it. Um, I actually think specifically as a, as a sw, as a surface warfare officer, I was plunged into this incredibly, um, challenging environment where I didn’t know a lot, I didn’t frankly have that much training and I was dealing with massive ambiguity of, of around how, how do you get things done?

Where’s the, sort of, where’s the line of like right and wrong with regard to some of the nuance of, of how you execute these roles? And I think. You know, [00:07:00] discipline is definitely part of it. I think I’ve always been kind of somebody who, who, who can, who can self-motivate and get up when I get get up and be there and, and do the job.

Right. Um, I think it was, learning how to thrive in ambiguity in the military really set me up for success. Um, specifically at Google, right where I was thrust into a role where like, I, I couldn’t even spell the acronyms of some of this stuff, you know, I was working on, I was dealing with people. Um, who were at the height of their career, you know, all type a, all sort of incredibly, um, incredibly talented folks and trying to like, take notes in a meeting where you understand like, you know, a third of what’s being said.

Um, and, and then, and being able to just pick it up quickly and learn how to execute and figure out what I can do, where I can’t, what I need to ask help for, um, is really I think what maybe gave me an edge over some of my peers to get to within, you know, less than two years jumping from. Uh, the role I came in at to jumping over the red team and, [00:08:00] and, and moving on from there.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, so I, I think one of the things that you, you said there that I think is, uh, definitely something that your military experience helped you with was figuring out those acronyms because the military is full of them and. For sure. I know sometimes I think in acronyms, like I, I abbreviate things in my mind, or if I’m hearing an acronym that I’ve never heard before, I’m, I try to figure it out and just based on the context of, of whatever is going on, I’m, I’m, a lot of times I’m able to figure it out.

Um, but people who’ve never been around, uh, in an environment where there’s a lot of acronyms like that, they. Probably would struggle a little bit more, I would think. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the way my mind is wired, and maybe that’s not attributable to the military at all, but the, to me, that, that seems like it would be something that, that would definitely be, uh, a benefit of just being able to figure out acronyms.

Oh, a hundred

Terence Bennett: percent. It’s, it’s essentially decoding a language, right? Um, and different areas of tech have their own kind of languages. You [00:09:00] move from, You know, cloud databases to over, to cybersecurity and uh, it’s just like going from army to navy, right? Like the same acronym means acronyms means something totally different, right?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, absolutely. And, and when you, when you deal with, uh, even different languages that, that you’re talking about in, in the tech world, it could be programming languages or different, different things like that. Yeah. You’re, you’re, you could be talking two different things, um, just like you said.

Same thing with Army, Navy, and. You know, other branches you might be dealing with things totally differently. So, um, let’s talk about your, uh, your transition. Walk us through, um, you know, the transition out of the military and into the tech world, and what inspired you to, to go into the tech world, uh, versus other career, uh, that might have been an option for

Terence Bennett: you.

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I, um, I’ve always been interested in technology. You know, I built my own computer in high school and um, And as I was looking to get out, I really put out feelers [00:10:00] across, across tons of Indu Industries and it, um, I found an amazing site business called Berate, um, B E T E R A T I. Um, and what they are is a, uh, essentially networking platform where a veteran or active duty can, can connect with all these different folks across different industries and, and just kind of ask them.

Really open-ended questions like, you know, what’s your day like and what do you love about the role and what do you hate? And, and I quickly kind of made, made this mental list of, of careers just kind of crossing, crossing ’em off and, and I came back to what I thought I wanted to do, which was tech. Um, and it was actually then podcasts largely and audiobook to a certain degree.

But podcasts where I really kind of immersed myself in everything I could find around the industry and different companies and, you know, there’s all these wonderful founder stories and um, And just stories about companies, right? Um, and so, um, I, I think podcasts were probably one of like the biggest ed educators for me to understand this, this world.

Otherwise, you know, unless you know people in that world, which I didn’t, you’re not gonna get access to. [00:11:00] Um, and, and so I ended up learning about a Google Resume workshop. They were hosting in DC I was stationed in Quantico at the time. So I signed up and I went, I met with some incredible people and someone there said, Um, we, we ended up meeting a bunch and having lunch and they were like, Terrence, I’m gonna, I’m gonna help you figure out how to get, get into here.

And, and the woman, um, MJ is her name, she was a former, former foreign service officer and had been stationed all over Southeast Asia and understood that the military specifically intelligence type work and, and experience understood how that kind of related to, um, to the, the civilian workforce. So she put me in for a few roles.

