Last year we spoke with the Coforma team about a new Veteran hiring initiative it was launching. We caught up with CEO Eduardo Ortiz; Senior Director, People Tyrone Green; VP of Engineering Dan Miller; and Software Engineer Rocio de Santiago to get an update on their Veterans Hiring Initiative, how the company goes beyond the letter of the law for its service members, and just some of what this team had to celebrate in 2023.

Understanding the Magnitude

Starting with a goal to identify people and organizations engaged and willing to put a stake in the ground, committed to not just take contracts from the VA, but also to give back, by giving Veterans the opportunity to care for their families, and themselves” Coforma started the year headed toward a program focused on Veteran hiring. As they progressed in their research and looked to better understand and create the framework, it became clear the infrastructure to support the effort was not quite      where it needed to be to achieve the desired impact.

“Part of the intent was to establish partnerships with various schools as a way to help veterans become professionals in the digital services space through a focused curriculum and a way to leverage some of the classes already taught in the military.”

The other side of the coin was to have a cadre of digital services firms ready to provide paid internships or jobs for these people.

Among the challenges was skill mapping, finding the right skills relatable between active duty members and coding programs and then came the challenge of formalizing partnerships with the schools themselves. “The scope of what we hope to do is vast and will really need support from industry and other partners to make this a reality. We’re still committed to moving this forward and are just working to understand what is needed, what the ask is.”

Financial Commitment

Following up on its commitment to put $100,000 toward the initiative, Coforma made donations to three initiative-aligned organizations: Warrior Rising, an organization that partners with veteran entrepreneurs, Veterans Multi-Service Center, a nationally recognized non-profit organization providing comprehensive services — including employment support — to veterans in the tri-state Philadelphia area; and American Corporate Partners, a nonprofit that helps Veterans and active duty military spouses find long term and rewarding careers.

Internal Commitment

As a Veteran-led company and one committed to hiring Veterans, Coforma’s focus is going above and beyond what is dictated by law. That includes supporting those who are still engaged in service to the National Guard or Reserves who are balancing dual civilian and military careers.

“There may be times someone is called out short-term for training, or even for a longer-term. We don’t consider that an inconvenience, but instead, part of our commitment of support. We view it as a partnership in which they are serving and we are working to serve and support them by making sure they can do what they have to without taking holiday time, without having to fight for permission or feel they are torn about which commitment to honor     .”

A Foundation Evolved by People

While Coforma was intentionally founded with a Veteran focus in mind, the people it has hired along the way have expanded and taken that focus even further. Founded while Eduardo was still under contract to the Marine Corps, the vision of supporting those who were transitioning but still had military commitments was foundational for Coforma, an underpinning of everything it did moving ahead.

Supporting those service members then became a company-wide mindset as, across the team, others accept, support and step in to cover as needed, without hesitation, guilt or grief. With several members of the team in this situation, they say for a company that really supports them, they too will go the extra mile. “When you’re truly a people-first organization, with those      sorts of commitments, the investment in your people doesn’t seem like a lot and in return you get people who are equally invested in you. We don’t consider what we do to support service members above and beyond but part of our responsibility.”

As a human-centered workplace, employing active US service members and Veterans also means being conscious of the need for sufficient time off, workplace flexibility, and working to practice trauma-informed employment practices to properly support them. Coforma does this while at once executing on some of the toughest challenges of our generation.

Deliberation in Growth

Just as Coforma has been deliberate in its support of Veterans, in its commitment to who it will be and how it will operate, it is also deliberate about its future growth plans and the kinds of work it will take on to achieve that growth.

Saying they have been fortunate to be able to remain true to who they are, Coforma is focused on work that undeniably, positively impacts the world around them, the work that they want to be doing in the spaces they want to be in. “We take a partnership over consulting mindset. The last thing we want is for an organization who doesn’t understand our standards and what we’re about to spend time researching us, trying to include us in market research. We try to be responsible to the ecosystem by being very upfront about where and who we will support so organizations not aligned with our values and mission can see clearly and not waste their time or energy. There are so many talented organizations in our space that more than likely will be interested in doing  work that we may not be interested in, and they should go to them.”

And Coforma is not shy to recommend a team that has the capabilities being sought, that may be interested in the work at hand, and that can do it well, again supporting that overall ecosystem and the work being done.

The Wins

While the Veterans hiring initiative did not get quite the increase in Coforma’s own Veteran hiring numbers hoped for this year, the Coforma team will take its lessons learned, seek the partners they know they need and will revisit the effort in 2024. That being said, they are proud to have been able to fulfill their $100,000 investment commitment, through those commitments supporting Veteran hiring across the US, and proud of the culture they continue to build within.

“We have been able to create and maintain a culture that is designed around veterans and the veteran experience, whether that’s active duty service members or folks who are veterans. It is about serving them while they are with us and having them feel supported while they are away.”

Coforma has also been able to create an internal group through which veterans, active service members and their spouses, can lift up their concerns, be part of decision-making and they will continue to drive forward, doing what they do best with a focus on making the impact they want to see. “There is an intentional community here that understands what it means to be in uniform and what is required.”

That empathy and place of knowing has been described as a gift to be grateful for. Another gift is the willingness of leadership to listen, to ask for input, for perspective and then to value the information, whatever it may be. “Many of our team are supporting Veteran programs and have the opportunity to bring back really valuable intel and insights from the community and their own insights built on their experiences and what they see.”

The people who took a leap of faith to join the company in the early days, and those that have grown and have stayed are also cause for celebration.

2024 Goals

The words enablement and coaching and a commitment to supporting each other so they can show up to do the work their partners count on at the top of the company’s list for 2024. The team will also focus on helping the ecosystem be more knowledgeable about how to buy the services it and others provide to ensure the quality of work across GovCon consistently rises, and it will continue its focus on Veteran hiring, building on its current veteran makeup of two-thirds of the c-suite and more than 20 percent of the leadership team.

One of this team’s firmest goals, and promises, is that it will stay true to who it is. Whether it is deliberation in its work, continuing its focus on Veterans, that commitment will remain, because Coforma will always remain what it is. “We’re not interested in being bought. We’re here for the long haul; all of us who choose to be.”

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