Shift Fellowship FAQ

Application

How do I apply and get approved?

First, apply with Shift.

Second, get approval to participate in the DoD SkillBridge program (although the various branches refer to the program by different names). You’ll need a signature from the first field grade officer in your chain of command with authority to exercise non-judicial punishment (i.e., a battalion or squadron commander).

Here is a template memo for you to submit to your chain of command, and here is a template of the memo you'll need to get signed before you can have TDY orders cut. If you want, you can include this one-page description of the Shift program along with your request packet.

What are the program dates?

The Shift Military Fellows program operates on a flexible, rolling-admissions basis. Regarding duration: fellows are expected to intern at companies for approximately three months (and up to a max of six months).

Who is eligible to participate?

If you’re eligible for the DoD Skillbridge program, then you’re also eligible for our fellowships. Here are the basic eligibility requirements for the DoD Skillbridge program:

  • 180 days left on active duty
  • Approval required from the first O-5 in your chain of command
  • Must have completed TAPS before starting the fellowship
  • USMC only: you must be an enlisted Marine. USMC officers are ineligble for the DoD SkillBridge program. See the Marine Corps link below for more details.

Here are the service-specific regulations:

Here is the official DoD instruction memo pertaining the the SkillBridge program. Here are more details from DoD; there’s also an official DoD SkillBridge explainer video here.

Side note: the Air Force is the only service that is somewhat ambiguous in its interpretation of the DoD Skillbridge policy. It leaves a lot of discretion to battalion/squadron commanders.

How much time should I have left on active duty in order to participate in the fellowship program?

Fellowships typically last for three months. When calculating how long you can stay at a company, you should add a one to two month buffer window for the application and selection process. This means that somebody who is getting out of the military four months from now can likely spend three months at a company if you work with us to process your application quickly. We recommend you submit your application at least seven months prior to your separation.

I'd love to be a Shift Military Fellow, but I don't know anything about tech. Can I still be a good fit for this program?

Yes. There are lots of roles in the tech industry that don't involve programming. If you're a good fit for this program, then you were a force multiplier in the military. The same skills that made you successful while in service will make you a valuable asset in the tech industry. You just need to be willing to learn once you hit the ground--the same way you did every time you moved to a new unit in the military.

How do I convince my battalion/squadron commander to let me do this?

All we can say here is that DoD has released a directive supporting the SkillBridge initiative, and so have each of the services. The Shift companies meet or exceed all of the requirements that the regulations specify. Recently transitioned vets built the Shift fellowship program to be the opportunity we wished we’d had when we transitioned from active duty, so we’re confident it will provide tactical skills and industry context that will ease the challenge of your transition to a new career.

Do I get paid for the fellowship? What about benefits and BAH?

DoD policy prohibits our partner companies from providing you with wages, training stipends, or any other form of financial compensation for the time that you spend participating in the fellowship. You will continue to earn a paycheck and full benefits from DoD for the duration of the fellowship. Because you will be on permissive TDY orders, your BAH will remain at the rate for your current duty station. You also cannot request DoD appropriations for the fellowship.

Will you have future programs?

Yes; stay tuned. We currently host fellows in the Bay Area, and we will soon have opportunities available in Washington, D.C. and New York City. We are expanding rapidly and expect to be operating in a handful of cities across the country within the next six months.

Is the Coast Guard eligible?

Currently, the Coast Guard does not have a program similar to the DoD Skillbridge. Therefore, we cannot accept transitioning Coast Guard service members. If the Coast Guard implements a policy allowing its service members to participate in the Shift Military Fellows program, then we will absolutely welcome them.

How is participating through Shift any different from the normal DoD SkillBridge program?

Shift is the pipeline from military service to innovative and interesting technology companies. Not only do we match you with some of the most exciting companies of 2017--we match to the role that’s right for you, based on your skills, background, and future aspirations.

The Shift fellowships comply with or exceed all of the requirements for DoD Skillbridge internships.

What are rolling admissions?

Companies select candidates as applications come in, so those who apply early will have an advantage.

Can already-separated veterans participate?

Currently, the fellowship is only for transitioning Active Duty service members.

I'm retiring, not separating. Can I participate?

Yes.

The Fellowship Experience

What is expected of fellows?

The fellowship is a fantastic experience--if you choose to make it one. Working with an elite, high-growth tech company has some striking similarities to working with an elite military unit. If you apply the same propensity to learn, work ethic, and creativity that you’ve applied while in uniform, then you’ll be able to add value from day one and you’ll emerge with extremely valuable skills, experience, and perspectives.

