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Under the Radar

Vets in Tech: VisionTek's Rick Givens

BY NATHAN WERTZ - THISANDTHATTECH.COM

Rick Givens is the Product Manager and Media Relations Manager for VisionTek, a leading supplier of consumer technology products like graphics cards, solid state drives, audio devices, PC memory, and cables. Rick shares his military transition journey with us and what he has learned along the way.

Can you give us a bit of background on where you grew up and what life was like for you?

Well, I was born overseas. My father was in the Navy, so we spent about a year in Scotland. Shortly after that, at a very young age, moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where I grew up. Stereotypical, small, southern town, even though it's the capital. At the time it had small, southern town challenges, but it's now kind of entering the modern world in some ways.

I was the kid that always liked tearing things apart and putting them back together again or I liked making them do things they weren't supposed to do. That’s what I always did. You know any time I got an electronic device I pulled it apart, added parts to it, usually broke them, but gave it my best.

But anyway, I grew up just tinkering around a lot, always had an interest in science, history, things like that. Started studying martial arts around 15, took a real deep interest in that for a while, although I've slacked off on my studies for a long time now.

You know I was kind of one of the kids that I was always struggling in my studies because I was bored and so they couldn’t ever get my attention long enough for me to do well in school. I had lackluster grades, pretty much no direction when I left high school, and I think probably around the age of 20 I enlisted in the Marine Corps, went to Parris Island in 1992.

Why did you choose the Marine Corps?

Well, it's a really funny story. My family has been Navy for generations. I was the first Marine. And my best friend, he's serving overseas right now, was always hyped up about the Marine Corps. He wanted to be a tanker. Well, one day he came and he had enlisted in the Navy. I said, oh, what the hell, maybe I'll look at the Marines. And that’s what I did.

And so our fathers, his father always had an influence on me, my father always had an influence on him, so we basically followed footsteps similar to the other person's father. My father was deeply involved in communications and so forth and he kind of went down that route and I followed the route of law enforcement, which is what his father did. And so we just kind of, you know I wouldn’t say we switched fathers, but we switched role models when it came to how we wanted to be as an adult.

 

(M1A1 Abrams Tank. Caption reads: "A sailor guides a Marine driving an M1A1 Abrams Tank from the deck of a landing craft to Camp Pendleton's White Beach. This bilateral training is in preparation for part of Exercise Iron Fist." Photo Credit: Marines.com)

What kind of law enforcement?

The job I was in was security forces and what attracted to me was that it had elements of law enforcement. It was a little bit of like a tactical type position, although realistically what you did was guard duty. But the way they recruited you is it made it sound like you were like some kind of SWAT team guy, that you're gonna be doing room takedowns and stuff like that. And you received that training.

Anything related to law enforcement while you were in the Marines?

The law enforcement came after, but the Marine Corps enlistment, it was geared towards a law enforcement background. I chose it because of its law enforcement affiliations, I guess you'd say, even though it was primarily security. 

Where did you serve and what was that experience like?

Okay. First, my duty station was Diego Garcia, which is a really tiny spec of an island in the Indian Ocean. It's a British held territory, very, very, very small. And I was on a Marine detachment there, which was responsible for providing security for a weapons depot.

We worked 11 days on and 3 days off. During the time in, it was very boring. If you weren't working, you pretty much partied. That was about it. But because of the lack of population there, you know your selection of who you were partying with was very limited, so we would either drink with one another or we would drink with some of the Navy guys, sometimes we'd drink with the British Marines and party with them a little bit.

We had some joint exercises and so forth, but it's very boring. I mean it was a lot of hard work because it was 11 days straight, but there was a lot of boredom there. You know we trained, we stood duty, occasionally something would happen and we'd do a reaction to it, but it was never really anything serious. It was either like an alarm had gone off or something like that for no reason, things like that.

So it's primarily a lot of training and a lot of just guard duty and trying to sleep when you can.

(A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber takes off on a strike mission against al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, during Operation Enduring Freedom. Runway 13, Diego Garcia. Department of Defense photo by Senior Airman Rebeca M. Luquin, U.S. Air Force. (Released)

What were your years of service?

'92 was when I went in. I had a series of misdiagnosed injuries, misdiagnosed and untreated injuries, basically, which led to other problems. And that eventually led to an early discharge in '94. I was discharged from Camp Pendleton, California.

Which I'll add that’s always been one of the things I regret the most. But you know I mean even to this day I have a permanent limp because of the injuries, so did my best but it just is what happened.

