Shortly after the close of Desert Storm, the military offered Amy Onuska’s husband, a Navy corpsman, the chance to return to civilian life. The military was downsizing, and the offer to discharge seemed like a good chance to return home and lean into their careers.
“We were totally unprepared,” said Onuska. “There were no jobs. My husband was medical, but he was going to have to go to school for a long time in order to get credentials that would serve him outside of the military.”
Her husband ended up working two low-paying jobs, one of which included painting and removing barnacles off the bottom of boats in South Florida. One day, he turned over his can of paint to discover a glaring poison symbol. When he confronted his boss, he placated him with a small raise before saying, “Dude, just paint the boat.”
Today, Amy Onuska is far removed from celebrating small raises just to put food on the table. She serves as president of My Computer Career, one of the nation’s foremost IT training and certification companies. But along her path toward senior leadership, she’s carried those early memories as a newly discharged Navy spouse, her struggles impacting her interactions with the military and veteran communities.
“I know what it’s like to lose your community when you separate, what it feels like when you can’t support your family like you used to; its impact on the whole person, and not just from a job perspective,” Onuska said. “We really need to understand when you’re getting out, you need to find an efficient way to credentials on your resume that are relevant in the civilian world.”
To that end Onuska stood up the company’s Cyber Warrior Program, a three-month, intensive course that transforms even those without an IT background into highly credentialed cyber professionals. Transitioning service members, veterans, and military family members can utilize the DOD’s SkillBridge program, the GI Bill, and other VA benefits to launch a highly marketable career.
Given the demand for cyber professionals and the salaries they command – the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 32% growth in cyber jobs in the next decade, with a 2022 median annual salary of $112,000 – it’s little surprise the program has taken off.
What began about two years ago as a single on-site program at Nellis Air Force Base just outside Las Vegas has expanded to several sites and year-round online programs. Since April of this year alone, the company has experienced about a 500% increase in monthly enrollments.
“The course isn’t easy. It’s 12 weeks of work, 40 hours a week, and a lot gets thrown at them,” said Aaron Martin, director of public relations for My Computer Career. “(But) the unique skill set of service members makes them an ideal fit for this level of dedication and discipline.”
Because Cyber Warrior asks a lot of its students, Onuska has ensured that students have access to free mental health and financial counseling throughout their enrollment. It’s in line with her philosophy that work – or the lack thereof – impacts the whole person and those they love, which is why she’s so missional about the program.
“It’s supposed to be a small part of my responsibility as president, but it’s absolutely where my heart is,” she said.