Beyond the Uniform podcast

Beyond the Uniform

Justin M. Nassiri

Beyond the Uniform is a show to help military veterans navigate their civilian career. Each week, I meet with different veterans to learn more about their civilian career, how they got there, and what advice they'd give to other military personnel.

100 Episodes

  • Beyond the Uniform podcast

    BTU #409 - Investing in Cybersecurity (Ken Gonzalez)


    Why Listen: Ken is an absolute Rockstar. His career includes working at some of the most iconic brands in Silicon Valley; Siebel Systems, McAfee, AVAST Software, FireEye, and now founding and running his own investment firm, NightDragon. Here are six different things to keep an ear out for in this episode. First of all, why veterans should consider a career in cybersecurity and what the characteristics of this industry are. Second, what life is like as a mid to late-stage investor. Third, the one thing everyone overlooks when it comes to networking. Fourth, using the lens of fun learning and money to evaluate career shifts. Fifth, why you should always take a job interview even if you're happy at your current job. And sixth, an overview of the corporate development role, something we've never talked about on the show. As always at you'll find the show notes for this episode with links to everything we discussed, as well as 408 other episodes just like this all provided for free. About Ken: Ken Gonzalez is the Managing Director of NightDragon, an investment and advisory firm focused on investing in growth and late-stage companies within the cybersecurity, safety, security, and privacy industry. Prior to NightDragon, Ken was the Managing Director of ForgePoint Capital. Previously, he led the strategy and corporate business development functions at FireEye, AVAST Software, McAfee, and Siebel Systems (now part of Oracle) and was responsible for acquisition target selection, deal negotiation, and post-merger integration. He also served in the United States Army as an infantry officer with the 82nd Airborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment.
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    BTU #408 - 0 to 2,100 Employees (Alex O'Brien @ Cardinal Group)


    Why Listen: I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have this conversation with Alex. I reached out to him via LinkedIn because I saw he was in Denver, and he was a Marine who has done incredible things as an entrepreneur and basically treated this interview as part two of a conversation with him. Here's a couple of things that stood out to me that I hope you benefit from this interview. At one point, Alex says, I don't know anything, pay me and teach me. I think that's such a great thought as he was taking different jobs as he was starting his company; such a great way to approach anything, which is find something that can make money and teach you a skill set. I really appreciate his lessons on patience. You'll hear that in his 15-year journey of building up a real estate company that spans so many different functional areas now, but it wasn't an overnight success. He also talks about pounding the rock. It's not a single pound that cracks the rock. But it's the repeated relentless intention of showing up every day. I think there's a lot there that I can learn as well going along with that his story really has these threads of constant improvement. And I'm just appreciating his thoughts on inclusivity and how creating an incredible place to work really depends on understanding each unique person, their history, and what they're wanting out of life. And then you can create and craft an environment that's right for them. It was really powerful to think of that from a cultural standpoint.    About Alex: Alex is the Chief Executive Officer at Cardinal Group Companies, a fully integrated real estate investment, construction development, marketing, and management firm specializing in opportunistic and value-added investments throughout the United States. Alex started out at Miami University after he served in the Marine Corps for four years as a Logistics Officer. He started the Cardinal Group out of the Marine Corps, and over the last 15 years, has bootstrapped his company. For those of you that are unfamiliar with that term, bootstrap means he did not bring on outside investment. He bootstrapped his covenant over 2100 employees, somehow finding time to earn an MBA at Chicago's Booth School of Business along the way.
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    BTU #407 - True Made Foods (Abe Kamarck)


    Why Listen: I enjoyed this conversation; Abe's honesty, his directness in revealing the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, as well as the many pivots that he's experienced in his own life. He started True Made Foods seven years ago when he was 38. He had four kids. It was not necessarily in line with what he did in his background. They are growing rapidly. They were named one of the top 10 most innovative food companies of 2021. In this interview, I appreciated how he talked about how most people get jobs through their network, not the front door. And when you leave the military, you're almost starting with an empty network. He talks about how big-name degrees at big schools don't solve everything. He talks about going to Bulgaria and taking over a plastics company to do turnaround work. He also talks about how his four kids were eating ketchup and he couldn't get them to stop. So he wanted to address a problem around his table. I love what he shares about saying no to growth and being honest about when you're ready to grow. About Abe: Abe is the CEO and Founder at True Made Foods. Prior to True Made Foods he had an eight-year career as a Naval Aviator, where he deployed around the world and for OIF. Post Navy, Abe lived and worked as an entrepreneur in emerging and frontier markets, including China, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Ghana, Uganda and Lebanon. He launched multiple businesses in difficult environments and helped raise debt and equity capital for SMEs in Africa and China.
  • Beyond the Uniform podcast