What is the difference between specific fellowships?

At large companies, you’ll join high-functioning teams under the supervision of an industry expert. At small companies, you’ll work closely with the CEO. Some programs have a specific focus like sales (Okta), product operations (Spot) and new company formulation (Expa).

What companies are participating?

You can view open opportunities on our Partners Page.

We are constantly partnering with new companies; word is spreading fast that Shift fellows are force multipliers for high-growth tech companies. Our partners page lists many of our partner companies, but it's not exhaustive. If you don't see a company that looks like an exact match for you, don't worry--we are confident in our ability to match fellows to roles.

Where do I live?

While DoD regulations prevent us from reimbursing you directly, we have made arrangements for housing that is significantly less expensive than the normal cost for rent in the Bay Area.

Can I participate remotely?

No--you wouldn’t get nearly as much out of the experience if you weren’t actually embedded with these companies.

What is the program attire?

All of our partner companies are laid-back; wear whatever you feel comfortable in. We think that you should focus on building something that matters, not your wardrobe. Yes, you can wear jeans; no, you don’t need a tie; no, you probably shouldn’t wear sweatpants and house slippers.

Can I bring my family?

The fellowship will be the most effective if you’re able to focus wholly on the experience. Accordingly, we recommend completing the fellowship alone. We understand that you may have extenuating circumstances that require your family to be present, but we cannot offer additional support (housing, etc.) if you do bring your family.

What is the daily schedule?

It depends! Each company will work differently. You’ll definitely work hard, but the office environment in Silicon Valley tech companies is a bit different than the typical military office environment. Let’s just say that you probably won’t have a 0600 sync meeting each day.

What reading do you recommend?

Another great question! There are obviously a lot of great books and articles on high-growth tech companies and startup culture. Reading a couple may help you speak the same language as everyone else. Here are some (subjectively chosen, totally optional) suggestions:

Should I bring a car?

We don’t think it’s necessary, but nobody’s stopping you. Just keep in mind that (a) it’s hard to park in downtown San Francisco; (b) many San Francisco neighborhoods require residential parking permits; and (c) the Bay Area has excellent public transportation options, including a variety of rental services if you do decide to go exploring on a weekend.

If I complete the fellowship, do I need to relocate to the Bay Area permanently?

No. Many of our partners have offices all over the world--it's possible to land a job with a company that has an office in your location of choice. And even if the company you work with doesn't have an office in the city where you want to end up, the fellowship experience will help you land a job in tech in that city. While we don't make any guarantees, we do our best to accommodate your preferences.

I'm planning on taking two months of separation leave--can I still be a Shift fellow?

Shift fellowships are direct pipelines from the military to employment. Our partner companies came to us because they want people like you... and they needed you yesterday. We didn't create the fellowship program to be a bullet on your resume; we created it to get you an awesome job. As a result, you shouldn't expect to take an extended leave period immediately after the fellowship.

To answer the question directly: Two weeks is fine; a month is probably pushing it. It all depends on the specific needs of the company you work with.

Having said all of that, our partner companies all understand that you'll need some time to return to your home base to turn in equipment, fill out paperwork, and complete your separation.

This is also a good time for us to mention that working in tech is very different from working in the military. If you need time off of work for personal reasons, that's totally okay -- you don't need to fill out pass paperwork every time before you take a weekend road trip or fly home to see family. It's also common to take a day here and there to work remotely if you have pressing travel needs. Generally speaking, as long as you get your work done, nobody really cares how or where you do it.

Selection & Preparation

How are fellows selected?

We go through each application in its entirety and choose the candidates who are the best fits for the companies in our program and then share them with companies. We built the profiles to allow you to translate your skills and tell your story in your own words to our partners.

We’re looking for the next generation of technology leaders: transitioning service members who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, learn new skills, and work creatively to solve important problems in a way that scales. If that describes you, then there’s a good chance you’ll be selected.

Do I need to know how to code?

No. We do, however, hope that you’re excited about technology and learning new skills. While product managers or chiefs of staff may not spend hours every day staring at a command line interface, they are more effective if they can understand the work that engineers are doing--even if it’s at a high level. High-performing technical teams are always cross-functional; even if your primary skill set is in the operations domain, you’ll be better at your job if you have some understanding of your teammates’ jobs. Part of the benefit of the fellowship is exposing you to a variety of the different roles, skills, and tools in the tech industry.