I immediately got rejected from all of them, even though I had sort of coveted referral, right from a Googler. And, um, but I got a call from a recruiter for administrative business partners, i e executive assistants. I had done a year as an EA working for a senior officer. And so, um, I had that on my resume.[00:12:00]

So the recruiter said, Hey, I, this isn’t what you applied for, but would you be interested in being, uh, an AVP in essentially ea. And that’s, that’s kind of how it all, how it all started. And so I interviewed and um, got, they flew me out to, to, uh, to Sunnyvale. And um, and yeah, that’s what I did for a little less than two years.

I was in ea um, man. So I joke, I went from managing a global watch floor at N C I S to managing calendars. Um, and it was incredibly humbling. Um, but it was the perfect launching pad for me to kind of reset and ask. All these sort of fundamental questions around like, is this the kind of place I wanna work?

Are these the kinds of people I wanna be around? You know, what is this whole, whole thing and how does it operate? Right? And ABPs or Aass are kind of like this glue that holds organizations together and they understand all the secret sauce of how things actually get done. Um, not to mention you just build a really powerful network within the organization.

Cause you’re dealing with VPs and their, and their sort of number twos on a regular basis. So, [00:13:00] um, Yeah, it was a really, really great experience. It was, it was really humbling because I was working side by side with a lot of like recent college grads. Um, and it felt like all this time it’s been, the military was all for not, again, kind of getting, might being some of your other questions.

Right. But it was like taking, um, two steps back, um, to take ultimately be able to take a few steps forward. Right,

Scott DeLuzio: right. And sometimes that’s necessary in a career is sometimes you have to. Just take those steps back and start from the ground up and, and rebuild yourself. It doesn’t mean that the experiences that you had before, like your experiences in the military were all for nothing.

It’s more just, you know, thinking about, you know, what, what is it that I want to do and what do I want to achieve? And. With anything you, you have to learn how to crawl before you can walk and before you can run. And so, um, you know, what you’re doing or what [00:14:00] you were doing in, uh, your, your first career, uh, it, it was totally different from what you were doing in the military.

So, um, while those. Intangible type things, the leadership skills and, and that type of stuff was, was great. It’s important things to have. Um, it’s important to have in any career that you have, but, uh, you, you have to kind of go back and take the basics of, uh, of the career that you’re going into, um, and, and learn those things too.

And, and being humble enough to know that. That’s okay. That, that’s part of the, the whole system and that’s how these things work, I think is, is an important thing to, to do too. On, on your end, right? Oh, a hundred percent.

Terence Bennett: And that’s, that’s one of the biggest things I try and communicate with veterans who are getting out i’ll, you know, uh, I’ll have like an intel officer, maybe a similar background to me, reach out via LinkedIn and say like, Hey, like I’ve got a similar background to you, like, Tell me, what can I do to get to where you’re at?

Right? And, uh, and I’ll [00:15:00] say, go be an EA for two years, right? Um, but a joking aside, right? Like, um, it looks really, really nice on paper, right? Like, we all build out these LinkedIn profiles that are this, um, this sort of like beautiful sort of painting of, of this incredible career. But, um, but that’s not what it looked like or felt like for at the beginning, right?

And it, it was actually. It was a functionally a pay cut. I moved to one of the most exec, uh, expensive zip codes in the country, um, to do work that was, you know, pretty basic in, in many ways, not very intellectually stimulating in many ways. Right. Um, now it’s Google. So, you know, I actually taught myself some basic Google app scripts, such a JavaScript, and started automating work and doing all sorts of kind of fun stuff on the side and getting involved with, you know, all the extracurriculars that are involved at Google.

And, and, uh, and I made the most of it without a doubt, but, Um, and that was ultimately, you know, why my manager pulled me aside and was like, Terrence, like, we gotta, let’s, let’s find something next for you, whatever’s next for you, right? Um, right. But, [00:16:00] um, but yeah, it was, it was a really challenging role and, um, it was humbling and it did make me question a lot of things about, you know, my transition and, and, um, but ultimately, obviously, you know, it worked out pretty well, but I, I think there’s this myth that, you know, the, the civilian world’s gonna roll up this red carpet and.

You’re gonna get a better paying job with easier hours, and it’s just, it’s all gonna be like a gravy train. And I wouldn’t tell everyone, assume the opposite. Assume the beginning is gonna be less pay and more work, and it’s gonna be really frustrating as you’re trying to navigate this new, this new ecosystem and culture and language and everything else.

Scott DeLuzio: Terrence, what were some of the biggest challenges that you faced, um, when you got out of the military and, and found yourself getting, getting into that civilian career?

Were there, were there challenges as far as, um, you talked a little bit about, you know, that, that initial rejection, but uh, were there challenges with. You know, even just finding a job, uh, as [00:17:00] quickly as you thought, uh, you know, were, were finance is an issue, what, what were some of the challenges that you faced?