    BTU #406 - A Well Designed Financial Plan (Imperium Capital)


    Why Listen: Normally on the show, I have a military veteran as my guest. We talk about what they do, how they got there, and advice to others seeking to do the same. Today I am doing that, but with three guests, two Army and West Point grads, one Naval Academy and fellow Submariner, who joined forces to found Imperium Capital. There's a lot that I love about this interview. It is a blend of talking about financial planning and tips that anyone listening can apply to their career to get themselves more financial freedom and stability, as well as a lot about entrepreneurship and building up the skill sets. Here are a couple of things that stood out to me. First of all, I love the story of how they met and decided to start this company. And you're going to get three different perspectives on what drew these people to the finance industry and also to entrepreneurship. They are three different versions with some overlap, which was cool to see. What I love, as well, is that they each had clarity and what they were wanting in their career. And that plays a role in financial planning; they talked about the clarity you need when it comes to finances. But you can also see that clarity applied in each of their career journeys. One thing that I learned in this interview was how you can take risks in your career outside of the military in a way that you might not be able to in the military, and how it's a way to get insights around what you like and dislike, and how it gives you room to explore. We talk about the advantages of working within a big company and learning a trade skill set before going on to entrepreneurship. We talked about interviewing companies rather than being interviewed by them. We talk a lot about finances, and just a lot of things that are top of mind for me, as I grow my family. And I know you will benefit from that as well.    About Imperium Capital’s team: Christopher Rojewski started out at West Point in 2011. He served in the Army for eight years. And then he spent two and a half years between New York Life Insurance and Northwestern Mutual. Then he co-founded a company called Imperium Capital, which we're going to talk about today.  Brandon Stevenson was at West Point in 2007, ten years in the Army, and then four years at Northwestern Mutual. Nicholas Birger was at the Naval Academy, the oddball of the group. He went to Harvard Kennedy School, close to nine years on submarines, and then at Northwestern Mutual.
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    Reflections on September 11th


    Janell Hanf sent me an email yesterday morning asking about my experience at the Naval Academy on September 11th. Here is a quick episode sharing more about that experience and my hope this day to honor those who lost their lives that day, those who served that day, and those drawn to service thereafter.
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    BTU #405 - Taking a Company Public During a Pandemic (Bruce Cleveland)


    Why Listen: As an entrepreneur focused on marketing, it was an extreme honor to interview today's guest, Bruce Cleveland. Bruce is an absolute Silicon Valley legend, having worked in operational roles at companies including Oracle, Apple, and Siebel Systems. In addition to that, he has worked in venture capital for 15 years, where he has personally generated over a billion dollars in returns. This includes his work at InterWest Partners, one of the most respected VCs in the world, but also as the founder of Wildcat Venture Partners where he worked for five years. He is now the Chief Marketing Officer of a company called He just took that company public. It was founded by Tom Siebel of Siebel Systems, who has now created three different billion-dollar ventures. We talk about marketing, the CMO role, artificial intelligence, venture capital, and more.  As always, at you'll find show notes with links to everything we discuss, as well as a lot of books and great resources that Bruce recommended. About Bruce: Bruce Cleveland is the Chief Marketing Officer at, a leading enterprise AI software provider for accelerating digital transformation with nearly 700 employees listed on LinkedIn. raised over $228 million before going public in December of 2020. Bruce started out at West Point with the class of 1980. He left early to pursue a career in technology including time at Oracle, Apple, Siebel Systems, nine years as a General Partner at investment firm InterWest Partners and more.
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    BTU #404 - Leading at the Highest Level (LTG Robert Caslen)


