Finding My ‘Tribe’ Helped Me Transition From the Military to a PhD Program

Teresa Fazio

Photo courtesy of Teresa Fazio

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April 21, 2024 at 1:32AM UTC

Veterans and those who love them make no shortage of sacrifices on behalf of this country. But one sacrifice that’s perhaps not as readily acknowledged is the obstacles both veterans and military spouses can face when building out their careers in the civilian realm. This Veteran’s Day, Fairygodboss and Getting Hired asked folks in the veteran and military family community to share the ways this identity has aided and at times impeded them professionally, as well as their No. 1 pieces of advice to fellow military community jobseekers. 

Do you believe veterans and their families should have the right to build civilian careers free of obstacles and biases? Show your support and #Pledge4VetFamilies here.


Who: Teresa Fazio

What: freelance writer

Where: New York, NY 


How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?

I’ve been doing this for eight months. Previously, I worked for six years in technology commercialization: three years in a venture firm, and three years helping university inventions get to market.

What factors were most important to you in transitioning from a military to civilian job? Are there any challenges associated with that transition that people may not be aware of?

I transitioned from being a military officer to being a graduate student in a PhD program, which was interesting, because undergrads don’t salute. You have to find — or make — your new tribe. That took me about two years. I got out of the Marine Corps in 2006, slightly before veterans’ organizations were reactivating and expanding. But there were a couple of other vets in my program, and the rest of the students in my year became my urban family. 

What did your company do to help ease the transition, and how have you felt supported working here?

The company that was most military-friendly was Allied Minds, having at least one veteran founder and several more on staff when I joined. Some of my colleagues’ leadership style and vocabulary was very familiar from my days as a Marine. 

Do you believe your military background has provided you with any unique perspectives or talents that aid your career today? 

My military background helped the most in my role scouting federal lab technologies as a basis for startup companies. Having been a Marine communications officer gave me the street cred of being a beneficiary of military technology while deployed. I’d love to pivot into writing about federal technology ecosystem. 

What’s the first (and/or last) thing you do at work every day? 

During a day of writing, the first thing I do is turn off my computer’s wifi connection to minimize distractions. The last thing I do is to check my calendar for the following day and make a few notes on what to write about. There’s no typical workday, though, especially if I’m hammering out edits for an upcoming piece! 

What about outside of work — how do you most enjoy spending your time?

I love skateboarding, but an injury kept me sidelined for the past year, so I’ve had to get more creative with biking, swimming, and crossfit workouts. And the outdoors perpetually calls to me; New York has some great trails north of the city, and in the past few years my partner and I have backpacked in Nepal and Italy. 

What’s the one career move you’ve made that you’re most proud of?

I’m really proud of making space to write full-time now. During my cubicle-dwelling days, I scribbled story ideas on post-its and dreamt of having the opportunity to write at the pace I do now. I’ll probably go back to having at least a part-time day job, but I’m grateful to have taken this life-sabbatical. 

What’s your #1 piece of advice for women, and especially other women veterans, who are looking for jobs right now?

You and your dreams are absolutely worth fighting for. Do the best you can to align your day-to-day actions with that little inconvenient voice that pops up and tells you what your dream job is. When work gets you down, make time for recovery—meditation, exercise, family, whatever feeds your soul—and then get back out there. And forgive yourself when things don’t go as planned – despite what social media posts suggest, no one’s life is perfect! 

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