BTU #14 – Noel Gonzalez: Starting 3 Companies While on Active Duty

“I think military people assume that when they get out the military their skills and abilities are going to put them in a job that is paying them more than when they were in the military. I think that’s a misconception – once they get out they have to realize they have to prove themselves again. That could take one month or four jobs, but you have to realize that your’e starting fresh.”
– Noel Gonzalez

Noel Gonzalez – grew up in Cuba, emigrated to the United States, and eventually became the Commanding Officer of the USS Cheyenne (SSN 773), where he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. While on Active Duty, Noel founded three different startups. The most recent – and one we discuss most during the interview – is a company built to help Veterans in their transition to civilian life (SkillMil). In this interview we discuss:

  • The mistakes Noel made and learned from in starting his first two companies
  • Steps that active duty military personnel can do right now to fill in their business knowledge gaps
  • What day-to-day life is like as an entrepreneur
  • The importance of mentors and coaches as part of the transition process
  • How leadership outside of the military differs from leadership within the military
  • And much, much more…

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: How can I make these episodes more valuable to active duty military personnel considering transitioning to the civilian world? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

  • Stanford Ignite – also there is a Veterans Ignite every summer
  • Sloan MIT Online Courses – all online courses, easy to understand
  • SkillMil – help veterans translate their experience in the military to employers in the civilian world
  • SRI International – helping make lives healthier, better, and more productive
  • Jimmy Sopko interview – I reference this as an example of a veteran who rolled up his sleeves, took a pay cut, and worked his way up in an organization

Show Notes

  • [2:15] – From Cuba to Commanding Officer of the USS Cheyenne, Noel’s background
  • [4:13] – The mistakes Noel made and learned from in starting his first two companies
  • [5:42] – Where Noel felt he was most behind his civilian counterparts in starting a company
  • [7:02] – Advice on ways to fill in business knowledge gaps while in the military
  • [10:37] – How Noel started his third company, SkillMil
  • [12:28] – How SkillMil helps veterans
  • [17:48] – What day-to-day life is like as an entrepreneur
  • [20:55] – Common misconceptions about civilian life
  • [25:00] – The importance of mentors and coaches as part of the transition process
  • [27:21] – How leadership outside of the military differs from leadership within the military
  • [28:24] – Final advice to those on active duty