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Recognizing Veterans Day at Pinterest with Vets@ Pinclusion Group

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This Veterans Day, we’re sitting down with Vets@, our Pinclusion Group for employees who are veterans, have veteran family members (or friends) and allies, to learn more about their journey to Pinterest, service experience and what this day means to them. You’ll meet veterans from across the globe, read their unique stories and learn about the commonalities they share. 

Hi Vets@ team, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. Can you start by sharing your name, your current role at Pinterest and where you’re located? 

Richie: Hi, I’m Richie O’Neill. I’m a Physical Security Manager based in Dublin, Ireland. 

Leo: Hi there, I’m Leo Kim and am a Technical Program Manager based in Los Angeles, CA. 

Joel: Hello, I’m Joel De Sanctis. I’m a Regional Physical Security Manager, Latin America based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

We’d love to hear about your journey to Pinterest.

Richie: After serving 21 years in the Irish Defence Forces, I decided that it was time for a change and began my transition to civilian life. My goal was to work outdoors with a relaxed atmosphere. I joined an adventure park as their safety coordinator, not a very relaxing job, but it was outdoors. I then went back to my roots and joined a security company where I investigated possible fraud and compliance issues.

One day, I got a call from a former colleague asking if I’d be interested in becoming a Security Analyst at Dropbox, my first taste of tech. This was a massive cultural change, but in a good way, and I never looked back. After Dropbox, I decided a change in pace might be needed and an opportunity to train the Saudi Military in multiple disciplines arose. I packed my bags for five months and went to Saudi Arabia for some work in the sun. While I enjoyed this role, I still missed tech and when the call came to join Pinterest as a contractor, I didn’t need to be asked twice. Since then I have been converted to an FTE, and I couldn’t be happier as my Pinterest journey continues.

Leo: My father immigrated to the US as a teenager and later joined the Army, serving over 25 years retiring as a SNCO. I followed his footsteps into the military and earned a commission through the US Air Force Academy. When I decided to transition, the military world was what I was most familiar with, so I went to business school to help me figure out next steps. After grad school, I spent time at Amazon in their Pathways Ops program to tackle last mile operations and then pivoted to Google. At Google, I was in two orgs, one where we made Maps work for businesses, and another at YouTube where we owned the infrastructure powering the support experience. Although I enjoyed my experience, I wanted to be in a more nimble space with greater opportunity to impact the product and user experience, so I was excited to be given a chance here at Pinterest as a Technical Program Manager. 

Joel: At the time I signed up for military service, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be picked or not, but I was chosen and served for seven years in the Brazilian Army. It turned out to be an amazing life experience as I was able to learn military science, have my own platoon and held multiple administrative roles (such as Treasurer, Procurement, Public Relations and a few others).

Afterwards, I decided I wanted to try the private sector and transitioned to a security role at a multinational bank. A few years later, I joined Facebook and started growing as a professional in the Physical Security field, specializing in the tech industry. I also worked for Uber and Google before joining Pinterest. After experiencing multiple tech companies, I feel that at Pinterest I have found not only a team, but I’ve found a family. I’ve been having the time of my life helping the company thrive in my region.

Can you share a bit about your service experience?  Or what did you learn in service that helps you in your role at Pinterest? (Answer either question)

Richie: I served with Counter Terrorism Section, National Security Intelligence Section and Irish Defence Forces where I was responsible for managing intelligence, surveillance and interception operations on behalf of the Minister for Defence and the National Government. I routinely led teams of between 15 – 150, task dependent and location specific. Over the 21 years that I served in the Irish Defence Forces, I deployed on 11 missions in total to South Lebanon, Kosovo, Bosnia and East Timor. 

Leo: I served as a US Air Force civil engineer officer. In this capacity, my roles spanned the spectrum of engineering functions including cost estimation, program management, infrastructure planning, designing, construction and team/organizational leadership. The latter part of my military career, I was one of several dozen officers in four active duty special RED HORSE construction units. During the course of six years on active duty, I spent time across the globe including deployments to Afghanistan and other areas.

Joel: For me, the biggest takeaway from being in the military is that during my time as an officer, I learned to develop adaptive thinking and a capacity and passion for continuing to learn and develop my team. This learning environment focuses on training and development, so when I joined the private sector, I noticed this was a force multiplier. In the military, a force multiplier is a factor or a combination of factors that gives people the ability to accomplish greater feats than without it. I always kept that with me to ensure that the whole team was performing well rather than focusing only on myself. I believe this commitment to a greater cause became a living part of me, and this has always helped me remain a team player and someone that strives to help others grow. 

Photos from left to right: Richie, Leo and Joel

What does Veterans Day mean to you? How are you recognizing this day? 

Richie: This is a day that all non veterans should recognize vets for the sacrifice they made and to remember all the service people that paid the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our way of life and assist those less fortunate. As part of the Vets@ leadership team, we are planning on hosting some veterans in the Dublin office, offering them a workshop and a Q&A on transitioning into tech. 

Leo: For me, Veterans Day is one of introspection and reflection followed by a personal opportunity to recognize those who have sacrificed. I take time to reflect on my own journey, those of my colleagues and friends, those who have come before, those who are serving, and those who will. I take Veterans Day as a personal day to pause, pull myself out of the routine and remember.

Joel: While we don’t have Veterans Day in Brazil, I personally take the time to remember and recognize all vets throughout the globe for all that they did for their countries. Having served in the military makes me realize that it’s an enormous sacrifice to pause your own dreams to support your country. 

What advice do you have for other veterans looking to break into tech? 

Richie: Go for it! You would not believe the amount of transferable skills you have obtained during your time in service which are highly admired by non service people. Be prepared to work hard to reach your goals and always keep your self values on show as an example to those that have not been exposed to a service lifestyle.

Leo: The tech world has many roles and opportunities that veterans would excel at. As with any big life decision, ensure you are prepared, have a plan and are able to quickly adjust. Careers, especially in tech, are not linear paths, and breaking into tech may take stepping stones.

Joel: Companies are just waiting for your application! After almost 10 years in civilian life, I can strongly affirm that your skills and knowledge can be of great help in multiple industries and roles.

We always end on this question, what are you currently Pinning? 

Richie: Jordans, Jordans and more Jordans!!!! I like my kicks.

Leo: Holiday decoration ideas and toddler snack recipes!

Joel: I recently bought my first house (YAY!) and Pinterest is THE most fantastic tool for planning the scope of your renovation, as well as sharing your ‘vision’ with others. I was pleased when the architecture firm renovating my space asked me and my wife to create a Pinterest board and share with them so they could understand better what we were looking for.

Photos from left to right: Richie, Leo and Joel

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