Blend salutes: Acknowledging and supporting our veterans | Blend
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November 10, 2021 in Blendkind

8 minutes

Blend salutes: Acknowledging and supporting our veterans

Join us as we learn more about some of Blend’s veterans and discuss the ways we can support veterans today and all year long.

It’s no secret — we’re investing in a diverse and inclusive workforce at Blend, and we’re committed to promoting awareness of and providing resources to underserved communities within Blend and beyond. One of the pillars of our diversity, inclusion, and belonging efforts is Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). We currently have ten ERGs, and each one plays a vital role in ensuring that those different communities have a voice and can actively influence our company policies and culture. Today we’re happy to shine a spotlight on the Blend Salutes ERG and a few of its veteran members.

Standing in good stead

The Blend Salutes ERG is on a mission to promote a nationwide network of affiliated councils to ease the veteran transition from the military to the private sector while focusing on further diversity and awareness of veterans at Blend. As veterans return to civilian life, providing support is crucial, and Blend Salutes offers a safe space where former servicemen and women can come together to bond over shared experiences, work on professional development, and raise awareness at Blend of the value that veterans provide.

White rectangular card featuring headshots of Blend Salutes ERG Co-leads Lawrence Tsang and Anthony Scalabrino

The Blend Salutes ERG is co-led by Lawrence Tsang (security) who, wanting to serve and lead soldiers, served on active duty in the Army for four years. Joining Lawrence is Anthony Scalabrino (solutions engineering), who fulfilled his childhood dream by serving as a Navy Pilot for over nine years after graduating from the US Naval Academy. ERG co-leads at Blend rotate every six months, and in addition to financial compensation for their time and engagement, they manage their ERG by inspiring members, developing goals, planning programs and activities, and maximizing ERG visibility.

In support of newly hired military veterans who have little to no experience with the private sector, Blend Salutes created the Veteran Onboarding and Mentoring Program, which is designed to help newly hired veterans navigate the onboarding process, get acquainted with different departments, and connect with a designated mentor to ease the transition.

Blend also partners with BreakLine, an organization that provides veterans and other underserved communities with education and coaching to help land positions at top tech companies. The Blend Salutes ERG members play an active role in maintaining that partnership by attending regular meetings and working to increase awareness for the program and its services.

To further support these efforts, we’re becoming a verified member of the Department of Defense (DOD) SkillBridge program to give service members the opportunity to gain civilian work experience during the last 180 days of their military service.

So much owed by so many to so few

November 11 is part of the American collective consciousness, and it holds special meaning for the people who have worn our nation’s uniform. But unless you’ve served, have been a child or spouse of a service member, or even work with veterans as they reintegrate civilian life, Veterans Day might not be much more than another day on the calendar. And that’s okay — we don’t know what we don’t know.

One of the best ways we can honor veterans — on Veterans Day and throughout the entire year — is acknowledging their work and the sacrifices they made for our country. We are honored that several members of Blend Salutes took the time to talk to us and give us some insight into their military and civilian career journeys.

Headshot Alicia Livingston
Alicia Livingston, Software Quality Engineer

Alicia Livingston

Can you tell us about yourself?
For ten years I was a military (Raven) police officer for the United States Air Force. A Raven Police Officer goes through special training to help detect, deter, and counter threats to Air Mobility Command (AMC) Aircrafts and provide protection measures. I asked to be stationed at Travis Air Force Base (AFB) to be closer to family, but after I joined, 9/11 occurred and from that point on I traveled to a lot of different places, including the Middle East, Puerto Rico, and Germany. There were only three women in my whole squadron and we held it down. I have marksmanship in multiple weapons and sometimes I volunteer to teach weapon safety.

What brought you to the military?
No one in my family had joined and I wanted to be the first. I chose the Air Force because every branch of service has a quality recruitment goal built around Category (CAT) IIIA and CAT IIIB enlistments, not actual scores. The Air Force has the highest goal for CAT IIIA recruits.

What brought you to Blend?
During bootcamp we visited Blend and saw that people actually looked happy to be working. Compared to other companies we saw, there were more than three female engineers, and then of course there was Ulysses [Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Blend]. Our whole cohort absolutely loved his energy and we all wanted to be part of that.

How does your prior service impact your work or the way you work at Blend?
The military is really big on camaraderie: mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together. That is something we have on my current team at Blend. We spend a lot of time together and we all work together. If one person is blocked or stuck, we come together to see if we can help. The service also believes in taking accountability and learning from mistakes, which is another parallel with Blend: we learn from our mistakes and we move on.

How does Blend support you personally and professionally?
As a mother, Blend has and is still helping me during the pandemic. I was able to work from home full-time and still take care of my household every day. If I need to take time off, there are no questions. But the biggest thing? I am able to be myself.

What impact does the Blend Salutes ERG have on your experience?
It always feels good to be around people from all walks of life, but with the Blend Salutes ERG you have one major thing in common: being on the same team. There is a mutual understanding and respect among all service members that is hard to put into words, but it’s there.

James Davidson Headshot
James Davidson, Software Engineer on the Blend Close team

James Davidson

Can you tell us about yourself?
I served as a geospatial-imagery intelligence analyst with the United States Air Force for nine and a half years. I have been stationed in Virginia, Texas, Idaho, and California.

What brought you to the military?
I originally joined the military because my mom had served in the Coast Guard for 20 years. Growing up, I always knew that I would serve in the military after finishing school.

What brought you to Blend?
What interested me most about Blend was the platform they are building to help modernize the mortgage industry.

How does your prior service impact your work or the way you work at Blend?
I think the discipline and the time management skills I learned in the military help shape the way I work at Blend. It takes a lot of effort to create and stick to a schedule while being fully remote, and that experience allows me to be productive.

How does Blend support you personally and professionally?
Personally? Through all of the ERGs and what they have to offer. Professionally? Blend offers a lot of resources for me to grow as an engineer.

What impact does the Blend Salutes ERG have on your experience?
The impact from Blend Salutes has been the ability to connect with other veterans and to help them transition into Blend. It also helps with finding resources that are available to veterans that can be useful in my position here at Blend.

Ian Gerson Headshot
Ian Gerson, Business Analyst, Title365 Application Engineering

Ian Gerson

Can you tell us about yourself?
I have served in the Army and continue to serve in the Army Reserve, all of which I have been doing for the last 21 years. I have deployed several times for Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.

What brought you to the military?
A desire to serve the country and college benefits.

What brought you to Blend?Fellow veterans at Title365 encouraged me to join the company.

How does your prior service impact your work or the way you work at Blend?The flexibility and patience I learned in the Army is extremely applicable to integration engineering and production support. In my current role in the Army Reserve, I develop and provide courses of action based on situations as they arise. This is also similar to my role as a business analyst: developing courses of action to meet business or software challenges.

How does Blend support you personally and professionally?
I get to learn new things all the time.

What impact does the Blend Salutes ERG have on your experience?
A sense of camaraderie and belonging to a group with similar experiences. It’s a good place to go and be able to support other veterans and participate in veterans outreach.

Blend salutes you

Ongoing education, advanced training, unwavering support: these are just three ways we can assist our veterans as they move on to the next chapter of their professional lives. But sometimes support is as simple as giving people the recognition they deserve. On this Veterans Day, we’d like to say to the members of Blend Salutes and veterans across the nation: we salute you — today and every day.

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