    Why Listen: It is always intimidating speaking with a flag officer. And that all said General Caslen made that so easy. He's such a gracious man. He served for over 43 years in the military, including being Superintendent at West Point. He was at the Pentagon on 911. He snuck back in to assist with fighting fires and ensuring that his colleagues were safe. He has no shortage of unbelievable experiences in the military. After the military, he went on to become the president at the University of South Carolina, so continued leading at the highest level in a civilian capacity. We cover a lot of ground. We talked about mistakes he made in his transition out of the army. You've heard them before, but it's reassuring to hear them from someone at his level. We talk about the differences and similarities between military leadership, academic leadership. We talked about what it was like leading the University of South Carolina through COVID-19, and I appreciate the General's candor. We talked about his recent resignation from the school and just learning about that situation. There are some great takeaways there for anyone aspiring to lead at a high level. Then we talk about comfort zone, and I appreciate, in contrast, a lot of things we talked about previously, this sense of really being out of your comfort zone and being willing to fail, make mistakes, and to recover.    About Robert: Robert Caslen is the former President of the University of South Carolina and the President of the University of South Carolina system, as well as the 59th Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point. He also serves as HigherEchelon Special Advisor on Executive Leadership and Character Development in his 43 years of military service in the United States Army. He has done far too much to ever encompass in a brief bio and we're going to touch on those things, including an unbelievable role in 911 and many other situations.
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    BTU #403 - Buying and Growing a Healthcare Company (Daniel Reese)


    Why Listen: My guest today is an entrepreneur, but not the type that you usually think about. We've had a couple of guests on the show who have done what is called a search fund, which is what I thought I was doing most of my time at Business School. Rather than coming up with an idea, which many people struggle to do and starting your own company, a search fund enables you to raise money, to go out and find a company, usually a mom and pop type shops, something that's doing well that could use a new owner, new management, you purchase that company, and then grow it from there, which is what my guest today did. He purchased a company with 20 employees, and he's grown it to many more than that 20 employees. We talk a lot about that, his advice on search funds and advice on entrepreneurship, what it's like managing outside of the military versus inside of the military. Just really a lot of great advice for those of you considering entrepreneurship.    About Nic: Daniel Reese is the CEO of IntellaTriage, the number one provider of tailored nurse triage solutions. After graduating from the Naval Academy, he served on nuclear submarines and then attended Harvard Business School. Daniel acquired IntellaTriage through an entrepreneurial vehicle called a search fund.
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    Inadvertent Viral Post (Paul David)


    Why Listen: This is a quick short episode in between our normal format of Beyond the Uniform, which is me interviewing military veterans about their civilian career, what they did, how they got there, and advice for how you can do the same. So today’s guest is someone who is not a military veteran, but I love this story. It's something that I did for my company, and I wanted to share it here as well. I put together a three-minute video that's worth checking out if you like Paul's story. So here's the backstory. I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn, and my company does a lot with marketing technology. Last week, when I was on LinkedIn, I saw a post by a man called Paul David, who had gotten 200,000 likes on his post, which roughly translates to at least 6 million people who saw this post. So immediately, it caught my eye, and I reached out to Paul. First, I did a little bit of digging to see what he had been doing on social media, and what led to this literally overnight success. He will talk about this in the interview; he posted this at night, went to bed, and woke up, and he had 1000s of people who had messaged him, so I wanted to also reach out to him and learn more about his story. I think this was a great story especially for those of you who are interested in marketing and promoting yourself, your business, your product, whatever it is. It's just interesting for me to hear the stories of how people have managed to get attention. But I also think it's a great reminder of the power of knowing who you are in being authentic and courageously vulnerable. And Paul exhibits all of those things. 
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    BTU #402 - Find Your Mission (Nic McKinley)


    Why Listen: This is one of the more energizing conversations I've had on the show. In addition to serving in the Air Force, working in the State Department, serving in the CIA, and now running two different companies - one of them designed to fight human trafficking - Nic is needless to say, an amazing human being. As a founder of two companies, his biggest advice to entrepreneurs is to not start a company. We talk about how success is opportunity meeting preparation, and how oftentimes we focus on motivation when we should be focused on preparedness and the reasons why we are doing things. We talk a lot about mission and some of the best tactical advice I've heard from a guest about how to specifically and tactically uncover your next mission. We talk about the choices that we make every single day and how we have limited opportunities and being precise in what we say yes to, and better and more important, what we say no to. We talk about not just having compassion and empathy lead the tears, but having that lead to motivation. We talk about so much on this show. And I think it's one of the few episodes I would say is worthy of three or four listens.  About Nic: Nic McKinley is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of VERAFĪ, a private intelligence and due diligence firm specializing in collecting, analyzing, and presenting intelligence so you can make confident decisions about key hires and investments. He is also the Founder and CEO of DeliverFund, a nonprofit private intelligence firm that disrupts human trafficking markets by providing intelligence and delivering specialized analytics about human trafficking activities to law enforcement authorities. He is a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, where he served as both pararescuemen and as a pararescue instructor and a pararescue team leader. He has also worked for both the US Department of State as well as the Central Intelligence Agency.

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