Yeah, it was all within the military, it was all a series of injuries that were in the military. Like I said, some were misdiagnosed, some were never diagnosed, and it just compounded one after another, primarily in my ankles and legs, but there was few other issues, back is one of them and so forth. You know it happens when you're a grunt.

I mean my primary job, security forces, our primary job is infantry, so when you're not doing security forces training, you're doing infantry training carrying all the heavy equipment and so forth.

What's your experience been like with the Department of Veterans Affairs?

It's a love/hate relationship. I'm currently working with them on some other issues. I'm dealing with them right now. And frankly in the civilian world, I called around looking for some medical assistance on a few things and I never got any calls back. But when I go to the VA, you know they're there. Granted, it's not the best way of doing things sometimes, but you know it's realistically the only way you have at times. So you kind of have to work with what you got.

I'm in the Vocational Rehab Program, which is separate from the medical side of things and the vocational side of things. You know my counselor has been 100 percent spot on. I mean she's the best person that I could ever think of for helping me and has done more for me in the last three years or so than many people have throughout my life. I wouldn’t be where I am right now without her help.

(You may receive Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services to help with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching. Other services may be provided to assist Veterans in starting their own businesses or independent living services for those who are severely disabled and unable to work in traditional employment).

That’s great. Nice to hear a positive story.  

Well, I mean there's always a bad story and the bad stories always take center stage because that’s what people are interested in seeing.

Yeah, nobody talks about the good stuff.  

Right, right. And I'm here to say that, yes, there are problems and there could be things that are done better. And I usually have a dim view when I walk in, but at the same time I haven't seen the horror stories that you see on the news.

Any stories from your time serving or lessons learned?

Well, I guess really one of the funniest stories I remember is one Christmas where I dressed up as Santa Claus and got a couple of cases of beer and walked around as the Beer Santa for the entire company. I walked around, I had a laundry bag, it was stuffed with beer, and I was passing beer out to everybody. That was probably one of the ones I remember the most that stands out. It's a really good memory.

You know I made some good friends there, I developed some solid knowledge and foundation for skills that I used down the road. The big thing that you have to do, which you have to remember, is that when you're young you don’t have the perspective you do as an older person. You always have the immediate view rather than the long-term view. So that’s the advice I'd have, is you have to try and take more of a strategic view as opposed to the right now view. The training and the decisions and everything you do at that moment may have a lasting impact on you.

You know if I could do one thing over again, it would be not try to be as serious as I was about not going to the doctor.  You try and be a, pardon the language, a badass. You try and be a badass and you don’t want to go to the doctor to admit your hurt. Well, you know what, I'm hurt and I'm paying the price now. Maybe if I had gone and maybe ignored some of the comments you get when you go to sick call, you know if I hadn't paid attention to those and if I had gotten myself taken care of, well, I might not be walking with a limp right now. I didn’t think about that. I wanted to be macho, I wanted to be awesome.

Ah, the "I've got to be a tough guy," mentality.

Exactly. You know you want to be a Type A personality. Sometimes you need to dial it back a little bit. That’s my advice is listen to your body, pay attention to what's going on, pay attention to your education, pay attention to your training, but listen to your body.

What are your thoughts when you reflect back on your time in service?

You know it is one of my proudest moments in my life. I mean I've got several. That is one of them. It was the catalyst for a lot of other things I did in my life. It taught me how to see things through. It gave me valuable skills.

You know we talk about being a badass right now and saying, I'm okay. Well, it also made me stubborn enough to not give up.

It's a double-edged sword.

Exactly. You know it's one of those things that I can do anything I set my mind to if I put my mind and body to it. And I do. And you know I get onto it like a dog on a bone and I don’t let go. And I either succeed or I just work it until it can't be worked anymore. Usually I succeed, though.

What was your path after exiting military service?

Well, when a lot of us get out we don’t really have a direction. And I didn’t. I mean I had gone through the transition courses and everything, but I was still caught up in this combat arms mentality, that I didn’t really think I had any other skills. You know I thought about so many different things at the time. Private military contractors were not big back then, but I considered it. I thought about law enforcement, but there's, of course, a process to go through, a wait list and so forth, so I applied for a couple of different law enforcement positions and had to kind of work my way through the processes there.

Unfortunately, because of my initial injuries that I was still suffering from, it was causing me difficulty in passing any tests, so I took just a couple of mundane jobs. I worked retail briefly.

