This Veterans Day marks my last as the global lead for the Autodesk Veterans Network (AVN) Employee Resource Group (ERG). And as this period comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the great strides we’ve made within the AVN, as well as my personal path to working at Autodesk.

The AVN mission is to help make Autodesk the veterans’ employer of choice and create a culture where military veterans can thrive. We want more veterans to look at Autodesk as a top place to work, especially when transitioning from the military to civilian workforce. We recognize the transition can be difficult, even with strong support from assistance programs run by veterans’ groups.

Veterans Network leadership discussing and documenting ideas on a large notepad

Autodesk Veterans Network convened at the Global ERG Summit held at Autodesk University.

As an enlisted veteran myself, I’m inspired to work with the AVN to address these challenges because of my own experience transitioning from military to civilian work. Serving with the U.S. Navy, I was stationed in the electrical division of the nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS SALT LAKE CITY (SSN-716).

My job was to operate and maintain the electrical equipment on the ship, from the steam turbine driven generators in the nuclear power plant all the way to the ice cream machine in the galley. Working in a nuclear power plant takes specialized training, and many civilian power plants recruit directly from the enlisted operator ranks to immediately start working in similar roles following active service.

But what if you want to try something different?

I was honored to serve aboard a ship and did my job well, but a continued focus on nuclear power wasn’t what I had envisioned for my life. The challenge for active duty military transitioning from service is the risk of being pigeonholed to do the same work as a civilian.

U.S. Navy veteran headshot

My job was to operate and maintain the electrical equipment on the ship.

When I went to a job fair hosted by the Transition Assistance Program at Naval Submarine Base Point Loma, every single hiring manager and recruiter there was from a power plant. I wanted a change but didn’t know where to go, so I ended up working in a local electronics store.

After a year of working in retail, a mutual friend showed me a job opportunity in banking that required a college degree. I had not yet gone to college, so was skeptical, but decided to apply anyway. 

I was called to come in for an interview and was excited at the opportunity. When I arrived and sat down across from the recruiter, the first thing she told me was that I wouldn’t be hired because I didn’t have a degree. She explained that since I was a military veteran, she would take the time to talk to me about the role so I could come back and apply when I finished college. 

Meet Michelle Rasmussen, the incoming global lead for the AVN

In that moment, I made a split-second decision to do my best to convince her to give me a shot and move me forward in the process.

We talked – ok, I mostly talked – for 30 minutes and I gave the pitch of a lifetime, advocating for my own experience, aptitude, and proven ability to learn quickly and deliver value. At the end of that interview, she said she would accept my years of military service in lieu of the degree and advance me to the next round.

In the end, I got the job.

I worked in banking for five years, used my G.I. Bill to get my undergraduate degree, met a recruiter at a marketing agency through a mutual colleague at the bank, and worked at that agency for three years in sales.

In that role, I met the manager who would eventually hire me in the trials marketing team here at Autodesk. After more than eleven years, I’ve worked in marketing for our online store, led product marketing for a drawing app, and partnered with our sales teams in North America to lead AEC account-based marketing. In my current role, I’m the global head of marketing for Innovyze, a recently acquired company at the forefront of technology in the water industry.

Man posing with monsters at tech conference

I’ve held many roles during my more than 11 years at Autodesk. While leading marketing for a drawing app, this meant hanging out with monsters at Autodesk University.

I think back, often, to the way I felt when I was standing in a room full of power plant recruiters. All I knew then was I didn’t want to work in power plants, but there was no other option through military transition. That is where companies like Autodesk and our AVN can step in and make a difference.

The recruiter who accepted my military service in lieu of a college degree changed the course of my life forever. Now, I’m working every day to make sure Autodesk recruiters and hiring managers see the opportunity to do the same for others who served.

For military service members looking to learn how to make a successful transition, I recommend Vets in Tech and Hire Heroes.

Head here to learn more about careers at Autodesk.