Careers at Triumph Tech

From Sergeant to Solutions Architect: How I used Military Training to Land My First Tech Job

Shane Garnetti
Shane Garnetti

From Sergeant to Solutions Architect: How I used Military Training to Land My First Tech Job

Beginning a new career can be intimidating and very stressful…

Stationed at 2-7 Infantry Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart GA, my pride and joy was my title of being an Army Infantryman. Serving to directly protect my country, meeting people from around the world, and getting paid to workout and shoot guns….It was heaven. I had purpose, my mission was clear and I was good at my job. I ultimately never thought I would have gotten out of the Army so soon. I had originally planned to retire in the military. But God had other plans for me and thankfully so. I met a woman who soon became my wife and she would completely alter my life for the better.

I was at a crossroads… I loved my job and was growing professionally as a Team Leader Sergeant. I had plans to become an Officer, pursuing the Special Operations community. I tossed and turned most nights after marriage with my mind racing about the kind of husband I wanted to be and family goals I had. These thoughts conflicted with my personal career goals. I knew I could not “serve two masters” (Matt 6:24) but choosing was difficult. After much thought, consideration, self reflection and prayer, I chose to get out of the Army. I wanted to pursue a new career that would allow me the time and quality of life I wanted for my family. There are many families in the military and it is no easy task for them. It is important to note I have the utmost respect for military and first responder families as they are all impacted by those lines of work. Anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and even births can get missed when duty calls. The Soldier’s creed states, I will always place the mission first and it is absolutely true, even at the expense of family events and holidays. It is truly a selfless act to serve, and for those continuing to do just that, we are forever grateful for your continued sacrifice!

So Now What?

Okay so I had decided to exit the Army, great… Now what would I do? How would I support my wife and future family? What did I have to offer employers? The thoughts and doubts began to flurry in my mind. However, I knew in order to complete a mission successfully, I needed to organize my thoughts and plan backwards. This led me to the million dollar question, What in the actual heck did I want to do?!

Thankfully, when out-processing from the Army, you are required to attend a series of workshops that cover resume writing and job fairs. Some people can just sort of sluff their way through it to check off the boxes and be done. While that was tempting, I knew I needed to take advantage of these workshops and get serious. I remember like it was yesterday, there was an announcement some companies would be stopping by to discuss career paths and opportunities. There was a wide range of speakers ranging from police departments, supply chain companies, oil/gas companies, electrical companies, banks, law firms and more. But while all were somewhat interesting, one tech company came in discussing the job market, growth, security, and salaries within tech. It was right then and there the light bulb went off in my head! I could potentially work from home, not break my body down and possibly make a six figure salary… Where do I sign up?!

Reality Check

The feeling of hope and possibility was both exciting and short lived. I was soon brought back down to earth with doubts and questions in my head:

  • But I don’t have a computer background…
  • Am I smart enough to even do this?
  • What specific job could I even do?
  • Who would hire me with no relevant education background or experience?

These thoughts and questions were a reality check for me. Changing a new career can be very intimidating and stressful for the obvious reasons of the unknown, not wanting to fail, and not wanting to let family down. However, lessons learned from my time in the Army began to counter my doubts. So I began to mentally adjust myself and focus on the following:

  • Determine the mission
  • Develop a detailed plan
  • Prioritize
  • Execute
  • Supervise / Refine

Determine The Mission

I have learned that planning backwards is extremely effective when attacking a goal or problem solving. I began to research tech jobs to see what specific areas within tech interested me. As I began to research different roles and job duties, I found I aligned with cyber security and solution architecture the most. I loved the idea of working to keep companies safe by implementing security components and evaluating vulnerabilities. I also liked the idea of designing solutions and problem solving. After more research, I determined that a Solutions Architect role was my goal as I could implement my passion for security into the designs. Now that I had defined my target role (aim small, miss small) I had determined my mission, now it was time to develop a detailed plan.

Develop A Detailed Plan

I had about 9 months remaining on my Army contract and it was time to get serious. I knew I wanted to have a seamless transition into a new job, so I would have to start utilizing that time effectively and efficiently. I began looking at job postings for Solutions Architects along with the required skills and proficiencies… Another major mental downer. All required immense experience and skills that I had not yet attained. This was going to be a long road.

I had to do a gut check. Becoming a Solutions Architect with no previous computer background or experience is like someone joining the military and expecting to immediately become a high rank… Not going to happen. I lacked basic computer fundamentals. I needed to establish basic skills now so that in 9 months when I was on my own, I would have some knowledge and skills that would hopefully get my foot in the door. I was told the hardest job to get in tech is your first.

It is unfortunate even entry level tech jobs can have ridiculous experience and skill requirements making it seem impossible to get started somewhere. But doing the hard things often is the most rewarding and quitting is not in my DNA. So I re-adjusted my target to jobs that could be a good stepping stone for one day becoming a Solutions Architect. I ended up deciding that entry roles such as Junior Developer, DevOps Engineer, and Systems Administrator were most applicable for me and began to pursue those job roles. I decided the most effective plan of action would be to go to school online and earn a certificate in cyber security. This would allow me to learn direct foundational skills along with a certificate I could leverage on my resumes to land my first tech job. I found a six month program through a military friendly college called Grantham University. The course would envelop basic networking concepts, IP protocols, security concepts and infrastructure design. I even learned that the Army would not only pay for my schooling for free, but pay me as well! It was too good to be true!