Eventually what I ended up doing is stumbling upon one of my former -- he was in another high school, but he was a friend of mine whose father I had looked up to. A friend of his was a prior Marine and he linked me in with a security company. And so I started working in private security and eventually into executive protection for a civil rights attorney. It was a contract position, but I was working for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Again, contract, not directly for them.

"The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality."

But I worked executive protection at the attorney's houses, I accompanied them on one trial, and I also worked at the business offices as uniform security. And you know that was pretty exciting. There was a whole side of things that I had never considered before, because when you're dealing with a civil rights attorney of course you’ve got a lot of domestic groups that dislike them.

So I learned a lot about, at the time, it was called domestic terrorism. It was Neo-Nazi type groups, Ku Klux Klan, groups like that. At the time it was also called the White Patriot Party, things of that nature. Another group called The New Order, National Alliance, a whole slew of people that were active in the 90's, who I don’t even know how many of them are active now.

And so we were always having some kind of threat or possible action occurring at that time. And it kept us pretty busy and it taught me a lot about the domestic terrorism scope, which kind of got me interested into the international aspect of terrorism. So I worked with them for probably two years. What happened is I had gone from one security company to another security company, so I stayed with them but under a different contract.

And you know that’s where I ended up meeting my wife. She worked there. And shortly after her and I started taking an interest in one another, I left and became a police officer in a nearby town and worked there briefly and then her and I started getting kind of serious at one another. I came back to the Center for a short time and then took a job with the Department of Defense in Jacksonville, Florida, with the NAS Jacksonville Police. You know it goes on from there. I went from NAS Jacksonville to a slightly higher paying position in Orlando as a police officer with DOD.

During that time 9/11 happened and that really hit me hard and felt a lot of anger at that time. And so I put in for the Air Marshal Program in 2003. 2003, I was picked up for the Air Marshal Program, went to training at one of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, and moved up to Chicago and worked with the Air Marshal Service for seven years.

(Photograph from Mashable. Caption reads: "A federal air marshal walks through a check-in area at John Wayne Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, California, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 attacks on September 11, 2011." Photo by Reed Saxon/Associated Press).

You know and during that time I'm still in that combat arms mindset, you know this is what I do, this is me. I am good at shooting, I'm good at doing this, I know this information, I'm highly capable of doing these things, so this was my mindset, this is what I thought I could do, you know?

And then as you get older, you're married, and then you have one child and you have another child and then your body starts to break down a little bit. Then you're thinking, man, I don’t know if I can do this.

And I remember it was -- I was getting ready for international assignment and I was typing up an exfiltration plan in case something happened while we were gone. And so as I was typing it up, I put the last period in the document, wasn’t gonna be going anywhere, it was basically my own notes. But I put the last period in the document, I looked over and my daughter was standing there. She was probably about two years old at the time. And it just kind of hit me, you know what am I doing?

And eventually I became what's known as a burnout, which is you just kind of -- you know you just exist in the job. There's no passion there anymore. And I got out in 2010. From there, I kind of stumbled around a little bit, I cashed out all of my federal retirement, lived off that for a while, cashed out everything I had, and just basically kind of did nothing for about a year while I kind of thought about my options.

I did work at the VA briefly. I worked for the Social Security Administration for a little bit. It was during that time I discovered that I was interested in computer technology, so I had switched. I had gone to college previously, but I was majoring in criminal justice. And I had come to the conclusion that criminal justice wasn’t where I was gonna be. So I switched over to computer information systems as a new major and started studying that just in as much as I just poured myself into it, whether it's programming, networking, things like that. I've just gone through it as much as possible.

And during that time is when I hooked up with the VA on the Vocational Rehab Program and that’s where I got started with that, I want to say, 2011, I think I started with it. 2011, 2012, is when I started on that program. And during that time I discovered that the course of study for computer information systems and management information systems was so similar that it would only add a few months to my program. So I decided to do a dual major in both and then a minor in business.

In fact, this is my last week for college. I looked at my grades and so forth. Basically, I could stop all of my work now and still pass this, so I'm in a real good position. I could fail literally everything else. And that’s what I do, is I've just been pouring myself at it to kind of make sure -- you know just apply everything I can, all the energy I can into it.

How did you start working for VisionTek?