Terence Bennett: Yeah, it’s interesting. Um, you know, when you get out you do have sort of a few months to really kind of, um, to prepare. And so I, I did try and spend a lot of time building out that, that sort of network, right? And just trying to meet people and understand the different industries and my options. So I didn’t struggle with unemployment, um, in that regard.

I, um, I struggled though with, once I, once I got established, you go through this sort of six month honeymoon, um, realizing that, um, you know, asking this question of sort of, why am I here? Like, why does any of this matter, right? When you have those questions in the service, um, it’s really easy to sort of, you know, look at the flag on your, on your, uh, on your sleeve and, and know why you’re there and, and the, the kind of stupid kind of monotonous.

Seemingly silly stuff, you can sort of wash it away and say, well, is this part of the process? It’s government bureaucracy, whatever, right? Like, I’m here for this greater purpose, [00:18:00] but when like, the greater purpose is to sell software, you’re like, why am I dealing with all this stupidity? Right? Like all this silly stuff, right?

And, um, and so you, you do have to kind of check under yourself and ask like, is is this work that, that matters to me? That means that means something to me. Um, and that’s that. I think it’s a struggle for everyone and anyone to kind of navigate that process and. And I remember definitely having those questions, and I’m thankful that I was at a place like Google that has like a, a bigger than life kind of mission and purpose, right?

Organize the world, world information. Um, but, um, but I, I think that’s really important, um, to check in with yourself on a regular basis around and say like, you know, do I actually like when I’m doing it? And do I feel like it makes a difference in that it matters?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And finding something that’s meaningful.

I, I, I know, like you were saying in the military, There’s a whole lot of meaning there. You’re serving your country, you are, um, you’re giving back to a community perhaps, and you know, you’re doing, [00:19:00] doing all this stuff and there’s a lot of purpose, a lot of meaning in the work that you do. Um, but when you transition out, uh, working for.

A company, um, you know, building software or honestly, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, uh, when you get out, uh, it can be sometimes difficult to find that sense of meaning. I know myself when I got back from Afghanistan, I. It was, uh, difficult for me to get back to work because I was like, this, this job doesn’t, isn’t as meaningful as it once was to me.

Um, and so finding a sense of purpose, sense of, you know, some meaning in the work that you do is sometimes it’s difficult, but I, I think it’s important to do as well. So, um, you know what? What would you say, what kind of advice would you give to veterans who are getting out of the military and, and struggling to maybe find a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning, um, you know, maybe even if they’re considering a career in, [00:20:00] in tech, um, or, or any career really.

Terence Bennett: Yeah. I, for me it was, I think, kind of easy cuz I, um, not easy, but. You know, I’m, I sort of have like this systems mindset, right? And I loved Intel and I loved like the systems side of it, understanding like how this big behemoth of like an intelligence kind of organization operates and how it all connects.

And, you know, some of the biggest challenges in Intel are actually getting it all to sort of work and connected properly, right? So for me, like drawing the line of between systems and software and making things work properly, or at least leading a team to make sure they’re implemented properly. Um, drawing that line to purpose and meaning, uh, and accomplishments really quite easy.

Um, you know, when you, your question around like, how, how would I recommend a veteran think about this? I would actually, uh, I’d borrow an analogy of, um, this idea of the zone of genius. If you, if someone, if the audience isn’t familiar with it, they should check it out. And it’s this [00:21:00] idea of, of we all have passions that things we’re really passionate about, and then things we’re actually really, really good at.

And if you heard a word build out to grid, you’ve got four different sort of corners and your zone of genius is the things that you’re super passionate about and that you’re also really good at. And, um, if we’re gonna sort of add this like military transition lens to it, let’s throw another zone on there of, and I think a and I think actually has meaning and value, right?

Right. And that could be a really powerful framework, um, as you sort of navigate this seemingly endless space of like opportunities and stuff that you could do, things you could do, whether it’s your free time. Um, or whether it’s, you know, professional work, you know, you, that’s a lens that constantly use a look at what you’re doing.

And, and maybe I’ll provide a little bit of clarity into, is this something I should really kind of pursue and double click on or, or, uh, or

Scott DeLuzio: not. Right. And when you are talking about those things that you’re, you’re good at, that you’re, you’re passionate about, uh, obviously there’s, when you’re talking about a, a job, there’s a financial, [00:22:00] uh, Uh, you know, part two, the equation as well.

So, uh, you know, you have to find something that not only you’re, you’re good at and that you are passionate about, but also something that can earn you a paycheck as well. Um, you know, you can be, you can be, you know, great at something, but if nobody’s willing to pay for it, then, then that’s a, um, It’s more of a hobby, um, as opposed to, uh, a career.

