I’m an Engineer Who Transitioned From the Military to a Civilian Job — Here’s My Top Advice for You

Sponsored by ASML

Megan Miller

Photo courtesy of ASML.

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April 19, 2024 at 3:23PM UTC
“I believe that self-doubt is one of the most pervasive emotions experienced by women every day in male-dominated industries, and it can be incredibly destructive,” says Megan Miller, the technical project lead in the facility design group for ASML
Miller has a careers-worth of experience in male-dominated fields herself — with a military background and a current position as an engineer who is focused on providing pre-installation documentation for customers with her team. So, what advice does she have for other women in similar work environments?
“My recommendations, especially for women early in their careers, are to find a mentor who you trust and find your community within your organization,” Miller shares. “Whether it’s through an employee network (EN), volunteerism, or just happy hour with a group of awesome ladies, find a place where you are seen and feel acknowledged.”
Here, Miller helps us understand how she takes her own advice and does just that. We’ll unpack her career journey, transition to civilian life, involvement in ENs and advice for other women.

What was it like to transition from a military to a civilian job?

Transitioning from military to civilian life was far more challenging than I expected it to be, personally and professionally.  My first civilian job was incredibly isolating and fairly unstructured. I didn't know it at the time, but these two aspects were really challenging for me coming straight from the military. I was also very surprised at the response of some customers due to the fact that I was a woman in a highly technical field service engineer position. The bottom line is that the transition into civilian life fell far short of my expectations and I didn't have the support I needed. This is why I think that finding the right job is crucial for that first step into civilian life. 
Overcoming these challenges was a process, and it didn’t happen overnight. It took years for me to truly adapt to civilian life, and to figure out what I needed from a job in order to feel fulfilled.

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

Absolutely, without a doubt. My military training provided me with all the basic technical knowledge and problem solving capabilities I use every day. The educational benefits also helped me earn a B.S. and M.S. after I separated from the military. I learned much more than just hard skill fundamentals — I learned how to interact with people across a spectrum of  cultures, nationalities, perspectives and ideologies. It really opened my eyes as to how incredibly diverse the U.S. is, which is part of why I’m involved in D&I activities with ASML. I want to see that awesome diversity reflected in the workplace.

Photo courtesy of ASML.

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

Just one piece of advice?! I think the best advice I could give is to first figure out what you need in order to be successful, and then figure out what you want in order to be fulfilled. It is easy to be blinded by a lucrative offer, especially in today’s job market, but ask yourself first what you need.
For instance, transitioning from the military into that first civilian job, I wanted a job with complete autonomy, but what I really needed was a job that provided some structure and accountability. It’s also okay if you don’t know what you want or need, so don’t be afraid to try new things! I’ve been separated from the military now for 15 years, and I think I’ve really just figured out in the last couple years what I need to be fulfilled with a job role.  

Tell us a bit about ASML’s D&I efforts and employee networks.

Diversity and Inclusion has always been integral to ASML’s culture. In the U.S., ASML’s D&I program began in 2020 when passionate employees inspired by the social justice movements in our communities came together to ensure that we were providing an inclusive and safe environment for all our colleagues. At this point, a large demand from employees sparked a collaboration with our leadership to prioritize creating a more intentional D&I program and hiring a Chief Diversity Officer to build strategy and structure.
Since this grassroots movement in 2020, the D&I program has grown by leaps and bounds, fueled by the passions of employees and leadership alike. Employees dedicate time to ENs and D&I programming in addition to their full work loads, so it feels like we have a vested interest in ASML as a culture, not just a company. The D&I programming and the ENs have gone from independent, site specific to U.S.-wide and are expanding globally with a Global Diversity & Inclusion Council. It is very rewarding to see how far the company has come in such a short time.

How and why did you first get involved in ASML’s D&I programs and/or employee resource groups?

When I joined ASML in 2018, I looked for ways to get other employees engaged on a personal level; however, I was traveling a lot for my position, and it was a challenge. In 2019, I organized volunteer events for the local office, but that obviously changed with COVID-19. Once I was grounded and the need for D&I programming became a necessity, I jumped at the opportunity to be involved. 
The why is actually a very complex answer, but the short story is that I saw issues that I felt needed to be addressed (from my perspective) on multiple levels. I’ve been involved throughout the process of creating and implementing D&I programming, and I volunteered to lead the workstream focused on Education and Awareness. After a little more than a year, it was incorporated into another workstream, and I pivoted to focus on the nascent Veterans EN, where I volunteered to be the co-lead of this EN. Involvement in aspects beyond my job really brings me a lot of personal satisfaction, an extended community within my organization and a sense of accomplishment that I would never otherwise feel.

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