Now that I had a plan, I needed to get organized by establishing my priorities of work. I still was active duty and needed to find the time and mental energy to complete this new task of taking on school full time. I began to set specific study goals and times when I could get the work done. I had discovered that about 3.5 hours a day (with minor variance) was the amount of time needed to accomplish quality school work and sharpen my technical foundational skills. I set my study times during lunch and right after dinner so I would have availability in the evenings to relax and spend time with my wife. I also began attending resume workshops and researched effective resume writing videos on YouTube. I began restructuring my resume with specific wordage and skills related to the jobs I was pursuing. At a high level, my priorities of work looked like this:

  • Active work
  • School work and studying
  • Resume writing and prep
  • Applying for jobs


I kept firm on my daily schedules and took it one day at a time. In the beginning it was mentally tiring, but after about 2 weeks I found a good rhythm. It can easily become overwhelming when working towards long goals, but keeping your mental energy focused on immediate tasks that require execution is more efficient and really helps fight doubt and mental fatigue.

Finally, 6 months later, I successfully completed the cyber security concepts program! Now armed with a certification from an accredited school, foundational skills such as command line knowledge in Linux, basic networking concepts, types of cyber attacks, basic mitigation strategies and infrastructure design, my confidence increased! After many failed job application attempts and rejection letters, I finally got an interview at Eastern Washington University and was given a formal offer letter at the end…

Mission success!

Supervise / Refine

I couldn’t believe it, I had landed my first tech job as an Application Administrator. My responsibilities included installing backend applications and testing new updates and reliability. This was a great hands-on experience, but I felt like I was the dumbest person in the room. I lacked experience and didn’t have the tech knowledge my peers had. I was definitely suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

The reality of the situation was, this is a new job in a new career field and to think I wouldn’t be starting from the bottom would be completely naive of me. It was a tough pill to swallow because in my role as an Infantry Team Leader, I was confident, proficient and comfortable. Now I was a new guy again… I had to check my ego and refine my attitude to soak up and learn all I could. I had to ultimately adjust my standards for myself, and simply get comfortable being uncomfortable…

At this time my wife also gave birth to our first child, a beautiful baby boy. With this new addition, my time to study and learn became even more challenging. I had to balance work and family life more carefully. I made the tough decision to enroll in school again to pursue an MBA in Information Management. As my wife and I wanted more kids, I figured life would only get increasingly more busy for me. I knew obtaining my MBA now would benefit me professionally. It also seemed wise to get it out of the way before my family grew. So in the evenings when all went to sleep, I got after my school work and rode that train for 2 years until I had completed the Master’s program. This was also a huge accomplishment for me as I was the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree, but I never thought I could earn a Master’s Degree… Get some!

My ‘Aa-Ha!’ Moment

After about 6 months of employment, the CIO made an announcement that our IT shop would embrace the AWS (Amazon Web Services) cloud and begin migrating all existing applications and building all future solutions in AWS. There was immediate push back from existing staff as they did not want to learn new AWS concepts. They had built a career in specialized areas and had become complacent and content with their skills (somewhat understandably so, but complacency kills). However, I found this AWS initiative was an opportunity for me to be competitive and assist the university in accomplishing their business needs. We had a clear directive with the “commander’s intent” identified. I understood and immediately readjusted my sight picture to learn all things AWS, not knowing this would be a pivotal decision in my professional career. I instantly began developing a new training plan, setting clear goals, prioritizing them, and executing.

AWS… Full Steam Ahead

I began to pursue the Cloud Practitioner Certification as it was the best starting point to begin a cloud journey in AWS. The Cloud Practitioner certification covers fundamental knowledge of AWS services and promotes understanding of how they interact with one another. After several weeks of studying I had achieved the certification and was extremely motivated! A few weeks later, I was pulled into my manager’s office and promoted to a new groundbreaking ‘Cloud Team.’ This was HUGE because it was the focus of the department. We were going to begin taking on large workloads, bringing ultimate value to the university and students.

Eventually my job title changed to a DevOps Engineer and I was building Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and conducting application migrations to AWS. The CIO also hired a person to be manager of the cloud team as he had extensive background experience and leadership skills. He ended up not only becoming my direct boss, but also a great mentor and friend to me. He pushed me and challenged me by allowing me to run my own projects (within reason) and encouraging me to always grow and learn.

One thing that is certain in life, but especially certain in the tech space, is that change is inevitable and frequent. In order to succeed in tech, you must remain humble and always be willing to learn new concepts and technologies. From when I got my first cloud based role, I chose to immerse myself in blogs, training tools, forums and documentation around developing solutions in AWS. Since that time, I have earned a new certification each year (currently earned 6: Cloud Practitioner, Developer Associate, Solutions Architect Associate, SysOps Administrator, Solutions Architect Professional, Security Specialty ).

Through multiple job changes, relentless pursuit and discipline, I was able to complete my mission of becoming a Solutions Architect. I currently work at Triumph Tech (premiere AWS Partner) as a Customer Solutions Architect where I get to problem solve with new businesses everyday, resulting in reliable and efficient solutions in the AWS cloud! The journey is never ending… Always set high standards for yourself, stay humble, remain mentally agile, and most importantly…

Shane Garnetti, Customer Solutions Architect

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