Um, but if you can find that sweet spot where those things come together, um, that’s, that’s just the most ideal situation. You end up having the, the best of both worlds. And, uh, I, I’ve heard this saying before, if you can find, uh, something that you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life because it’s, it’s just the.

You know, your, your passion and you don’t feel like it’s work. You don’t have those, the Monday Blues where you’re, you’re dragging yourself outta bed. Like, oh man, it’s Monday. I gotta go back and do this mind numbing job all over again. Um, but if you can [00:23:00] find that thing that is, uh, giving you that sense of purpose that you’re passionate about, that you, you really enjoy and that you’re, you’re great at.

Um, I mean, it, it just, Energizes you, uh, it gets you, gets you mo motivated, gets you moving and really gets your, um, you, you fired up when you, when you go to, uh, get into that, that work, right?

Terence Bennett: Oh, a hundred percent. And, um, and you know this gonna be said for having hobbies in life that are really fulfilling, even if your job isn’t right, we’re all probably all gonna have jobs that, that give us like a really deep, rich sense of purpose and belonging.

But, um, but you can get close, right? It’s all kinda shades of gray. Yeah. Um, and you know, none of it’s perfect, right? Like, there’s always things you wish you were better at or things you wish you, um, you sort of, uh, or, or you sometimes you have to do things that you’re not super passionate about. But I think it’s about, it’s about if you use that framework, there’s a, it’s a powerful way to, to get close, to get close to what’s a, like an acceptable sort of [00:24:00] level of passion

Scott DeLuzio: and interest.

Right? Right. And, and I, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with having that. That hobby, that that thing that, um, you know, I may have said the way I said it before may have sounded like a, I’m kind of knocking it, but, um, there, there’s nothing wrong with having that as a thing that you’re, you’re passionate about and that you just love doing.

Um, and, and you’re really great at it, but, you know, maybe you’re not making any money on it. So what, like money isn’t everything. Um, you do need to have that, um, that career, that job that is putting food on the table, keeping the roof over your head and funding that hobby too. But, um, but it gives you. Uh, that, that fulfillment, it gives you that, that piece of, um, of you that really, um, you know, energizes you and gets you, gets you motivated and gets you moving.

Um, and, and so I, I think that that is an important thing to have, whether it’s in your career or it’s just something else that you do on the side. You know, something that you do at, at nights or on the weekend or, you know, whenever you have free time. I think that that’s an important thing to have as well.

Uh, when. [00:25:00] When you’re looking at your, just kind of overall the things that you do, um, and, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of your career, right?

Terence Bennett: Oh, definitely. Yeah, a hundred percent. And we’re actually sort of tiptoeing around another topic here, which is mental health in, in the veteran community.

And I think, I think these topics are all like, very much interconnected, right? Uh, having a lot of veterans get out and they struggle to find something that gives them purpose and meaning and, and with that joy and, and maybe camaraderie and, um, And, you know, a team, a team, a feeling of sort of team ownership, right?

And so, um, I think it’s critically important to just living a good life, to find the things that you’re, you’re excited about, that you’re good at, that you’re passionate about, um, and, and as much as you can to really kind of dive in and throw your heart into it, even if it maybe isn’t what you get to do.

Scott DeLuzio: Nine to five, right? And. There’s so many different things that people can do and that they, that they’re passionate about. Everyone has different [00:26:00] interests, uh, and uh, really it’s, it’s just finding that thing that lights the fire inside of you that gets you motivated, gets you, gets you going. Um, and I think when people get out, they, they struggle with that.

Um, because they, they think they need to be. Doing the high speed, you know, super, uh, you know, kind of whoah kind of things that they were doing in the military. But you, like, regular life isn’t like that. You don’t, you don’t need to be going at a thousand miles an hour, you know, doing the things that you might’ve been doing in the military.

And it’s okay to kind of take a step back and slow down just a bit too, you know?

Terence Bennett: Well, you have to, right. I mean, it’s, if you don’t, you’ll, you’ll end up just burned out and, and with a bunch of other issues. Right. Right. Yeah, no, a hundred percent agree. Um, it is, it is interesting, right? I think that the military tracks a type A personality, especially like SF side, right?

And, uh, and [00:27:00] teaching those folks to take a step back and to, and define like the simple, maybe calm, quiet things that, the things you can’t be competitive at, you can’t be number one at, you can’t be the best at, right. Finding joy in that, um, I think is really challenging for a lot of people. When you’ve spent your whole career in, in most of your adult life being kind of ranked.

A against your peers and always finding purpose in that striving to be best. Um, taking a step back and, and trying to figure out like how to enjoy not being the best at things is. It’s challenging.

