Nearly half of all military spouses are employed, but what exactly do they do? This new series allows military spouses to answer for themselves.
We met Lydia DiCola at the Inc. 500/5000 conference Military Entrepreneurs Mentoring Fair. Originally trained as an elementary school teacher, Lydia grabbed at a great opportunity and is now the military content manager for Adjacent Applications Inc., a veteran-owned software company.
She started as a promoter for their Call Dibs app, and now spearheads the development of a new app to help the military community navigate new duty stations when they PCS.
What do you like best about your job?
I love flexing the part of my brain not full of laundry, dirty diapers and the Magic School Bus theme song -- catchy as it may be. I'm passionate about what our company is doing for the military community, and I love being able to give back to our military family without sacrificing time with my own. I work from home around my family's schedule, and the company supports that 100 percent.
How did you get your job?
What they say is true: "It's not what you know, but who you know." A friend of mine was helping promote Call Dibs in Monterey [Calif.] and invited me to the launch party. I met the CEO and told him I would love to help spread the word in D.C. when we moved the following month.
I met with their HR rep the following week and became part of the team! In the constant exchange of ideas necessary in a startup, we discovered another need we could fill and I am now leading that charge.
How does your servicemember support your career?
He's wonderful. He takes the kids out to dinner or handles bath/bedtime alone (which is no small feat with a 5, 3, and 2 year old!) so I can do Skype meetings.
He works over the weekend so he can take a day of leave while I go to a conference or event. Most importantly, he believes in what I'm doing.
Cheesy as it sounds, his validation and words of encouragement actually make me believe I can do it, too.
What is the one strength you use on the job every day?
People and communication skills, for sure. I need to network, follow directives, promote the app within our community, lead my team, and develop tasks and timelines based on my team's strengths, weaknesses, motivators, personality types, and schedule restrictions. It's a small company and since we all work from home from all around the globe, we communicate mostly through emails, which require careful wording to convey the right meanings.
We use Skype a lot, too, which is essential since I've only met about half the team in person! Sometimes with several people, the video won't work, so we are trying to communicate without the aid of body language, too.
What was the best compliment you ever received?
It was during the beginning phases of developing the idea for the new app. I designed some mock-ups and screenshots of how I wanted it to look, which is usually done by our software engineers. My boss was impressed that I was able to really hit on some major facets of the user experience, and told me, "Wow, I didn't know you were a UX [user experience] person, too!"
It was nice to know I was on target because I had exactly zero experience in this field, and that compliment really gave me the boost of confidence I needed to believe I really could lead this development.
What was the hardest lesson you needed to learn about work?
That work needs its own time. Working from home can sometimes make it hard to separate work time and family time. There were a few days in the beginning where I was so excited to get something done, I would be on the computer all day and that wasn't fair to my kids -- and they certainly let me know it!
I found that I got much more work done in an hour after bedtime than trying to squeeze 5-10 minutes here and there while they were awake and needing my attention.
What keeps you working?
I love what I'm doing. I'm watching one of my ideas become a reality, all while giving a bit back to the military community.
What is your favorite quote?
Actually, it's from Phantom of the Opera: "Anywhere you go, let me go, too. Love me, that's all I ask of you."
Obviously, it can be translated literally as we follow our servicemembers around with their careers, but I think it also applies in reverse. Our marriage is a journey -- neither of us is the same exact person as the day we got married.
My husband is excited to follow me on my journey, too, whether it's my journey into motherhood or a new career path discovering new abilities and passions.
Simple love encompasses that joy in watching each other grow and stretch as our own independent selves, and having a friend along for the ride and sharing the experience is so much better than going alone.
What is your version of happily ever after?
It's no fun if you skip to the end of the book -- just focus on happily now and the happily ever after writes itself.
-- Editor’s Note: Lydia’s career path reflects a balance between Career Ambitious and Momjob -- two of our 10 Types of Military Spouse Jobseekers. If you are looking for a different kind of job, let us know in the comments box below.