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Veterans at Google pay it forward

James Durago presenting at a USO event, Larraine Palesky in a US Army uniform holding her baby, and Michael St. Germain in his US Army uniform standing with an airplane.

This Veterans Day, we want to acknowledge and showcase the contributions made by veterans at Google. These Googlers have created opportunities and pathways for servicemembers to ease their transition into civilian careers. They’ve done this through the Department of Defense’s (DoD) SkillBridge fellowship program for transitioning servicemembers, and other resources like the Google Career Certificates and a $10 million Google.org grant to Hiring Our Heroes for their Career Forward program.

We sat down with former U.S. Army members and Googlers James Durago, Larraine Palesky, and Michael St. Germain (MSG) to find out how they brought these resources to Google and how they’re paying it forward to other veterans, servicemembers, and military family members.

What is SkillBridge?

Larraine: SkillBridge provides servicemembers with civilian work experience through a corporate fellowship during their last 180 days of service. Fellows are embedded in companies and continue to receive military compensation and benefits, while industry partners provide the training, work experience, and tools for securing a job. Employers see firsthand the tremendous talent, skill sets, decision-making abilities, and flexibility servicemembers bring to their businesses.

Why did you bring SkillBridge to Google?

James: Larraine, MSG and I met at the 2019 Army/Navy football game and decided to team up to bring SkillBridge to Google. At the time, I was the co-lead for Google’s veteran employee resource group, VetNet. Our goal was to stand out from our competitors and formalize the benefits of working with the military community. And we wanted to make sure Google would be an employer of choice for job seekers transitioning from military careers.

MSG: I got involved because I wanted to pay it forward and create a space and opportunity for the underrepresented veteran community to break stereotypes and prove they can excel in tech — just like they thrived under pressure in the military’s fast-paced environment.

Larraine: And I went through SkillBridge myself when I transitioned out of the military. It’s a great opportunity for veterans to learn tech skills and become more competitive while applying for full-time jobs. SkillBridge also gives people networking connections they lack because all they’ve known is the military.

How do programs like SkillBridge help veterans overcome challenges?

MSG: Individuals with a military background are underrepresented in tech careers. People stereotype them into construction and security jobs, and some veterans aren’t confident that they can succeed in the tech industry. But tech isn’t that different from other fields, and we know that veterans have transferable skills and “get it done” attitudes that allow them to thrive at companies like Google. They just need to get a foot in the door. Having SkillBridge and other programs at Google allows us to give back to the military community by helping break down barriers to successful tech careers.

SkillBridge is just one of many initiatives for veterans and military families. If you’re interested in signing up for Google’s SkillBridge program, you must first apply to the corporate fellowship program through Hiring Our Heroes. For a full list of resources, please see our Grow with Google site, and VetNet career site for veterans, transitioning servicemembers, and military families that include Career Forward and information for veteran-owned businesses. If you are a member of the military community seeking support for yourself or a loved one, you can find useful resources at Serving Veterans.

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