Fellowship Program
December 29, 2020

LinkedIn Live AMA Answers Questions about the 2021 Defense Ventures Program

Last week, the Shift team took to LinkedIn Live for an Ask Me Anything (AMA) event to explain the Defense Ventures Program (DVP) and answer questions.

What is the DVP program and why was it created?

The DVP is an eight-week industry immersion program where DoD personnel are embedded in technology companies across the country and exposed to new organizational methods, business models, technologies and capabilities. Fellows leave the program with an understanding of how technology and innovation investment is made in the U.S. Participants also develop new relationships, a broadened mindset, an appreciation of entrepreneurism, and a greater understanding of the potential growth opportunities for the DoD. The program is free to all participants following a competitive selection process. 

“When you join this program, you are part of a group who is interested in advancing their career in the service of helping the Defense Department solve problems,” said Chris MacPherson, VP of Growth and Strategy, during the AMA. “This is a group of people who are thinking about how to make the military more successful and efficient in innovative ways.”

Shift developed this program in partnership with AFWERX, the innovation arm of the US Air Force, to improve the DoD, bring valuable insights to the private sector and help active duty service members accelerate their careers. Participants in the current 2021 DVP schedule will be known as AFVentures Fellows. 

How does the program work?

First, you’ll need to apply to a cohort, which will occur over four sessions in 2021. You can see our schedule for 2021 here. Currently, we are only accepting applications for our February session, but the remaining sessions for 2021 will go live in mid-January. We’ll be notifying applicants for our February cohort in early January, and then we will accept fellows to future cohorts on a rolling basis, so get your application in early! Currently, our cohorts will be virtual, but will return to in-person as soon as it’s safe.

Once fellows are accepted into the program (with your commander’s or supervisor’s approval), fellows participate in two weeks of part-time work followed by six weeks of full-time work. 

The three main components of the program are: learn from others, learn by doing and learn with others.

Learn from Others

Fellows participate in a curriculum that includes readings, discussions and guest lectures about the fundamentals of venture capital, entrepreneurship, dual-use technologies, DoD acquisition, creativity and innovation. Each fellow will be sent three to four books, which represent a curated exploration into your industry.

Learn by Doing

Participants spend six weeks working full-time with a venture capital or technology company to gain firsthand experience from industry experts. Through their host company, fellows are exposed to new organizational methods, business models and technologies. In turn, fellows share their experience and educate host firms about the mission of the DoD and ways to think about federal opportunities. See a few of our participating host companies at shift.org/dvp.

Learn with Others

Fellows participate in these activities as a cohort, which accelerates their speed of learning as well as their impact on host firms as they share their experience and explore the tech ecosystem as a team. Our cohort approach creates a diverse, driven community of like-minded defense innovators interested in both personal and career growth. These 25-person cohorts create a sense of camaraderie and foster a supportive network that fellows can rely on throughout their career.

What are the benefits of the program?

The Defense Ventures Program enhances the fellows’ problem finding and technical fluencies, while exposing them to insights, relationships and industry knowledge that they can take back to their military commands and reserve and guard units. 

The program gives fellows the opportunity to:

  • Build enduring relationships with the private sector and other participants
  • Accelerate career potential through engagement with the private sector
  • Identify creative and innovative ways to solve difficult problems
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the tech landscape to bring innovation back to the DoD

What qualifications are required and how do I apply for the DVP?

“If you’re a current employee of the DoD who is interested in innovation, emerging technology and integrating the best investment, business and tech practices from the private sector back into the DoD, this program is for you” said MacPherson.

This program is open to Active Duty and Reserve components of the U.S. Military, members of the National Guard, and DoD civilians. If selected for the program, all fellows will need their commander’s or supervisor’s approval, and all members of the Reserve and Guard components must be on active orders for the duration of the program.

We strongly prefer that applicants have at least three years of professional experience (not limited to military experience) that demonstrates an ability to perform in professional environments. If you have a STEM background, combat operations experience or emerging technologies, we want to hear from you. If you are a tinkerer, a coder, an inventor, or someone who believes improvement is about change as much as it is efficiency, we want to hear from you. However, if you’re looking to transition in the near future, this program is not for you. For now, this is a career broadening experience for service members who are looking to improve the DoD. 

To apply, begin by creating an account at shift.org/dvp. Applications require an updated resume, two references and your last two performance evaluations. The application also includes five essay questions (500 words or less) to give us a greater sense of who you are, how this program will benefit you and why this program will impact your career and career goals. Interested applicants can find all required application materials here.  

Apply now at shift.org/dvp.

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Current and former members of the US Military are eligible to join.