I was working within the gaming community. In fact, I worked on a blog with a couple of people that were all veterans. And I happened to look up VisionTek and noticed that they were in my local area, so I made contact with the previous Media Relations Manager and he sent me press releases and we talked about products and so forth. Sometimes we came up with ideas about things.

Well, one day he asked if I was interested in a job. They needed a lead technician out here for their support department and I put in for it and beat out all the candidates. I was told that I had the strongest interview of anybody they had seen in a while. And I'll touch up on that with military strengths in a minute.

And so I took over as lead technician and then eventually when the Media Relations Manager left, I took over his role. And increased responsibility means I had to redefinition of roles and so forth. I became the Support Manager for the entire company and led the support team. In fact, the current support team in place right now, all of them were hired by me. Interviewed all of them, you know I had some help with some of the other people that are here in the company, but primarily the decision to bring them onboard and push them to become permanent employees was all mine. And so I did that for, I'd say about a year and a half, and then July is when I took over as product manager.

The first lady I hired, Kim, she's actually took my position as technical manager now and she leads the support team. And you know she's wonderful. I mean she's got so many strengths that I didn’t have. You always want to surround yourself with people that are more capable than you, and I certainly did with them. There's a lot of strengths there that they have definitely complimented me on anything. I brought some things to the table, don’t get me wrong, but we were kind of like a force to be reckoned with there for a while.

What's your current position at VisionTek and how you would describe your job to a layman who asks what you do for a living?

Currently, I am the Product Manager. I also have a secondary duty as Media Relations Manager.

So as Product Manager I'm responsible for the entire life cycle of a product, whether in development and when it's being retired out as legacy. The majority of what I do is a lot of analytical data where I look at the performance of the product, how it stands out in the market, how the consumer views it. I get that by how much of a product -- any given product we move in a week to a month to 90 days.

And so I look at a lot of raw sales data on a daily basis and I just examine it all going back. You know right now I go back as far as a year, but I usually look at a 90 day window to look at trends, the upticks, downtrends, and so forth, to see how well it's going.

Now when I say product, we track about 250 products right now and I'm responsible for all of them, so I have to know how much we have, how much we have coming, what we have that can be built into something else if it can be used in multiple parts, what can be used in multiple parts, how much it costs, how much that it sells for, and how well it's selling. I have to know that within moments, so I keep a lot of analytical spreadsheets available so I can just go and look at referred things.

A lot of spreadsheets are involved, a lot of numbers, a lot of mental work, a lot of math and calculations. A little bit of programming too, because I have to go back into the back end of some office applications and access the developer options and code programming statements to do just what I want it to do. Not often, but sometimes.

(Rick Givens, VisionTek's Product Manager and Media Relations Manager).

Do you use project management software in order to keep track of inventory or do you use your own spreadsheets?

Everything I use right now, with the exception of the inventory database, is self-developed. I've either created it myself or I've taken something that was existing that someone else used and I've modified it to be better, for lack of a better term.

Right now what I have incorporated is -- you know there might be other tools that are out there, but we don’t have them, so I have to make what I need. You know and that’s just what it is. I define a need and I define a way of doing it within my means and I create it. So far it's been pretty successful. I imagine it could be less cumbersome with some other automated tools and so forth, but you know what, VisionTek is a pretty good sized company, but we don’t have millions of dollars to throw away on software that may or may not do what we need it to do, so we rely on our own tools.

As the Media Relations Manager, what I do is I'm responsible for all of the media, community, and public relations inquiries into the company, whether it comes from the gaming community, a business inquiry, somebody, for example, any number of publications that handle technology.

I prep news releases, press releases, I send out sample products to reviewers, do a lot of testing and development. In fact, I'm on the product development team. And you know it kind of goes hand in hand with the Product Manager because not only am I keeping an eye on how it is viewed in the marketplace, but how the community looks at it as well. You know I'm responsible for maintaining the brand image. We have to keep a good face and I'm the face right now, so I kind of have to be on my best behavior most times.

(We previously reviewed the SoundTube Pro and BTi65. SoundTube Pro is pictured above).

Would you say the military has helped and/or hindered you in the job market?

It helped me in that it gave me self-confidence. You know there are certain things you do in the military, Basic Training, throughout your career, and things that I did later, that if I didn’t have any self-confidence or the determination to at least see if I could do it, I wouldn’t even have tried it.

