Justin Ossola (MBA'13) Starts New Tech Company for Veterans
After transitioning out of the Navy three years ago, Justin Ossola (MBA’13) noticed a lack of opportunities for veterans in the tech sales industry – a career path he desperately wanted to join. After a little luck and a lot of perseverance, Ossola now is the co-founder of Tech Qualled, a start-up that places veterans in competitive sales jobs at high tech firms.
“Transitioning out of the military is tough no matter the number of your credentials. It was hard to find the right fit,” Ossola remembers. “I was having conversations with people, and I was crossing a lot of things off of my list as opposed to circling things.”
A graduate of the Georgetown McDonough School of Business MBA Evening Program, as well as the MPA program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, Ossola knew from the start that he was searching for opportunities in the tech sales industry. However, after applying to numerous technology firms such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, it was clear that he lacked the hands-on experience these companies desired.
“I was getting lots of job offers, but none in sales which is where I knew I belonged,” he said. “It was frustrating because if I wanted to get out of the Army or Navy and become a neurosurgeon, I could take the MCAT and go to medical school, but there is no path to success to get into tech sales. [Tech companies] are looking to hire someone who will be profitable right away. I just didn’t have the training they wanted.”
Partnering with Nick Breedlove, a fellow Navy graduate with more than 17 years of active duty experience, and Jim Sherriff, a former executive at Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems, Ossola notes how competitive Tech Qualled has become in only six months of operation, currently accepting 15 to 20 percent of applicants to its program.
“We primarily focus on business-to-business enterprise technology space. Operating in the high tech field with hardware and software, we are very small and specific, so our goal was to be disruptive.”
The 10-week program, which includes six weeks of virtual training for deployed veterans abroad, concludes in Fort Worth, Texas, where trainees participate in activities such as IMPROV exercises for quick thinking, software demonstrations, leadership and team building exercises, and even a tour of a data center.
“We definitely push them outside of their comfort zone. Sales is not a skill you learn in the military,” Ossola said.
Following successful completion of the program, veterans are provided with numerous tech sales opportunities due to the hands-on experience and accelerated training.
“Georgetown helped me get my first job in sales [at Oracle]. On a larger scale, Georgetown taught me the fundamental concepts of how to succeed in sales and in starting a company of my own. For example, I took a class with Professor J. Gamble and Professor Jean Rosauer called Advanced Business Planning at the McDonough School of Business that really helped me get to where I am today. I spent most of my 20s deployed on a ship. Georgetown was the perfect foot in the door and helped me open my eyes to what was out there,” he said.
Now living his passion, Ossola notes how Tech Qualled is a supportive community, as well as a company.
“I feel passionately that providing veterans with a job gives them purpose. After getting out of the military, a lot of people can fall to a very dark and desperate place in their lives, especially if they don’t have the right community built around them,” he said. “Any company can make the claim that they are making the world a better place. I truly feel like our mission is giving back to the people who served our country by providing rewarding, purposeful, and meaningful careers and lifestyles for the remainder of their lives.”