Scott DeLuzio: It is a challenge because I, I know for myself, I’m, I’m competitive. Like, even, even when I’m playing games with my kids, like, you know, they’re, they’re young, but I’m not letting them win.

And when they do win, they’ve won legitimately. It’s not, not like I’m, I’m just, you know, going easy on ’em or being softer or anything. I’m, I’m actually trying to win and I’m, I’m going af after it as, as if I, I want to win. So, yeah, it’s a hard thing to do to kind of turn that off. But, um, But there are, [00:28:00] there are lots of things that you can do, um, you know, not necessarily in a career, but just to get yourself doing something that makes you happy.

It could be anything. It could be, you know, painting a picture. It could be going for a walk outside. It could be gardening, it could be, who knows, it could be so many different things. But when you find the thing that just makes you happy, um, You’re right. It, it has, you know, pretty significant impact on mental health and, um, you know, and what you, uh, you know, how you perceive yourself and, and the value that you’re, you’re getting from getting outta bed in the morning.


Terence Bennett: Yeah, no, definitely. And, um, yeah, for me, you know, uh, kind of bringing it back to tech, the opportunity to build is something that, it’s always been really motivating for me and. You know, love this group with connected sets and Legos and all that stuff. Right. And software is essentially like building just with, you know, digital sort of components.

Right? Right. Um, so I [00:29:00] think I, I, I think a lot of benja attracted to tech for that reason. It definitely was a real, a big appeal for

Scott DeLuzio: me. Well, and I know when I, I got into the, the tech world. So my, my background, I, I started off as an accountant. When I graduated college. I had an accounting degree and I taught myself, uh, basic, you know, HTML coding.

Cuz back then there wasn’t the, the. Management systems like the WordPresses and things like that, that, that exist now, which made it so much easier. But I, I just enjoyed looking at a break blank screen, typing a whole bunch of stuff in and having something that I created from all of those pieces of information that I put together.

Um, the, you know, the different code that I, I put in there and. It’s the same thing as you, as you start to develop other things, other softwares, um, you know, it, I can imagine it’d be very similar to, to things like that. And, and to me it was just very fulfilling to be able to, uh, create something from nothing, from scratch basically.


Terence Bennett: Yeah. And the thing today, you put that site on aws or you, you build that app or you put that game, you put it on [00:30:00] aws, they can scale to millions in theory, billions of users. Right. Um, That’s what’s incredible is imagine like the, the Lego castle that can scale to the moon in, you know, in theory.

Right, right. Um, that’s kinda what software is to, to me, like it makes the little kid to me just giddy, you know?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah and I know a lot of times the. People who are getting outta the military, one of the biggest things that they miss about being in the military is the sense of purpose that they had, the camaraderie that they had with the people that they served with.

Uh, and it can oftentimes be very difficult to find that in the civilian life that they find themselves getting into. So, uh, for Terrence, like how have you found ways to maintain, uh, that. Sense of purpose and connection to, uh, other people since leaving the military and, you know, do you have any advice for other people who are in a similar situation and how they might be able to find that as well?[00:31:00]

Terence Bennett: Yeah, absolutely. Um, it’s hard and it’s something you have to seek out, right? When we, when we all sort of. You got started bootcamp, wherever else. You, you get thrown in with a group of folks and, uh, and you, you’re told make friends, you know, become friends. You’re spend a lot of time together, right? Like you don’t really have a choice.

And that’s sort of the beauty of like the, I think to be the military experience, right? But you get plunked out into the civilian world and uh, and there’s no forcing function there, right? There’s no forcing function to get up and do PT in the morning. There’s no forcing function to like get to know people and your neighbors.

And a lot of people default to just sitting at home. And doing their nine to five and, uh, and maybe they connected with some friends on the weekends, right. But, um, not really building that community. And so it took me a while to, to see that and to figure that out. Um, but both actually the PT front and on the, the sort of like building community side, right?

Um, you know, the, I I work with a nonprofit called, uh, shields and Stripes and, and, uh, they’re working with veterans with ptsd, um, to try and, you know, provide [00:32:00] resources and, and a really powerful program to get them back on their feet. And working with that organization maybe realized something really profound.

Um, previous groups of veterans came home and struggled the exact same thing, and organizations were created to solve those problems the same way our generation is creating a lot of organizations to connect veterans of our generation. Um, but the, the VFW and the American Legion exists throughout the country.

Right? The American Legion has like 3000 posts nationally or something. I mean, every small town almost has one right. Right. The, these organizations exist and it turns out they’re actually in your neighborhood. Right? They’re in your town. Um, and you just have to go find ’em and seek them out. And I, so I become really active with the VFW in town.