I'm a software engineer. Do you have software engineering roles available?

We don't currently have any roles available specifically for software engineering. Having said that, if you already have a technical background, then we can do our best to pair you with a team that interfaces with developers.

What happens after the program?

The program is designed to be a catalyst for your transition into technology. When you complete it, you’ll have acquired new skills, a new network, and perspective, and you’ll have a much better idea of where in the industry you’d like to focus. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a job offer when the fellowship ends, you are guaranteed an interview and it’s our ultimate goal to help you eventually secure a job at a company where you’ll thrive.

How do I prepare?

Good question! Generally speaking, the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to have the right mindset: be ready to learn new skills, tools, and systems. Try to clear your schedule of significant obligations during the fellowship. In terms of specifics, it depends somewhat on your role and your company. Read as much as you can about the company you’re paired with and the industry it occupies.

For a general introduction to different technologies, One Month provides excellent distance learning courses. While you won’t be expected to code it’s generally a good idea to have a solid understanding of Product Management, Content Marketing, the Agile development methodology, and general frameworks that are used to design and develop software products.

These are all data-driven technology companies, so picking up the basics of SQL will allow you to make data-driven decisions. Coursera has a great course on SQL and relational databases through Duke University that you can audit for free, and it doesn’t take long to learn or require any background in computer science. There’s also a course in the same Coursera series covering the data visualization software Tableau that will be helpful for many roles.

How do you pair fellows with roles and companies?

We view matching as a highly personalized data science problem. Here's a high-level overview (bearing in mind that we are constantly iterating and improving our process):

  1. We make an initial selection based on your application, and in many cases, a video interview using Zoom.
  2. We learn as much about you as we can. We ask all kinds of questions about your work preferences, strengths, skills, and aspirations.
  3. We compare your profile to all of the roles available through our partner companies. We create a profile for you and compare it to the small mountain of data we collect about our partner companies' available roles. You probably aren't surprised to learn that our partner companies are very interested in receiving fellows who are well-suited for, and enthusiastic about, their roles--so they work with us to help recommend matches. For each prospective fellow, we generate a personalized & ranked list of roles, which we use to help us make our final decision about pairing fellows.
  4. We send your profile to companies. Let the interview process(es) begin!

What's the interview process like?

Once we pitch you to companies, they get back to us within a couple of days about whether they want to move forward with an interview. You may end up interviewing with two or even three companies at the same time.

The interview process itself varies by company. Typically, it will consist of a phone screen and 2-3 video interviews with different members of the team for which you're interviewing. The companies understand that you're still active duty and haven't worked in tech for your whole life. You should be prepared to talk about your military experiences in a way that civilian hiring managers will understand. Try practicing with a trusted civilian friend or even a parent; they can tell you what makes sense and what doesn't.

For Companies

Which roles are best for the fellowship?

Shift Military Fellows are cross-functional operators and managers comfortable working in ambiguity and capable of learning and applying new skills rapidly. There are lots of roles that fit that description: product, program, & project management, various flavors of operations roles, and more. Our current partners have listed the following roles:

  • General Manager (build, scale, and lead a team)
  • Project Manager (scale operations & process improvement)
  • Operations (develop and maintain relationships; make data-driven ops decision; increase process efficiency)
  • People Operations (end-to-end team building)
  • Program Manager (process efficiency)
  • Product Operations (go-to-market strategy & product launch)
  • Sales Operations (develop and maintain relationships; sales)
  • Community Evangelism (drive data-driven decision-making; engage with researchers to integrate company tools into research)
  • IT Project Manager (end-to-end management of projects with an eye towards business and technical goals)
  • Field Operations (cross-functional problem-solving and operations)

How long does the fellowship last?

Fellowships are typically three months. The maximum allowed under DoD regulations is 6 months.

Do I need to pay the fellows? Do I need to provide housing or transportation?

The fellows are still paid through the military. Shift coordinates housing and transportation. We want you to focus on introducing fellows to the tech industry--we'll take care of everything else.

Why did DoD create the SkillBridge program, and what problem does it solve?

The Department of Defense created a program called SkillBridge that allows certain transitioning service members to acquire on-the-job training for the last six months of their time in uniform.

Here is the official DoD instruction memo pertaining to the SkillBridge program. Here are more details from DoD; there’s also an official DoD SkillBridge explainer video here.

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