From barracks to business: the former officer helping veterans break into the corporate world
Recent IMD MBA graduate and former Italian Navy officer launches platform to ease career transitions for members of the armed forces
After 12 years in the military Andrea Teja was ready for a new career.
Wanting to break into the world of business, he nevertheless had limited knowledge of the business school landscape, or where to even start looking.
Today, he’s working for McKinsey in Milan as a management consultant. But he hasn’t forgotten his roots in the military, or how hard it was to make the transition into the corporate world. To make it easier for those following in his footsteps, with a friend Teja has created a new platform “Dream It, Change It” that aims to help military members navigate their way into a career in business.
We caught up with Andrea to discuss his journey and the new venture. This is what he had to say.
Tell us about life after graduation and your startup
I’m happy to be headed to work for McKinsey in Milan after the amazing year I had at IMD.
As a side project, I created, with my friend Fabio Balice, a website that links military personnel looking for a career transition with mentors who have already made the same type of leap.
There are a lot of tools to help these sorts of transitions in places like the US and the UK but there is not really any support in Italy, France, Spain and the south of Europe in general. It is down to the militaries being smaller but mainly because the armed forces in a place like Italy are seen as a lifetime career. That was also my idea when I joined. This is changing but there is a big gap to be bridged to support these career changes. So far, the platform has been very successful and encouragingly, many mentors have joined.
What ties does your startup have to the business world?
My co-founder Fabio works for Amazon. Amazon has a military recruiting program that they shifted from the US to Europe. The culture in south Europe is very different from what they are used to overseas. Fabio proposed to the Amazon military recruiting team to do a partnership in order to help their recruiting. At a recent military event ran jointly with Amazon, almost 60% of the participants came from our platform, for example.
What’s next for the initiative?
We’re at a turning point. Either we secure funds so we can put in place a team who can lead it, or I have to unplug everything because I won’t have time to keep it going. The future does look promising at the moment. We just received a first investment from an IMD alumnus who believes in the project.
During our MBA we learned that we can make almost anything profitable, but this is not about the money. This is really to help the military.
Do you have any further ambitions for the project?
My idea is to turn it into a broader ecosystem. We are the market leader in our niche, and we know how to reach the military. We already offer free mentoring and coaching services and organize face-to-face and digital events. We connect military with mentors and companies in many countries.
But the bigger idea is to become a hub. In the future I would like to offer reskilling and partner with business schools like IMD or Bocconi and offer scholarships. For soldiers we would partner with other companies that do re-skilling and training on how to write CVs and get through job interviews. We also intend to offer a career matching service. We would assess the candidate’s skills and match them with openings in partner organizations like Amazon or Zalando.
But what really matters to me is that we can close the circle and bring young people in the military increasing the quality of the recruiting. We want to close the gap between the Armed Forces and young talent from generation Z, showing them that after high school the military career path can be only a part and a good start to their professional life. In light of that, one last service we intend to provide is test preparation for the military entry test.
How has your involvement at IMD played a role in this endeavor?
The entrepreneurship lessons with Professor Benoit Leleux, the start-up projects, the UEFA innovation competition and the trip to Silicon Valley, meeting with so many successful entrepreneurs, helped me put my idea into practice.
If you have a cool idea but you don’t have the tools to follow through you can fail completely. But after the MBA I now have the tools to make it happen.