As a Marine, particularly, you are thoroughly convinced that your God's gift to the uniform and I carried that mentality with me everywhere I went. You know I was a Marine, I could do anything, I could do this, I could do that. You know I hit these goals; I'll hit these goals too. That’s the mentality I had, was I have already achieved this, so I can do this too. So it gave me strong confidence, it gave me the ability to talk to people at different levels, whether it be someone who is above me or below me, on a certain even keel, if you get what I mean.

You had to project some sort of confidence, you had to have communication abilities to talk with anybody. If you're scared when you're talking to somebody, you're going to fail. You know it goes back to confidence, but it gave me the communication abilities as well. And even an increased vocabulary, if you believe that or not.

Hindrance, I think the one thing that hinders me the most is I'm still entrenched in the military philosophy of a chain of command. Now, I've kind of broken free from it for a little bit, but when I took over as Product Manager the current company president and vice president sat down with me and told me in no uncertain terms that I would stop calling them, sir.

And the joke is a Marine would call a light pole, sir, if he thought he had to. And I did. I was a, "Yes, sir, yes, ma'am," to everybody. And I still do it. I mean I use it as a form of respect because I want the respect back, but I did that with them. It was always, "Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir, understood sir," you know all of that. And so in the corporate world I found that they can be a little bit uncomfortable with that at times. There's a time and place for it, but not every day.

So getting around that, I called it uptightness, that’s been a challenge for me.

And not every coworker is as dedicated to "the mission" either.

Yeah, that is true. That is the challenge you face in the business, corporate, manufacturing, whatever industry you're in. Not everybody is as dedicated to the mission as much as you may be. But you'll also turn around and find out that you may not be dedicated to that mission as well.

You know and the thing is, is that it can be seen as an opportunity to excel. If you see a vacuum, you can step in and fill it. Now, granted you might be overstepping yourself a little bit, and you kind of have to judge things.

I took a chance with my company president one day. I asked if I could have a meeting with him and I sat down and I laid out some issues that I saw. And here I was, I had only been in the company two or three months, and he was surprised. He says, well, I'm surprised you're even talking to me given your background in military. I was like, yeah, but I see a need for something. I can either talk to you or I can waste my time talking to everybody else in the meantime. I'd rather talk to you and get it taken care of now. I was like, these are things that I think would benefit the company and they may not go through if I try and handle things the conventional way.

And that’s one good thing the military does teach you, in a way, is that you have to learn unconventional methods at times. Now, there's always -- I mean you think it's always rank and file, but there's always -- the Marine mentality is improvise, adapt, and overcome. I saw something that needed to be done. I improvised, adapted, and overcame. You know and because of that, I created a position in which I highlighted myself positively towards my employer.

Not every idea I have is great. I've had a couple of bad ones and I've been told they're bad ideas. So you're not gonna get 100 percent all the time. You just have to recognize an opportunity and you have to take it.

So maybe not everybody is dedicated to the mission as much as you are. Well, maybe you can find a way of showing how much more dedicated you are so that you can be in a position to where you can make the mission succeed better. Position yourself, tactical thinking, but towards a business mindset.

Any moments that come to mind where your position or career significantly changed or problems along the way?

I'd say this current position was challenging at first because I did not have the tools that I've created since then. I had to identify what I needed. You know I had a lot of questions and I was looking at things. I'm like, well, why don’t I have this or wouldn’t this help us? And so identifying voids and filling those voids and literally building things from the ground up. That’s a challenge, you know?

There are data points that we didn’t have before that now make sense to have, but we didn’t know we needed them until I built them. And then we see, hey, you know what, this is great information, we need to incorporate this. And so that little packet of data or application or whatever it happens to be that I've built up gets incorporated into the larger picture, the larger application spreadsheet that I have right now. I mean I've literally got so much stuff built up in this thing that it would take you -- if you did not have a good computer, it'd probably take 10 or 15 seconds to open.

Wow.

So I mean there is a lot. I have a lot of data in one place and I keep it stored at different locations. I believe in duplication. But the main repository is just humongous and I'm responsible for all of it going all the way back and updating it and changing it. I may even have a current iteration that’s being built for 2017. January 1st comes around, I'm gonna push the button and it's ready to go. But it's all been built up over time.

And that’s the challenge is identifying the business needs and if you don’t have something in place to meet that demand, building it from the ground up. And that’s been the hardest part. I mean there's been times where I'll just sit back and I have to think almost 24 hours before I come up with a solution. How do I get this data to line up with this question.

