An interview with one of SMSS’ members featuring her journey and achievements as a military spouse in a STEM career field.
Meet Hannah Becker. Hannah is originally from a small rural town in North Mississippi, outside of Tupelo (where Elvis Presley was born). After college, she married a US Army soldier and was eager to “get out and see the big world.” To her surprise, most of their army duty stations ended up being incredibly remote (think: Where the buffalo roam). Her spouse recently retired from the military, and they chose Pensacola, Florida to be their forever home. Hannah has a BS in Animal and Dairy Science from Mississippi State University, an MBA with Marketing concentration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management from American Public University. She is currently pursuing her second Master’s degree in Information Technology. She currently works as the Creative Director at Becker Digital, a veteran-owned marketing and public relations agency headquartered in Northwest Florida. Hannah enjoys working with organizational clients and providing digital communications strategy that help them connect with their communities.
What are some of your interests outside of the office?
I am an avid equestrian. I have an Arabian mare and a Friesian Sport Horse that I compete with in dressage. Thanks to the military, my horses have lived all over the continental United States and are quite the traveling pair. They seem to enjoy going new places and quickly acclimate to all types of weather – from blizzards on the Great Plains to hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.
How does your day start or what gets you out of bed in the morning?
I work remotely – a working arrangement that I absolutely love! On weekdays, I start my morning off with a horse training session or yoga class (during what used to be my commute hour) and try to be in my home office by 9:30 AM. I typically work on client projects from 10 AM to 4 PM and reserve the late afternoon for continuing education, networking, and new business development.
What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now?
I am currently working on an influencer marketing campaign to enhance outreach efforts for a national nonprofit organization. Influencer marketing is a relatively new digital marketing approach that incorporates communications-focused tools, like content marketing and public relations, with tech-based tools, like data analytics and social media, to create a highly targeted, digitally-facilitated strategy that can significantly enhance the organization’s online impact. While influencer marketing was once regarded as a here today, gone tomorrow approach, it has proven itself to be an effective communications tool that can readily connect organizations with online users that are otherwise immune to traditional advertisements.
What do you appreciate about your work environment?
Two things: location-independence and schedule flexibility. Developing a career that allowed for location independence and schedule flexibility has helped me continue pursuing my professional goals through the many seasons of military life – moving, erratic training schedules, combat deployments, and a post-war medical journey that required lengthy hospitalizations. My previous career goals of working full-time in agriculture and/or securing tenure at a public university were incompatible with the evolving demands of my family’s war-time military service. Consequently, I had to explore career options that allowed for more autonomy and remote working environments. Technology – specifically, marketing and public relations – provided me with the location independence and schedule flexibility I needed, coupled with extensive opportunities for upward mobility as both an employee and an entrepreneur.
What is your biggest achievement to date – professionally?
Being able to utilize my experiences and skillset to support our military community. As a marketing professional, I’ve had the opportunity to serve on executive teams with two organizations that worked to close the civilian-military divide. As a college instructor, I helped Iraq and Afghanistan veteran students with service-connected disabilities connect with VA education resources, coordinated with university disability services personnel, and educated university staff regarding post-9/11 military community needs and challenges. Additionally, I served on advisory councils with a state government agency and regional healthcare system where I was able to provide detailed information on the military community residing in the area and lead discussion on how the organizations could better serve military families. Raising community awareness of the military community has remained a top priority for me wherever my family resided. I love it when my professional skills and personal experiences can be of assistance in improving the quality of life for other military community members!
What do you like most about your job?
The world of marketing is always changing – thanks to changes in consumer behavior and tech advancements. It’s a fascinating field that requires professionals to stay on their toes, invest in continuing education, and always be on the lookout for innovative new strategies. In my current capacity as a Creative Director, I have the opportunity to assist organizations clients with customized strategies that help them connect with their target audiences. Every project is different – what worked for one client may not work for another client. In my current role, I’m always learning and thoroughly enjoy the variety that I encounter in this field. No two days are the same.
How do you see being a military spouse or being in the military space has helped you with your job?
Being a military spouse is incredibly helpful in my current role at Becker Digital, as the majority of our organizational clients are connected to the military community in some capacity (government, nonprofits, etc.). My family’s military-facilitated networks have helped Becker Digital grow much faster than other agencies operating in a similar space. We routinely recruit military-affiliated talent to help us provide top-quality services for our clients. As a veteran owned company, Becker Digital understands the unique demands of military life and work to create remote employment opportunities for other members of the military community.
What do you wish people knew about life in the military?
I wish non-military community members recognized the employment challenges military spouses and veteran caregivers face. Encountering unemployment rates that are FOUR TIMES that of our civilian counterparts is unacceptable. Finding a company that will hire you can be incredibly challenging. As a job seeker, I’ve been asked numerous inappropriate (and sometimes, illegal) questions regarding my marital status and military affiliation. An MBA recruiter once told me that I “had the resume of a drug addict” – referring to my family’s multiple relocations, courtesy of Uncle Sam. The idea that military spouses aren’t good hires due to frequent moves is not supported by data (Millennial professionals move more frequently than military families) and is an erroneous belief held by far too many hiring managers who are in a position to drive much-needed change. The inability to secure gainful employment while a military spouse only serves to further exacerbate military service-related stresses like deployment, injuries, and loss of loved ones. Additionally, military spouse’s limited career opportunities can make the servicemembers transition from the military especially challenging as it can contribute to unnecessary financial instability for the veteran’s family. Hiring military spouses really is the least civilians could do, given that they benefit daily from the freedom our nation’s servicemembers secure.
How do you feel like Professional Organizations like SMSS can help you with your career or professional goals?
Professionals organizations like SMSS have provided me with multiple networking and continuing education opportunities. Through SMSS’ member platform, I connected with other marketing professionals, identified fellowship opportunities, and accessed scholarship programs that assisted with my career goals. While still a relatively new organization, SMSS has become my #1 resource for all things STEM career related. If I have a question about new software programs or tech trends, I reach out to my SMSS network first to source recommendations. Other military-related professional organizations that I have found helpful include: Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network local chapters and MilSpouse Coders.
What advice would you give to new spouses about being in the STEM career field?
The STEM field offers a number of rewarding career opportunities that provide the opportunity to give back in multiple ways to your community. Given that my undergraduate degree was in agriculture, I felt incredibly unprepared to pursue additional tech-related education and employment positions. I mistakenly thought that all tech professionals had degrees in things like computer engineering; however, I quickly learned that my non-tech educational background was very instrumental in preparing me for advanced degree programs and STEM training. I took remedial courses, graduated with my MBA, taught myself how to code via free online courses, connected with mentors through the eMentor Program, and have prioritized continuing education in things like computer programming, cybersecurity and web design. Recognizing the barrier to entry into this industry was conquerable helped me identify customizable career opportunities that would work with – not against – the demands of military life.