If you hear the word “veteran,” the picture that usually comes to mind is a returning male war hero, and popular culture reinforces this idea. I personally experienced a bit of this culture when I went to a conference in Austin last summer. A veteran parking spot was empty. While I don’t usually take advantage of privileges like that, I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty amazing,” so I decided to park there. As you might imagine, I got a lot of stares when leaving my car. So yes, being a woman veteran can come with some unique challenges.
Women have actually been serving in the military across the globe since the early 1900s and, except for North Korea, comprise an estimated 1-16% of the world’s seven largest armies.[i] As the fastest growing demographic in the military, the women veteran population is also on the rise – nearly 10% of the current U.S. veterans are women.[ii] And, while transitioning from military to the civilian workforce can be challenging for any veteran, women veterans often face a lack of family or social support and little recognition for their military contributions. Women are also transitioning from a male-dominated work culture of war fighting to a civilian work culture with different values. In surveys by Disabled American Veterans, female veterans often reported feeling invisible when they leave the service and struggled with finding a group of peers in which they felt supported and encouraged.[iii]
Patricia in the Civil Engineering Tech School as part of her Air Force training
Experiences in camaraderie and helping others in the Air Force
I was with the Air Force for nine years – first with the Services Squadron and then with the Civil Engineering Squadron, working on generators. In addition to being a woman, I was also one of the shortest people on the team. While you might think that was two strikes against me, my experience was different. I found great common ground with my male colleagues in our shared sense of humor, and that camaraderie has carried over well into my career with Equinix. I enjoy joking around with my colleagues, and I find it helps put them at ease too.
Patricia during one of her deployments
One of my favorite experiences was during my deployment to Bosnia, when I was part of the Civil Engineering Group. We re-wired a school because they were too poor to afford new electricity. The local community was so appreciative and kind to us – they took us to visit special places in Bosnia and the youth played soccer with us at the end of our workdays. They just appreciated everything so much, and that sense of the community appreciating the things you did for them really meant a lot.
Patricia re-wiring the school in Bosnia
Growing with Equinix
I left the military to spend more time with my family. While I didn’t know a lot about the company before joining in 2016, I can honestly say that Equinix is probably the best place any ex-military person could land for a civilian career. For one, there are so many other veterans that are part of Equinix. Also, coming from a culture that is very structured in terms of schedule and tasks can be a challenge when transitioning to a civilian career but Equinix has just the right balance. There is structure but also more trust that you can take your assignments and run with them. And, help is always there when you need it. So, in a way, it was a familiar environment to the military that also encourages you to grow. You can follow rules, but you also have the opportunity to show that you can perform without somebody being right there, looking over your shoulder.
Patricia with two of her nephews
In the early part of my career, I tended to stand back and observe – I was never one to jump in first. It was a quality that initially helped me succeed because I learned a lot and my colleagues (both men and women) were always willing to mentor and guide me. Equinix has helped me continue to grow so much as an engineer and as a leader that now I don’t hesitate to jump in and speak up. I was recently promoted to a Level V Engineer for DA9, one of our new IBX® data centers in Dallas Texas, where I have taken on additional responsibilities in managing projects and budgets. And, of course, I lend a helping hand to others who need it. So, in a way, my role is reversed now, thanks to my experience with Equinix.
When it comes to diversity and veterans, I believe Equinix is the number one company in how they treat people. You might say I’ve found my civilian tribe at Equinix.Patricia Cole, IBX® Site Engineer and Veteran
Veterans and ex-military are part of the Equinix family, 48 of which are people managers. In the U.S., 11% of new hires in 2018 were veterans.
When it comes to diversity and veterans, I believe Equinix is the number one company in how they treat people. I have the flexibility to set my own schedule and pursue a career that is best suited to my unique strengths and background as a veteran. The culture truly makes me feel like I’m safe, I belong and I matter here. A strong sense of community is important to me as a veteran, and I am finding that through innovative initiatives like the Equinix Women Leaders Network (ELWN) and the Walk in the Woods employee retreat. You might say I’ve found my civilian tribe at Equinix.
In the U.S., Equinix has been recognized at the Silver level as a Military-Friendly employer. In the United Kingdom, Equinix was awarded the Bronze Award by the Armed Forces Covenant. (Sources: Equinix “I belong” and Veteran careers)
Learn more about Equinix Veterans Careers and Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging.
You may also be interested in reading other blogs about Equinix and Veterans.
[i] Wikipedia, Women in the military, updated Nov 2019; Army Technology, Women in the army: female fighters in the world’s seven biggest armies, Nov 2018.
[ii] Military.com, With Historic Number of Women in Uniform, the Vet Community Is About to Change, Mar 2019.
[iii] Disabled Veteran Americans (DAV), Women Veterans: The Long Journey Home, 2014 and Women Veterans: The Journey Ahead, 2018.