How a veteran Sailor and Guardsman showcases the value of project management certification

Dr. Eric Wright, Veteran Sailor and Guardsman

Dr. Eric Wright, Veteran Sailor and Guardsman

Credentials are one of the primary tools transitioning Service members can use to validate their military experience. This is particularly true for certain civilian occupations that do not have a direct military equivalent, such as project management. With experience teaching, training and working in the project management sector, veteran Sailor and Guardsman Dr. Eric Wright uses his wealth of industry knowledge and perspective to run Vets2PM, which helps transitioning Service members and recently discharged veterans start their civilian project management careers.

How long were you in the military?

I was in the military for eight years. I was in the Navy just shy of six years, and then I was in the National Guard for another two years.

How did the skills you developed in the military lead you to focus on a career in project management?

In my opinion, many Service members develop strong project management skills in the military. We’re skilled in decision making and situational awareness and analysis. When I got out of the Navy, I had a lot of great, specific skills, but I didn’t know how to articulate them for a civilian hiring manager. After many years, I learned to talk about the things I did in the military, like running nuclear submarines, using project management terminology, which made my experience more tangible for a civilian audience and helped me get hired.

Upon transition, you pursued project management credentials from the Project Management Institute. Why did you choose PMI?

Theirs are the most in-demand, highly recognized project management credentials in the industry, and they have a long history of establishing the standards of exceptional professional project management. I hold the PMI-ACP, CAPM and PMP credentials, which demonstrate my expertise and experience and give me the credibility to present at events around the country.

Certification changed my life, and now I use certification to run a company that impacts thousands of lives a year.

In your opinion, how has credentialing changed since you started earning certifications? Where do you see credentialing in five years’ time?

I think there have been two main changes. First, technology has evolved. When I took my first certification exam, we filled in bubbles on a Scantron. Now, everything is computer-based and more efficient and convenient. Second, there’s a focus now on behavioral psychology as part of exams. We test people on how they might react or behave in certain professional scenarios, which is really exciting.

Certification is here to stay — the evidence is simple. At big Fortune 100 companies, credentialing is an essential metric for assessing capabilities and potential.

Credentialing is an essential metric for assessing capabilities and potential.

—Eric Wright

How did you come to start your own business — Vets2PM — which helps Service members find civilian careers in project management?

I noticed that there were a lot of project manager roles in the civilian workforce going unfilled, even though the military has a huge talent pool. Service members didn’t know how to communicate their skills to a civilian hiring manager, and civilian hiring managers didn’t know to go looking for Service members. That’s how Vets2PM came to be.

At Vets2PM, we coach veterans on how to present their military experience to civilian hiring managers. We help them develop their resumés and LinkedIn profiles and get them started on the path to earning a credential from PMI.

How did your work on Vets2PM develop into Vet Stone and VPMMA?

As Vets2PM grew, I knew I needed to develop software to translate military project experience into language civilians would understand — that’s where Vet Stone comes in. It’s a free technology-based tool that helps Service members convey the value of their military experiences as they prepare to transition into civilian careers.

VPMMA, a non-profit organization, is a digital platform through which seasoned project managers from major corporations — like Boeing and Microsoft — act as mentors to aspiring project managers.

What’s your take on the Entrepreneurship and Small Business certification for veterans that’s available from Pearson VUE?

I haven’t taken the ESB certification yet, but I’ve looked at the curriculum, and it is exactly what veterans need. It provides them with a sort of academic foundation for working in the civilian business world.

What are some of the benefits you see of running your own business?

Empowerment. Every day, I ask myself: “Who am I? What do I do? Who do I do it for? What value does that give them?” I feel empowered knowing that I work to deliver true value to my customers and to veterans every day. And I benefit from the flexibility: I get to do stuff that’s important to me and to my family while still delivering value to my customers. A service-type attitude brings me a lot of fulfillment, enrichment and enjoyment executing whatever I decide to do.

What would you tell companies that want to help veterans but don’t know where to start?

Military veterans are highly educated and have a lot of experience leading people and projects and managing complex processes. I think companies hiring veterans should provide some brief training on key differences between HR in the civilian workforce versus the military, for example. Veterans simply need some additional context on the civilian environment, and they’re sure to succeed.

Certification changed my life, and now I use certification to run a company that impacts thousands of lives a year.

—Eric Wright