By David VergunJune 26, 2015
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 26, 2015) -- "Don't look for a job," advised Joseph Kopser, CEO and co-founder of RideScout. "Find your passion and you'll never work another day in your life."
Kopser and 10 other captains of industry spoke at a Soldier for Life seminar at the Pentagon, June 26.
Think about someone doing something you think is really cool, Kopser said. Then, "be like them. It's really that simple."
Kopser said he spent 20 years in the Army doing some really cool things. Being a company commander was cool. Returning to the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York as an instructor was cool.
He also deployed twice to Iraq.
Right about the 20-year mark, Kopser said he woke up one day and realized he was losing his passion. He turned down a plum assignment and hung up his spurs (he'd been the executive officer of 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment at one point in his career so he had boots and spurs).
Kopser's moment had come to follow his new passion, a passion that others might consider a bit unusual. Having worked at the Pentagon, and having to deal with Washington, D.C., traffic, he became fascinated with traffic and with different ways to get to work, such as rideshare, buses and trains. He said he was a self-described "transportation wonk."
To make a long story short, he moved to Austin, Texas, and built a company, RideScout, that makes transportation apps. He said he knew he had been successful in his work when President Obama and his transportation secretary paid him a visit and tried out his app, he said.
"I got in the position where I got to be me," he said, referring to his transition to his new-found passion. There were no more commanders barking orders, no more officer evaluation reports. "I ran at 110 mph."
But transitioning was not exactly a cake-walk either, he admitted. "Other than getting shot at in combat, there's nothing more challenging than standing a company up from ... scratch."
Kopser admits to favoritism -- he favors hiring vets.
"Almost everything built in this country was built by teams of people and no one knows more than veterans how to build teams," he said. "We had to. We were forced into teams with people. We had no chance to choose our team. We had to learn to get along with people from all over, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. We were mission-oriented. We solve problems quickly, often in a crucible of stressful situations.
"The U.S. military is the greatest source of entrepreneurs on the planet. We solve problems, build teams and, importantly, we don't sweat the small stuff," he continued.
What he had to say next was accompanied by a sad look: During World War II, 49 percent of veterans who separated created companies, an astonishing figure. Today, that figure is down to 6 percent.
"That's a total waste of talent for veterans who have what it takes to create companies. They just don't know they have it," said Kopser.
A last piece of advice: Prepare for your transition now.
"Don't do like my roommate did and wait until he separated. He spent eight months job searching, Kopser said. "He wasn't looking for his next career and he wasn't following his passion. He was just looking for a job. Don't do what he did."
Tony Stamilio, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for Civilian Personnel/Quality of Life, also a former career Soldier, spoke briefly.
He advised Soldiers not to be terrified of transitions.
"Every Soldier is a transitioning Soldier. Every time you change duty stations, career fields, get married, have children and take on new challenges and responsibilities, you're transitioning. So you already know how to do it. You just don't know you know," he said.