Um, and uh, and it’s a bunch of, you know, it’s, it’s a older guys, a lot of Vietnam vets, and they’ll tell me, they always tell me stories about, like, when they first started coming, it was a bunch of old World War two vets and they kind of sneered at ’em and like, you know, and these, these, I mean the guys are great.

They’re, they’re, they’re really friendly. But, um, We’re [00:33:00] in this awkward sort of position. I think a lot of veterans because these organizations that have existed in our community for decades to serve this exact purpose, don’t really feel like a home, don’t feel welcoming. And so I would challenge you to really, you know, question that and make sure, is this actually an unwelcoming environment or have you just not?

Kind of put yourself in a little bit of an uncomfortable situation and, and actually going out and met some of these guys. Yeah. And, and get to know ’em. Um, and the second thing is like, there’s tons of veteran organizations that are popping up, um, everything from like a Team Rubicon to, there’s, I’m blanking on the name, but like some really interesting fitness based ones.

Um, so I really encourage you to like, find out what’s going on in the community and, and connect with folks, but like, This isn’t bootcamp. Like there’s no drill instructor. He’s gonna, he’s gonna put his boot in your, in your, you know, backside and force you to go do these things, right? Like, you have to, you have to a certain degree get self-motivated and get up and go seek these things out.

And it’s uncomfortable and it’s difficult and you’re gonna probably find a bunch of [00:34:00] literally locked doors, right? Um, but, but like, you gotta shake it down and, and call the number and figure out like where these people are, are, um, are meeting and, and, and organizing and, uh, And just, and find. Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: And you brought up a great point with organizations like, like the VFW and American Legion, uh, you’re right, they’re all over the place.

And sometimes in certain towns, certain cities, there’s more than one post in those, those locations. So you can definitely find groups of people to meet up with, uh, and who have a similar military background, so you can get that comradery again. And it may not be. The guys and gals who you served with, the people who are your age, they may be that older generation, the Vietnam era, and, and people along those lines.

Right? But think about it this way, if, if you’re like, well, I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of old dudes who, who are just, you know, sitting around the bar drinking or whatever, but they got a lot of. Knowledge, they’ve lived life. They’ve gone through this stage of [00:35:00] transitioning out of the military or you know, getting into a career, starting their families, or you know what, whatever stage of life you’re in, they’ve been there already.

They’re already on that older end of life. They’ve already been through all that stuff. So whatever you’re going through, they’ve been there, they’ve lived it, they’ve done it, and they know. All of the mistakes that they’ve made, and they can help you out along the way too. And so I think, you know, if we are just dismissing this because maybe those people don’t look like us, they don’t sound like us, they don’t, they’re not from the same era as us or whatever.

We’re missing out on a huge opportunity to tap into the knowledge and the wisdom that they are bringing to the table as well. Right?

Terence Bennett: A hundred percent. Yeah. Um, Yeah, there’s VFW bar in town like every afternoon. You know, there’s folks just hanging out there, right? There’s, there’s, um, there’s a real community that exists there.

Um, and to your point, they don’t, they’re not on my, my age group. Like they’re all their kids are, you know, outta college or whatever, right. But like, [00:36:00] they’re, they’re people who haven’t got a lot in common with often cases, a lot more in common within some of my neighbors. Right. Um, and it’s about just kind of, uh, yeah, just taking a step back and kind of.

Um, checking ’em out and seeing, seeing what’s going on there. Um, I I will touch on one more thing, which is, um, depending on your, on your, the organization you work for, like your, your company, um, there might be a bunch of opportunities there, right? Some larger organizations have like a, a veterans employee resource group or whatever they call it.

If they don’t, they are often really supportive of, of organizing. If you’re the kind of person who wants to roll up your sleeves and actually create that organization, you can often get money from your company. To do events Right. To, to do barbecues or even do like outings. Right, right. So, um, don’t cross it

Scott DeLuzio: off the list either.

Yeah. And I think that is something too that, you know, big or small, whatever size organization that you, you work for, if you know that there’s other veterans who work there, um, that’s something else that you guys have in common is. That, that shared connection [00:37:00] of the, the job that you work at too. And, um, I know just through doing this show, uh, meeting veterans all the time, I’ve, I’ve done, you know, hundreds of episodes with so different veterans from different branches and, uh, Every time I talk to them, we just have, uh, some sort of connection, um, just right off the bat.

And by the end of the episode as we’re talking, it’s almost as if we’ve known each other for years. It is almost as if we serve with each other cuz we do have that connection. So finding that, that common bond and that, that, uh, That comradery. I think it’s super important to have, uh, to, to keep that in your network and, and keep those people around you because, uh, you know, you speak the common language, even if you’re coming from a different branch, you still, you know, you have an idea at least what they’re talking about, and you have an idea what they’re, they’ve gone through in, in their lives.