Because the thing is, in most cases a business has all the data they need to answer the questions, but they don’t know what questions to ask. And then when they know the questions to ask, they don’t know how to get the information or the correct answer from the information they have. You’ve gotta sift through a lot of stuff.

What about work/life balance? How did you manage it and do you see a lot of burnout in your field?

There is a hard time with work/life balance. Not necessarily work itself, but work/life/school balance for me, because I leave work and I go directly and start handling school stuff. I do set aside days where I won't touch a computer when I get home. Sometimes it'll be on a weekend, sometimes it's a Monday night. Whatever it may be, I just won't. I'll even turn my phone off and I won't answer it.

As far as work itself, they're pretty good about leaving me alone on off times. There is the occasional email like everybody else has and so forth, but as far as having to actually work extra, devote extra time when I should be with the family, that’s not really a concern with me in this position.

You know you have to unplug sometimes, though. And with school, it's increasingly hard to, but I've just set aside time and that's all I do. I'll sit down, I might watch a show. You know we have certain rules in the household; we have a movie night when we can have it. It's usually every week. On Saturdays, we all sit down and we watch a movie. We all agree upon it and we watch a movie, whether it's a classical horror movie, a comedy, whatever. That’s what we do. And then two hours in a weekend are carved out for that.

When we sit down at the dinner table and eat, we sit down at the dinner table and eat and the TV goes off. If we're going out to eat, all cell phones go up. They're not on the table. No one is sitting there texting away. We're all sitting there and having a conversation with one another. It's to the point where my children will get mad at me if one of us slips up and checks an email.

That means you're winning the parenting war, right?

Yeah, that’s the thing is I see every day where people have their faces buried in their screens and even the kids are doing it. You'll watch couples sit at a restaurant table and they won't say a word to one another, but they’ll be deep into them phones. And that’s what I try to avoid. Before smartphones became a thing, it was the TV. If we're going to sit down and eat dinner, we sit down at the table and we eat dinner and we turn the TV off.

Now, occasionally, I might say, you know what, free night, let's just watch whatever. We'll sit on the couch and get burgers, something like that. And the kids consider that a treat, not the norm. And that was the goal the whole time. My wife and I have been always very adamant about that.

Has your job ever required the assistance of military experts in any capacity? Has VisionTek ever had to utilize military people?

We do have veterans that we have hired, but as far as utilizing any kind of military technical consultation, no. I have, as a free service, provided military consultation to a couple of game developers. I did that in the development of -- the game actually changed titles. It performed poorly, so I really don’t want to say its name. All right, it was very -- it was not well-received by the community, but in the initial development stage it provided a lot of research about the capabilities of certain weapons they were talking about incorporating.

There was, during the development of Battlefield 3, I'm actually friends with one of the designers of that game, David Goldfarb. We met because he wanted me to provide some advice to him on not necessarily military technology, but just the way the military operates in certain things. And so a lot of the opening scenes of Battlefield 3, the cutscenes, where there's a lot of interactions between the Marines involved there, you know that’s my influence in there.

(Battlefield 3 launched on October 25, 2011, and has sold over 15 million copies to date).

You know like the smartass comments that they make while they're on the APC and so forth. How they're moving. Because you see one guy -- you know I told them, they're gonna be in this thing, one guy is gonna be asleep, one guy is gonna say something really stupid, and one guy is gonna sit there and he can't do anything but finger his weapon. That’s all he can do. All right, and that’s what's gonna happen.

And if you look at that opening scene, that’s what they're doing. One guy says something stupid, one guy retorts to him. I said that the comment would be, shut the fuck up. It turned into, what was it, I'd kill ya -- or something about being an atheist or something like that. I can't remember what it was. But it was a smartass comment back. One guy is just rocking back and forth playing with his weapon and one guy was passed out asleep. You know there might be a culmination of activities between those people, like I think the guy who said something stupid was asleep first, something like that.

In the opening scene?  

Yeah, it was the opening scene when they were in the APC. There was a lot of -- you know some of the tactics, but primarily just a lot of the mindset of the military, what's going on, how they're gonna be thinking, how they're gonna be reacting at the time. That was a lot of me.

And then we all had a role in doing what we call breakdowns, where we looked at the equipment, looked at the tactics involved, provided a critique on it. That wasn’t done as a service. We actually did articles on that. But the actual input on the people mechanics, that was me to David.

That’s really interesting. I interviewed Lars Gustavvson, the Design Director for Battlefield 1. I think he worked on all the others one as well.

