Vets recruited through GEICO IT program win company's flag football championship

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2018 – A team comprised of mostly military veterans claimed victory in a recent GEICO flag football series, a fundraising competition that benefitted Children's National Health System.

Five teams of associates from various departments at GEICO headquarters in Chevy Chase, Maryland, donated money to compete in the weeks-long outdoor series of lunchtime games. After the last pass was thrown, the IT Vets squad stood victorious.

"We all just worked well together out there," said Cecil "CJ" McKenna, a software engineer and Army vet who formed the team. "We all share this type-A personality sense of competitiveness."

McKenna played alongside fellow Army vets Ethan Foster, Nathanael Caudill and Joshua Jackson and Navy vet William McLaughlin; their IT colleagues Abigail Andrews, Cynthia Cheng, Raymond Chepkwony and Devin Gamble rounded out the squad.

Victories aside, software engineer McLaughlin enjoyed the networking component of the competition.

"We have nearly 2,800 associates here at headquarters, so it is hard to get to know everyone," McLaughlin said. "It was fun meeting and playing against people from other departments."

GEICO's connection to the military stretches back to 1936, when the company offered policies exclusively to service members and government employees. Today, that connection remains strong and includes special discounts for active duty service members and veterans; a department dedicated to supporting the needs of the military community; and employment opportunities for vets and reservists.

In 2015, GEICO launched the 12-month-long Veteran's IT Professional Development program, which combines classroom work and real-world experience to transform vets with no previous tech experience into full-time GEICO IT associates. McLaughlin's wife, a GEICO associate, first told him about the program. Foster, a First Lieutenant in the Virginia Army National Guard, applied to the program after hearing about it through word-of-mouth.

"I started in March 2017 and have been able to begin a career as a software engineer while continuing my military career," Foster said.

GEICO Director of IT Talent Management Ted Robey oversees the Veteran's IT Professional Development program; he said it has been successful because veterans are especially well-suited for the demands of the tech field.

"The program has at its core the understanding that those who have served in the military are self-reliant, results oriented and have a strong understanding that a job needs to be seen through to its conclusion," he said. "Those characteristics serve IT well, but frankly they are attributes that are the key to success in any position."

The IT Vets team is spending no time basking in its victory. The players are going for another title in a new flag football series and have already amassed a 2-0 record.