So, um, you know, definitely don’t dismiss. Um, Whether it’s the VFW or American Legion or organizations like that, or even, you know, within your own company, if there are, um, you know, veteran [00:38:00] resource groups or, or things like that, like, don’t dismiss those just because, uh, you know, I don’t know, you wanna isolate yourself and just be a hermit and stay in your house, whatever.

Like, don’t, don’t dismiss those things either, right?

Terence Bennett: Yeah, no, for sure. Um, Yeah. A hundred

Scott DeLuzio: percent agree. Yeah. Um, so how did you leverage your, your military background to help you succeed in tech? Um, and, and where did, where did, where were you able to, uh, kind of leverage some of the skills and the, the experiences that you’ve had when it, when it came through?

Um, it came to, you know, working in your career? Uh,

Terence Bennett: Yeah. Um, yeah, that was a good question. And in tech it’s actually kind of easy, right? Like, you know, um, all the services will, will put like, it types, like information technicians through, um, the basic courses like Network Plus. And, you know, if you’re, if you’re a little more senior, cissp, all that’s, uh, those are common certifications that that mean a lot in the, uh, in the civilian world.[00:39:00]

Um, a lot of the. I do like to joke though, like, you know, the civilian world has no clue what to do with an intelligence officer. And so, you know, when I did start, start interviewing people would be like, oh, that’s really cool. I have no clue what that means. And, and some of ’em would even like joke, like, does that mean you’re like James Bond?

Like, like I, I just don’t even know what to make of, of this sort of, uh, uh, intelligence experience. But, um, But you know, the, the truth is they knew what an EA was, right? So that’s, that’s what I used as a stepping stone kind of to get my foot in the door. Um, but yeah, I mean, tech’s a little bit easier than some of the other, um, professions.

I think it’s becoming more common that the military is able to sort of map these, uh, occupation skills over to the, the military side. But I’d say most of this, the really strong skills I have, Um, I didn’t get to, to sort of explore in the civilian world for a few years because they’re really around, um, management and emotional intelligence and leading, you know, teams and um, motivating [00:40:00] teams.

So it’s um, it’s back to this kind of idea of like, sometimes you have to take one step back, take two steps forward, right? And for me, I was in a IC role, individual contributor, that’s kind of a Google term for four years before I was able to set back into management. And that was actually one of the big reasons why I.

I, I, I went to the startup world was cuz I, I really missed that, the purpose and the, um, yeah, the sense of purpose and, uh, accomplishment I got by leading a team and, and watching them succeed and watching them grow. So, um, it is, it is really hard though. Yeah. And

Scott DeLuzio: how did you like that, that transition even from, uh, you know, the corporate world, to the startup world, um, what was that something that you, you saw in your, your roadmap?

From the, the get-go? Or was that something that like over time you, you kind of evolved into that role? I, I

Terence Bennett: evolved over time into realizing that’s the move I had to make. Um, first the move was sort of out of, out of the executive support role into more of like program [00:41:00] management, frankly, because there’s a lot of those roles and openings.

It’s a large kind of, uh, job group at Google. Um, and I thought I really wanted to kind of focus on cybersecurity as a specialization. But having done that role for roughly two years, I realized cybersecurity was really interesting, but what I missed was this sort of management piece. And so, um, it was actually through my network from the reserve side that I met the folks I work for now.

Um, and interestingly enough, like the leadership there is actually a shilling army, so very different like worlds, very different network. But, um, but they saw a former military officer, a former junior officer, and they, and they immediately knew what that meant, right. Obviously I never struggled with them.

Um, actually I served with some Australian navy cool enough, but, uh, but they, they knew enough to say that like, okay, a former, um, a former Navy, uh, junior officer is gonna have the skills we’re looking for to lead the small company, right? And so, um, and so they, they [00:42:00] took a chance on me and it worked out.

But yeah, it’s um, um, You know, we all sort of paint this picture in retrospect of like our, our career and you know, it’s easy to make it look easy. It’s easy to make it look like it was all planned all along, but in reality, like we’re all just kind of taking information, optimizing, it’s like the oo loop, right?

You’re optimizing based on like new information and you’re making a decision and you’re constantly going through these loops until you kind of find a setting that you’re pleased with. Um, and so that was the case for me. Like if you’d asked me when I joined Google, I’d probably tell you I would’ve been there forever.

Um, but I quickly realized like there’s, there’s kind of a ceiling here and I’m not gonna get to management role for a long time, and I’m looking for a little more autonomy. And so I left.

Scott DeLuzio: I feel like a lot of.