He did, he did. And I don’t know if it's still applicable because the game is released now, but I was actually under an NDA at the time, so I never said anything about it until post-release. But you'll see, not my name, but the name of -- we were basically a blog at the time, in the credits of Battlefield 3. It was Off-Duty Gamers. We're all military guys who gamed, basically.

  

(Battlefield 3 Credits screenshot).

Military.com has a lot of active duty/veteran readers that may want to someday work in your field. To get to where you're at today, what do you feel is the optimum path to travel? Any other advice for people starting out?

You know when you're dealing with tech specifically, people say, education, some people say certification, some people say it's who you know. Really, it's a combination of different things. You have to be willing to work for it, #1, not to accept the role that you may think you’ve been forced it, but to reach out beyond your comfort zone and look into other areas.

You know I thought that all I could do is carry a gun for the rest of my life. Well, you know what, today is proof that that’s not the case. Here I am, I'm about to enter a master's degree program for computer science. I brought myself out of my comfort zone and I applied the techniques that I learned in the Marine Corps about self-development and passion towards other fields.

You have to be a judge of your environment. You know there is a time and place for everything. The biggest thing that I would offer anybody advice-wise, is to make sure that you develop your vocabulary and your grammatical abilities. Learn proper spelling and punctuation for everything you do, don’t learn just the common words for things, learn other words, learn the synonyms for it, expand your vocabulary, make yourself sound intelligent. Even if you're the dumbest person on the face of the earth, if you can just sound intelligent, people will believe you're intelligent.

All the time I read communications that are complete misspellings. A person has typed an email to me on their phone and is still spelling out the word "are," a-r-e, they use the letter "r." I'm not gonna waste my time reading stuff like that because it makes my brain hurt. Okay?

The blunt assessment is that your grammar and your vocabulary are a reflection of your work. If you can't take the time to capitalize your own name, then I don’t have any faith in the rest of the work you'll put out. You know that would be my strongest advice, just strong vocabulary and grammar schools.

And then basically, like I said, educate yourself, find out what interests you, study it, go to college, you know don’t stop learning. It doesn’t matter what age you are. Always question, always learn, always look for something new, whether it's in the field you're interested in or not. You know we don’t always work in things we're interested in. If it's not something you're interested in, you still need to apply yourself at it just to succeed.

Anything else you may want to add?

The big thing I would add is that there are lot of benefits available to veterans that they do not take advantage of and you have to educate yourself of them because they're not gonna jump out and lay on your lap and say, hey, use me. All right?

If you're hurt, you need to go to the VA and get checked out. Sometimes there are benefits that open up to you because you are a disabled veteran. It doesn’t mean that you can't work. Sometimes it means you can get a job more easily. Vocational Rehab was a big one. You know they pay for your college; they’ll pay for your certifications.

In the case of a technical job, who wants both, that’s how you get it. You have benefits to other employers as well in the Voc Rehab Program. Use these benefits, research them, ask someone who knows. Go and do the homework and apply for them because they're there for you.

The other thing is just don’t stop, don’t give up. We've all got barriers, we sometimes have obstacles, demons. You know what? None of that crap matters because you simply have to do the same thing. There's a quote from Hannibal that is, "I will either find a way or make one." And I've taken that to heart. If I come to a wall, I'm either gonna go over, under, around, or through that sonofabitch.

What's next for you at VisionTek and do you have any great insider information for us, maybe a GPU coming, something?

GPU coming. Well, you know AMD has got their next line of GPU's coming and we're gonna be right there with them. But on top of that, we also offer a lineup of other products as well. And the biggest things that we're doing right now are the audio products. We've got the SoundTube Pro, the BTI65, the Aerial Headphones. These represent a new product and direction for the company. They're already performing well and I use them and I think you'll find out soon too that these are remarkably good for the price that we offer them at. I mean this is like phenomenal quality here.

Okay, that’s the insider information. You know keep an eye on our audio products, we're always releasing something new. I can't really give anything away about AMD stuff because that’s on AMD's plate to do that, but I'm gonna be right there with them looking at it and going, yeah, this is some good stuff.

Next for me at VisionTek, you know, don’t know. I just got into this new role, so it's been about six months now. I have to make sure the company is succeeding more. We are already succeeding, but I have to bring more to the table for them in order for them to offer me more. So that’s my goal is to get here and kind of shine through a little bit more in this new role and then see what shakes loose.

For more veteran job tips and resources, check out these pages on Military.com:

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