Hacking the Army’s tech talent problem

Army Spc. Majid Lowe didn’t know anything about the Army Software Factory until a superior in his infantry unit brought it to his attention. “He came in one day and said I was wasting my time…and told me that I needed to apply or I was going to be very unhappy,” Lowe said.

His journey to become part of the Army Software Factory’s first cohort wasn’t straightforward. His career started with a stint as a cybersecurity specialist. “I did network audits,” Lowe told FCW. “I would go to the client [and] I would run some scans and try to break some things and [say]: ‘Hey, here’s what I got into. Here’s what I didn’t get into.’ And then I would leave. It wasn’t the most fulfilling job, but again it afforded me a lot of free time because the job didn’t take a whole lot of time, so that was great.”

In 2017, he went on a six-month motorcycle camping trip with his father, who was in the Marine Corps. Lowe originally intended to join the Army’s Special Forces, but an injury sidelined those dreams, and after his father’s death, he decided to enlist as an infantryman. 

“In early 2018, I lost my dad, and when that happened, I realized I don’t want to have regrets when my time comes to meet whatever maker we might have,” Lowe said. 

Because of his background in cybersecurity and his experience as a junior enlisted infantryman, Lowe came into the software factory with ideas for bringing automation into daily operations, such as scheduling and deconflicting Army activities.

Finding hidden tech talent

Lt. Col. Vito Errico, co-director of the Army Software Factory, told FCW that he believes there is “mislabeled or underutilized, hidden tech talent already inside an organization of about 485,000 people. We’ve got combat medics who are completely self-taught in fields of platform engineering, but…the recruiter pushed them toward more traditional Army disciplines…. And so if you take all of those what I would call tech misfits and sort of put them in one place and organize them and resource them properly, we think you could do something pretty magical.”

The software factory is now training its second cohort of in-house “tech misfits.” Co-Director Maj. Jason Zuniga said: “Over the past year, it’s been…