BTU #75 – Ben Deda: Marines to COO of Galvanize and raising $63M in funding

“Be willing to take a step down to take go up. As opposed to thinking, ‘I’m going to burst right through this’ realize sometimes you have to go down, around and then that’s where you finally get the push through. Every single job I’ve taken, I’ve taken a pay cut. I made it back within three to six months, but those are the steps you have to do.
– Ben Deda

Ben Deda is the Chief Operations Officer at Galvanize, a network of modern, urban campuses where anyone can access the skills, knowledge, and network you need to make an impact. Since their founding in 2012, Galvanize has raised over $63M in funding. Ben started out at Notre Dame, after which he served in the Marines for seven years. After his transition from the Marines he worked at TruStile Doors in Operations, Marketing, and Sales, and eventually as Vice President of Commercial Sales. He then joined the computer software company, FullContact as their VP of Sales & Business Development. Ben also runs Denver Startup Week, the largest startup event in the US, and holds an MBA from the University of Denver

The top three reasons to listen to today’s show are:

  1. Pay cut – Ben has held some incredible roles at great companies, and he talks about how – at every single step he’s taken forward in his career – it started with a pay cut. No matter what stage you’re at in your civilian career, the perspective he has on this is worth hearing.
  2. Networking – regular listeners to the show know the importance of networking. Ben not only has some great stories about this, but his current company – Galvanize – is approaching this in a new and novel way.
  3. Operations – Ben is the COO for a rapidly growing startup and this is a great story for those interested in startups, in operations, or in sales and marketing.

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Show Notes

  • 1:46 – Ben’s background
  • 2:40 – Ben’s decision to leave the Marine Corps and how he approaches this decision
  • 4:10 – Ben’s very first job search out of the Marine Corps and how he found his way to TruStile Doors
  • 7:28 – Ben’s work with recruiters and his advice for veterans about whether or not to consider using them (hint: give it a try, but the onus is on you to make sure the opportunity is right for you)
  • 8:44 – How Ben found FullContact, his second job, and how he made the transition from TruStile Doors
  • 9:57 – Ben left a secure job while having a pregnant wife and a lot of personal responsibilities… how he psyched himself up to make this move and take this risk
  • 11:04 – What it was like to be the non-technical hire at FullContact and what life looked like in this capacity
  • 12:39 – How Ben’s work in recruiting in the Marine Corps has helped him in his sales and business development roles
  • 13:53 – How Ben made the transition to Galvanize based on connections and people he knew
  • 14:54 – An overview of Galvanize and what they do
  • 17:25 – An overview of what Ben does as a COO, and what his day-to-day life looks like
  • 19:15 – How leadership for Ben in the civilian sector as opposed to leadership within the military and the US Marine Corps
  • 21:31 – One of the biggest failures Ben has experienced since leaving the Marine Corps and what he learned from it
  • 25:28 – Advice that Ben would provide to veterans interested in starting their own company, based on his experience in startups as well as leading Denver Startup Week
  • 27:40 – Resources that Ben would recommend to veterans interested in startups or operations
  • 30:45 – Ben’s final words of wisdom for veterans