Shift Fellowship FAQ


How do I get approved?

You’ll need to do two things. 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). With buy-in from your chain of command, you can typically get all of the necessary paperwork signed in less than a week.

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 upcoming cohort includes (flexible) start dates during October and November. There will be future cohorts, so even if your separation date is too far away to participate in the next cohort, then you should still apply. We'll route your application to the appropriate cohort based on your separation date. Regarding duration: fellows are expected to intern at companies for a minimum of two months and a maximum 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.

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.

How do I apply?

To participate in the program, you’ll need to apply through Shift and through your command. Feel free to use our chain of command approval memo templates here and here and perhaps our one-page explainer document for context.

Will you have future programs?

Yes; stay tuned. We’re investigating ways to extend this type of opportunity to recently transitioned veterans.

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.

What are rolling admissions?

Companies select candidates as applications come in, so those who apply early will be at a significant advantage.

We keep our application open, so the only deadlines are for particular cohorts. In other words, you can apply whenever you want, but depending on when you apply, you’ll fall in with a particular cohort with particular dates. You can complete the application to get first consideration for future programs.

Can already-separated veterans participate?

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

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


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.

Is this a paid internship?

No, the military is still providing your full salary and benefits. Under the DoD SkillBridge regulations, you're not authorized to receive any form of compensation during the fellowship.

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.

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.

When is this coming to other cities?

Soon. Stay tuned. Having said that, you should keep in mind that you don't have to permanently relocate to the Bay Area after the fellowship. Some 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.

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.

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.

How do I know which fellowship I’m being considered for?

We are careful to match selected fellows to the opportunities that present the best fits. We’ll do our best to provide you with multiple options and take your preferences into account.

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.

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 between two and six months; the specifics depend on the fellows' availability and your requirements. If you have a preference, simply let us know about it and we'll incorporate that into our matching process.

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.

Can't find an answer? Reach out with your questions.