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Bringing a broader perspective to Product Management

October 31, 2018

Bringing a broader perspective to Product Management

Jack Riminton, Growth Product Manager at Labs, believes startups are neglecting a valuable potential resource: military veterans. Jack, an ex-military officer, describes veterans as the type of people that ‘get s**t done’. “They know how to pay very close attention to detail, and expect crystal clear communication — otherwise, there could be calamitous consequences.”

Jack often sees misconceptions about military training. For example, the idea of blind allegiance and a tacit obedience to every command. "The UK military works on Mission Command,” explained Jack, “whereby you’re told what your aim is, and what constraints you have to operate within, but you’re then given freedom to determine how to get it done.”

One barrier for some UK veterans entering the tech sector is a lack of specific skills, such as engineering, marketing and sales. Jack, himself, received an MBA after leaving the military, thanks to a full scholarship. He also gained valuable coding skills through the Makers Academy.

Another barrier for many veterans is adapting to a work process that is okay with failure and embraces learning through iteration. This contrasts with the military's assiduous focus on preplanning and getting things right the first time. Startups can afford risks that the military can't. After all, no one is going to die.

"Military training and agile software development are, on the face of it, diametrically opposed,” Jack noted. “If, however, independent and inquisitive veterans can be encouraged to make the leap and learn the specific skills necessary to building companies and products, then great things can happen." Jack points to the success of startups in Israel, where there is a seamless relationship between mandatory military training and a disruptive, market re-defining startup culture.

Jack credits his time in the military for teaching him responsibility, empathy towards others, and for giving him a far greater perspective on life. "I realise now how easy it is to get swept up in whatever life throws at you," reflected Jack. "But now I see how important it is to take a step back and question whether what you're worried about is actually that serious."

To help bridge the gap between the military and tech startup world, Jack recently set-up the LinkedIn group Sandhurst to Startups, a forum that brings together the burgeoning number of ex-Officers in Tech. "A move from the military to tech is quite a leap into the unknown,” stated Jack. “So I want illuminate the path somewhat. I also want to show to employers the strength and diversity we can bring."