People transitioning outta the military, um, can certainly learn a lot from what Terrence has gone through, what his experiences were, um, and people like him. Um, and, and what kind of, what we were talking about was dealing with that transition out of the [00:43:00] military, um, and dealing with, um, yeah, the isolation and finding, uh, some support from other.

People doesn’t necessarily have to be veterans, but a lot of times the veterans are the ones that we feel most comfortable with. So finding the American legions or the VFWs or other organizations that are out there, um, maybe even within your own company that you work for, um, is super important to that transition.

Um, so, uh, Terence, I want to kind of give you the opportunity here in the last, uh, couple minutes that we have to. Give us any kind of closing thoughts or words of wisdom, advice that you might have for people. And also, uh, to tell us a little bit more about, uh, what you do and where people can go to find, uh, a little bit more about, uh, the, the stuff that you do.

Terence Bennett: Awesome. Yeah. Thanks, Scott. Um, yeah, I would, I would sort of challenge everyone to, to view transition as, uh, as not like a, you know, taps program and like find a first job, but, but really as like a multi-year, you know, journey, right? Um, [00:44:00] The same way you expect to sort of move every few years in the, uh, the military.

Um, you can expect that, uh, on the civilian side probably. It’s probably gonna take some time to find that role and it’s gonna be challenging and there’s gonna be some disappointments. Um, uh, but you gotta keep going cuz there’s, there’s a ton of rewarding opportunities out there and there’s folks looking for people, um, like, like all of you out there listening, right?

Who are dedicated and, and who have, um, who have raised your hand and decided to serve and. And are looking to continue to contribute. So, um, yeah, I’ll leave it with that. I, um, yeah, I mean a little bit about like what I’m doing now. I’m a Dream Factory software. I’m running Dream Factory Software, which is a, uh, API generation tool.

It’s a really interesting, kind of new, um, new tech category. And the reason it interested me is because it bridges this world of sort of old sort of legacy tech with, with new, um, sort of cloud based tech, right? And so what we’re able to do is, We’re connecting a lot of legacy systems. Everything from mainframes to, to more sort of, um, just kind of [00:45:00] on-prem systems that you might see in like a government kind of, um, organization, connecting them to anything you that need to be connected to specifically like, uh, the cloud.

So really fun. It allows me to kind of blend these two worlds that I’ve, I’ve, uh, worked in. And, uh, yeah, having a lot of fun,

Scott DeLuzio: fun with it. Is it kind of like a, uh, like a zappier kind of thing where, where you can connect different, uh, different things and have ’em speak to each other and do, do different things like that?

Is it some somewhat similar to, to something like that? At at least in concept?

Terence Bennett: Yeah. Yeah, the concepts right there, it’s uh, think of like enterprise api, but it actually sits within your, your organization’s environment, right? So it’s actually sitting within like your data center. Sure. In the case of like, you know, the office able intelligence where I worked had their own data center within the middle of the building, right?

So you’d kind of install there and they could serve that data via an API that’s you fully secure and um, has all like the standard security controls out to wherever you need it. So it’s, um, yeah, it’s really interesting and I get to meet a lot of really interesting customers, people working on some. Some fun old stuff.

So we’ve got a [00:46:00] customer running a 1972 IBM mainframe that’s using Dream Factory, so, wow. I mean, I’m never, yeah, I stopped getting surprised because it’s just wild that

Scott DeLuzio: we see. Yeah, I mean there’s so many different, uh, systems out there and as time goes on, there’s more and more different systems and different technology, different, um, you know, eras of technology.

You talk about, uh, computer computing system from the seventies, like that. That is just such a ancient technology that it, it’s surprising that it even still turns on, nevermind, uh, you know, is able to communicate with anything else. But, um, you’re right. I mean, I, you, you gotta be, uh, you gotta be kind of, uh, not expecting anything.

Anything crazy. Uh, anything else? Any crazier than that? Cause I mean, that, that’s about as crazy as I can, I can think of. Right. Uh, just, just, uh, a lot of different stuff out there. So, um, Terrence, I, I do want to, uh, just thank you so much for taking the time to, uh, come on the show, sharing your experiences and, and helping out with other veterans who might be out there.

[00:47:00] Uh, I really do appreciate you taking this time, uh, to come on the show and join us.

Terence Bennett: Yeah, my pleasure. And, and folks, um, can find me on LinkedIn aren’t really active on other social media. But, uh, you know, reach out and connect if, if you want to chat. Um, my time is, is, you know, I don’t have a ton of free time, but I can point in, in the, um, towards the resources and things that really helped me during my transition.

Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. Thank you so much.

Terence Bennett: Absolutely.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

Leave a Comment