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Sarah Clark is a Program Manager in Staffing Operations who specializes in diversity hiring. She works from the Austin, TX office. Lynette Estrada is a Staffing Manager working in Reston, VA. 

Sarah ClarkFor the past few years, Lynette and I worked on methods and strategies to attract top talent from the military and veteran community to VMware. Because we both come from families of veterans, there is a personal interest in driving VMware’s veteran hiring initiative, an understanding of the values and level of dedication that veterans bring to the job, and how these values align to our shared EPIC2 company values.

We first explored Education with Industry programs, where mid-level military officers would receive 10 months of skills building and experience at a specific company, which can be reapplied in their military position upon their return. Two years later, Porter Clapp, a Director in our Public Sector team and an Air Force veteran, contacted us about applying to the Air Force Education With Industry (EWI) program. With the additional momentum for diversity at VMware, we felt that the time had arrived to implement this program.

Porter spent a lot of time with EWI leaders and people running EWI programs at other companies to understand their programs and what it would take for VMware to join. It was to be the first program of its kind in the US – and if we were to do it, we wanted to do it right. So, our diverse team worked together to craft a program outline to present to our business leaders.EWI application front page

Any time you bring forward a new program, there are legitimate questions about the operational model, risks and benefits, costs, commitments – it gets scrutinized from every angle. We worked hard, and supportive managers gave us valuable feedback. We presented our idea to our first round of business leaders. After the presentation, there was silence. The first statement came from a VP who said he was looking for the drawback — and he couldn’t find even one. We had a few more meetings with similar results. The responses were enthusiastic and very positive. A few managers even asked if we planned to sign up with similar programs at the other military branches.

As we received VMware leadership approval to apply to the program, we learned the Air Force was not looking for more industry partners to join.  Rather, they were removing long-standing EWI participants to align with Air Force requirements. The Air Force program managers informed us it may take a year to consider VMware for the program.

That did not deter our team. We spent weeks developing the application: encouraging business units to present us with opportunities that we could include within our application, even organizing a roundtable with our internal veterans group to understand the messaging and ideas that would really resonate on our application.  We developed a multimedia presentation that explained VMware’s culture, leadership, and value to people and customers.  We appealed to the military’s core values and highlighted the unique opportunities a military officer would receive spending a year at VMware.

At last, our application was submitted. Then began the wait. Waiting was difficult as countless supporters followed up about the status of our application. To distract ourselves and to be positive, we developed an action plan with next steps.

Finally came the news. VMware was accepted in the program! The Air Force took steps to place VMware in the 2015 – 2016 academic year, recognizing VMware’s outstanding culture and value, and assigning an officer to VMware beginning August 2015. Our student hasn’t started yet, but we have met with him and are already impressed with his drive and passion for this assignment. Our goal is to be recognized as an employer of choice based on building relationships with such organizations. We look forward to a long-term partnership with this program.

— Sarah Clark