Supporting veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces is a central value at Rackspace, and they are represented throughout our ranks, from front line support staff to CEO Taylor Rhodes, a proud veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Rackspace also fully supports our employees who continue to serve in the reserves; we make every effort to assist them when duty calls.
This commitment was recently honored when Travis Mercier, manager of our Customer Security Operations Center, received the Patriot Award from the ESGR, which is the employer support office of the Secretary of Defense.
This was the first time a Rackspace employee received the award, which meant a lot to many at a company with so many veteran employees and ties to members of the armed forces as well as active partnerships with branches of the U.S. Military.
The award recognizes employers who have provided exceptional support to U.S. National Guard and Reserve service members and their families through a wide range of categories including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment and granting leaves of absence when necessary.
Supporting soldiers’ service, even when called on short notice, and doing things such as making sure their salaries and benefits continue uninterrupted while they’re away, are all taken into account as part of the award.
Mercier was nominated by Sean Nikkel, a U.S. Army Reserve soldier who works in the security operations center, where more than 60 percent of the employees have served in the military or as contractors.
“Travis has been extremely supportive of the U.S. National Guard and Reserve soldiers here at Rackspace,” Nikkel said. “Over half of us are veterans from three different branches of service, and three of us are still actively serving as drilling reservists.”
As part of their reserve obligations, Nikkel added, employees occasionally have long drilling weekends in order to facilitate training and other duties.
“Travis has been more than understanding when I, or other reservists here, have had to flex our schedules or be off for those days where reserve duties bleed into our normal civilian jobs,” Nikkel said.
This level of flexibility is also needed during periods of annual training, or other times when the reservists are activated, which can come at short notice.
Mercier is also supportive of RackVet — the Rackspace employee support group for military veterans — and has helped facilitate tours of the security operations center for members of the Wounded Warrior Project. These meetings offer a window into cyber security opportunities for veterans, who may be considering their next career.
“As a manager, I see it as a priority to serve and support those who serve and support our nation,” Mercier said. “Many of the employees who directly report to me are armed forces veterans — our cyber analysts represent every branch of the U.S. military.”
Mercier said those serving as reservists often receive orders at short notice, so he works with them and their respective teams to ensure minimal impact to both their professional and personal lives.
“Veterans and reservists have skills and motivations that uniquely lend themselves to the cyber security profession and it is imperative to make an effort at an individual level to foster relationships with them,” he said.
“As a manager, I do this by offering opportunities for training and mentoring to veteran externs, encourage volunteer time for security operations center Rackers to work on veteran welfare projects, focus recruiting efforts to give job opportunities to individuals soon to depart or who have previously departed from military service, and I do my part to help veterans and reservists where I have the ability.”
This commitment to those who have served in the military also extends to active partnerships between Rackspace and the U.S. Military, most notably the 960th Cyberspace Operations Group, which is the only cyber group in the Air Force and is headquartered in San Antonio, TX.
When Rackspace — which is also headquartered in San Antonio — announced its partnership with the 960th in October 2015, Rackspace VP and Chief Information Security Officer David Neuman emphasized this commitment.
“Giving back is a big part of Rackspace’s ethos,” Neuman said, “so we are here to help when active duty service members are ready to transition” to the civilian world.
Rackspace Director of Cyber Security Daniel Clayton echoed Neuman’s comments and said he always seeks out veterans when he’s hiring.
“They have a level of leadership, and they know how to work as part of a team,” Clayton said.
He also expressed interest in bringing his Rackspace team, and even senior executives, to visit the 960th operations centers at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, “to see what working under pressure really means — and to see that the jobs done by those in uniform are actually quite similar to what we’re doing.”