Deepening the applicant pool

Security clearances help small business compete for contracts

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Carol Cornman says Prism has hired more than 75 veterans
since 2013, including Russ Madison. Photo by Mark Rhodes

Carol Cornman is not a veteran. But her father was, and she says his work ethic helped mold hers.

So, it was not a big leap for her to decide to implement a program, From Deployment to Employment, in 2013 when she heard the difficulty veterans were having getting jobs once they completed their military service.

As executive vice president and a founder of Prism, a Reston-based IT services company focused on technological innovation, cybersecurity and modernization, she was in a position to put her inspiration into practice.

“Our program has been highly successful,” Cornman says. “Currently, about 13 percent of our workforce are veterans, and we’ve employed more than 75 veterans since we started our program in November 2013.”

Prism competes in a highly competitive market for government contracts and other work. Although she didn’t wish to disclose the number of employees the company has, Cornman says it is a certified small business.

Its program to hire veterans helps the company widen its pool of prospective employees, Cornman says.

A plus in hiring veterans, she adds, is that many of those coming out of the military already have active security clearances. Those clearances help enormously in competing for government contracts where classified information needs to be protected.

“Many of the [veterans] we have understand the missions of the different contracts we employ them on,” she says, adding veterans also have a wide range of experiences with various government agencies.

She says Prism has an equally wide range of jobs, from “stepping-stone positions” to those with more senior-level technical skills.

Prism finds the veterans with the skill sets it needs through a variety of means: career fairs and references from other veterans, as well as the Virginia Values Veterans (V3) program.

Russ Madison, a recently hired veteran at Prism, spent 20 years in the Air Force, working at various posts, including embassies. His assignments ranged from sophisticated communications to anti-terrorism protection. He said those skills have been assets in his current position, although he would not go into detail about what his current duties are.

“I spent 17 years out of 20 years overseas,” Madison said, explaining that he had an urge to travel and see the world, and the military accommodated him.

But when it came time for him to retire and re-enter civilian life, Madison found that working overseas so many years made the transition more difficult because he didn’t have a lot of stateside connections.

His wife suggested that they relocate to the Washington, D.C., area, home to a lot of government contracting firms where he might put his military skills to work.

Madison says he strived aggressively to find a job by attending as many career fairs as he could, and it was at a career fair that Prism found him.

“They looked at my résumé, and they had some positions and they saw some similarities. It’s been a good opportunity for me,” he says.

Madison urges veterans who are preparing to enter civilian life to do a lot of planning. They should not trust to luck that they’ll be able to find a job.

“I would say get as many degrees and certifications as you can before you get out. Have a backup plan and think about a worse-case scenario,” Madison says.

Madison says he’s proud to have served his country. He says walking through Arlington Cemetery makes him realize the sacrifices that military personnel, generations of them, have made for the country.

Cornman says her company, and many others like it, are doing what they can to ensure that veterans can make a dignified return to civilian life with a good job waiting for them.
“We have a passion for the mission,” Cornman says.

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