The transition of service members into the private sector fuels a dynamic blend of specialized expertise, adaptability, and innovative thinking. The Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) Fellowship Program facilitates this transition by bridging the gap between military service and civilian employment.
The program helps place military personnel in a wide range of industries and roles based on their skills, interests, and career goals.
Integrating former service members into the private sector enriches industries with exceptional talent, enhances diversity, and sparks creativity and resilience in the face of technological challenges.
Primer’s commitment to support veterans comes alive through the Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Program. This blog series uncovers the remarkable stories of fellows who have joined Primer via HOH, celebrating the fusion of military expertise and AI innovation.
We interviewed Yong Sinn, who joined Primer through the program in January, and was hired as a full-time Senior Product Manager. Yong’s background and journey exemplify the value of veterans transitioning into the tech industry and how their unique perspectives contribute to the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Continue reading for the full interview.
Tell me about your previous experience before joining Primer.
Prior to joining Primer, I was at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) supporting their AI shop. While I was there, I worked with our customers and gleaned insights into the problems they faced, then worked with our product team to figure out how we can implement those changes within our tools.
My experience at the NRO included a lot of computer vision technology. We had an extensive amount of geospatial data coming in from the sensors. With computer vision, you can help accelerate the analyst’s workflow by providing some amount of automation. We built the models to help identify and perform a lot of previously manual tasks.
What pushed you to pursue AI/ML?
I caught the AI/ML bug while pursuing my Masters in Computer Science. As I was trying to figure out what I wanted to focus on, I was presented with an opportunity to experiment with synthetic Overhead Persistent Infrared System (OPIR) data. This is one type of geospatial data. Essentially, we wanted to know: Can we train AI models to help detect and track objects of interest using synthetic OPIR data?
How does the HOH Fellowship Program work?
As I was going through the transition process, I was told about the Department of Defense (DoD) SkillBridge Program. It’s a stepping stone into your next civilian opportunity, and, at the very least, gives you a taste of what it’s like to work in the private sector. The Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Program is one subset of the DoD SkillBridge Program.
What I find so beneficial about the HOH Fellowship Program is that they have a lot of connections with industry. You essentially put forward your resume, the program releases it, and then companies can review your information and contact you if they’re interested. It takes out a lot of the legwork from finding a fellowship on your own.
In addition to that, HOH has plenty of resources and support. They help you build your resume and translate your military experience into what civilian companies are looking for. This process made it easier to transition from the military.
What brought you to Primer?
Primer actually reached out to me via the program, and asked if I was interested in interviewing with the team. That’s when I did my own research on Primer and found out they’re a very specialized AI company that focuses on national security. The company and role checked multiple boxes for me because as I mentioned, I was always interested in technology and I still wanted to support the DoD.
What’s your role at Primer?
I joined Primer as a Product Manager fellow. One of my first undertakings was to gain an understanding of the current products and provide feedback from the perspective of a government customer. Since then, I’ve been given the opportunity to join Primer full-time as a Senior Product Manager, which is now my current role.
What are your initial observations about Primer?
Primer is really intentional about hiring. So the team isn’t hiring all subject matter experts from, say, the NRO. The company is also hiring employees from other intelligence agencies and the DoD. So the team, as a whole, has a well rounded view of the federal government and its processes.
Where do you see the future of AI/ML in Defense heading?
I see AI/ML as still relatively new to the defense industry. And even now, there are a lot of users and customers who don’t fully understand the limitations and capabilities. When it comes to intelligence products, there has to be very high confidence in what’s being produced. And that’s the benefit that humans currently provide. So a company really needs to prove itself – that their algorithms and outputs are reliable and accurate. Primer understands this and works to enable the human using the technology.
How has Hiring Our Heroes impacted your career journey?
HOH has been critical to my journey because I didn’t have any contacts in the tech industry. I planned on pursuing a career in the traditional defense industry. That’s where my experience most easily translates to. In addition, my timing wasn’t that great with all the tech layoffs. I was lucky in that the timing of this opportunity with Primer via the HOH Fellowship Program worked out really well.
Since then, I’ve managed to convince other folks who are separating to participate in the program. When you’re separating from the military, you’re leaving a community. For me, that’s been my community for the past decade. You’re working in an industry where you immediately have a common bond with others. We are stepping away from that. It’s honestly kind of scary. You now have to find a job on your own. You’re not being told where you’re going to work or where you’re going to move. That amount of freedom can be intimidating if you’re not used to it.
HOH really bridges that gap, because you have a group of other folks in a very similar situation. I’m very fortunate in my career; I’ve worked closely with industry. I can relate to how they operate, but other folks may not have the same background that translates as directly. That’s where HOH really shines: in helping with that transition.
The Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Program serves as a two-way bridge, benefiting both the fellows and Primer’s mission. While transitioning service members gain invaluable industry experience, companies gain access to a pool of exceptionally talented and motivated individuals.
This symbiotic relationship not only facilitates the integration of veterans into our workforce but also fosters an inclusive company culture that values the unique perspectives and contributions of these remarkable individuals.
To learn more about the Hiring Our Heroes Fellowship Program, visit their website.