Q&A with Kevin Militello
Kevin spent many years in the military before joining Ford as a software engineer. He’s found camaraderie and a sense of belonging as a member of the Ford Veterans Network employee resource group. Not only is he living what he describes as his dream job at Ford, but he also has an opportunity to use his military experience to connect with and help others.
I’m the technical lead on a team that integrates Ford cloud services with third-party products. We launched Amazon Alexa integration for Ford and Lincoln customers in the home.
My family has always been a Ford family, driving Ford vehicles. In fact, my parents met at the Chesterfield Trim Plant. There was never a second thought about other companies. I joined the military after high school. I deployed to Iraq from 2006 through 2007. When I returned home, I was trying to decide what to do next – should I continue as full-time military or return to civilian life? After a short stint as an Army project officer, I found out there was a position at Ford as an iOS developer on the SYNC AppLink development team. I submitted my résumé and I got the job – my dream job. This job matched my information technology background in the Army.
I am also part of the Ford Veterans Network Group, an employee resource group. I serve as a National Guard and Reserve Affairs member. Using my military experience, I can help employees who are currently in the military or who used to serve work through company policies, etc. We also make sure that when someone returns from leave, we are there to help them with any issues. I like to say we help them mesh both worlds.
I’m an Army major, which means at this point in my career, I’ve amassed 16 years of leadership and management experience. I’m not a manager at Ford, but I do bring leadership skills, an understanding of how to work with people and how to deal with stress or personal conflict situations. Just making sure that we continue to work as a team, finding a good way to get past our differences and move forward. The military is very team-focused. I have a lot of good training that I apply in the workplace.
The Veterans Network Group is open to all Ford employees, regardless if they were in the military or not. These fantastic people like to give back to the community. With the Veterans Network Group, there’s a sense of community and camaraderie; we can tell each other stories and we know that everybody understands. In addition, there is diversity. We all come from different backgrounds and different branches of the military. In the Veterans Network Group, there’s a “coming together.” And as we come together, we can tell our Ford story to each other.
It’s important to let the community know Ford is part of it, and it’s important to exchange ideas with people in the community. I’ve done charity dinners where I had an opportunity to help raise money for 9/11 victims. We’ve actually done a couple of charity partnerships with one of our Ford competitors, but regardless of that, it was still us coming together for a cause and helping those in need.
The diversity is awesome, hearing about different traditions and different foods, especially during the holiday season. The diversity opens up your eyes to other opinions, and it makes you think about things outside of just your bubble. If we're of one mindset, we might build a car that's only for a certain segment of the population. That's not what we do here. The different cultures influence how we think, which then ensures we are building products for everyone, not just a select few.
I never thought of programming in the automotive industry, even though I came from a Ford family. I never thought about writing code for Ford. Now that I’m here, and focused on the trends of connected vehicles and autonomous vehicles, I understand the car is one giant computer and that software will continue to be important. Moreover, connecting the car to other things like Alexa is important. As technology trends continue, it will be important that software developers look at things like cybersecurity – not just writing applications. There are many opportunities as technology continues to change and many professions have a place at Ford.
I would tell them that new ideas are never bad ideas and that you should always try to bring fresh ideas to the table. In my area, we are always looking for new trends. Sometimes I pinch myself about what I’m working on and the effect that I can have, even on my small team. Five years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be doing what I’m doing today. My advice is to keep that drive, think about what’s coming up next and do the right thing for the customer.
I have my dream job. It’s a fantastic opportunity. I represented Ford at a Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. To get to work with software and bring new technologies to customers is awesome.
It’s important to me because, as a team, we work together and have each other’s backs. Whether it’s to solve a technical problem or share a story, it feels great to come to work.