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From Flight Suit to Golden Hoodie: How Salesforce’s Military Programs Helped David Nava Find His Post-Navy Career

Trailblazer Veteran David Nava

Five-year-olds usually have some pretty interesting career aspirations. Astronauts. Elephant trainers. Paleontologists. Those are what you’d expect when it comes to a kindergartener’s dream jobs. 

David Nava liked dinosaurs and spaceships just as much as the next kid, but he had different plans.

“I was five when I decided that I was going to be in the Navy,” he says.

‘The family business’

Joining the military was far less of a deliberate decision and more fulfillment of his destiny – a part of his DNA and military lineage that came with the territory of having the last name Nava.

“My great-grandfather was in the Navy,” Nava says. “My grandfathers, both of them served in World War II … My dad served in Vietnam and later in the Gulf War, my sister served … I just knew that I was going to serve.”

And starting in 1999, he did just that by accepting a commission as an Ensign in the Navy. His day (and night) job was jamming enemy radar and communications as a Naval Flight Officer.

And as part of his “collateral duties” – side jobs in addition to your main role – Nava also became his squadron’s legal officer, which put him in charge of the team’s legal paperwork. Then, he became a Schedules Officer, where he wrote aircraft flight schedules. Next, he became a Warfare Planner, where Nava drafted exercise and combat plans for jamming enemy radars, communications, and other electronics while also providing American forces and their allies advanced warning of potential threats.

Blazing a new trail after the Navy

Nava served, learned and defended his country for 20 years in the military, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander. During those two decades, he was deployed over Iraq for Operation Northern Watch, twice in Afghanistan and once in the Philippines for Operation Enduring Freedom. Over that time Nava found himself in challenging situations, but none would prepare him for what was to come. 

“The hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life was transitioning from the military,” Nava says. “Not only do I have to redefine my professional identity, I have to redefine my personal identity, my social identity. The military defined everything about my life, every decision that I’ve made; every thought that I had revolved and related in some way to the military.”

David Nava is seen here in his Officer Service Dress White (“Chokers”) uniform at the Naval War College in 2014.

Luckily, Nava was armed with the education, discipline and confidence that he gained while in the Navy. He knew he could likely figure out whatever was in front of him.

“That’s what we have to do, and we get very good at that. To being literally dropped in a new situation and getting up to speed very quickly, learning what we have to know to be successful, and then executing,” Nava says. 

So he took on the transition with gusto, armed with not only his military intangibles, but two Master’s degrees, a Project Management Professional certification, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification from Villanova, and a Certified Scrum Master certification.

He had a whole lot of credentials, but there was one nagging problem.

“I’d never had a job outside the military aside from a couple jobs in college, making pizzas,” Nava jokes. 

A lucky LinkedIn connection leads to a next chance

That would all change quickly. A chance LinkedIn encounter led him to Trailhead and eventually to Salesforce Military, which gives military veterans and their spouses free training, exams, and certifications, and helps line them up with career opportunities.

What I found at Salesforce is a career path that let me do all the things I love to do.

David Nava, Lead SOlution Engineer, Salesforce

And through the Salesforce Military program, one big hurdle is eliminated for veterans. The courses within the Salesforce program are made free to the Military Trailblazer community — a huge kickstart for those who are facing an experience and skills gap and are trying to find a way into a new career.

“I was like, okay, if it’s free, there’s no risk, I’ll go take a look at Salesforce.”

Within Salesforce Military, Nava found a dedicated group of professionals that work at Salesforce and help to support veterans’ transitions to careers in technology. He also learned about the Trailhead Military program.

“What I found at Salesforce is a career path that let me do all the things I love to do,” Nava says. “On that deep dive, that period of rediscovery, I had discovered that I love to create processes, fix processes, build them from scratch … That’s really when I doubled down and I decided, ’Hey, I’m all in, this is the company and the career path for me, and that’s what I’m going to do with my future.’”

Most of the work and studying is done during what Nava calls “the magic hours” – from 3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m.. “Nobody wants to be up at 3:00 a.m., nobody. My kids aren’t awake, my job, the folks that I work with are not awake, nobody’s awake. And so it was that time that I used to upskill. And I would do Trailhead, I would read books, I would work on my personal professional branding,” Nava said.

Nava eventually landed an internship within the Salesforce ecosystem at the “very military friendly” PolSource, which helps create bespoke solutions on the Salesforce platform for its customers. Then, after a year working there, Salesforce reached out, and he was eventually hired as a senior solutions consultant. 

Nava has been promoted twice since then – first to Senior Solution Engineer, then in February 2021, to Lead Solution Engineer. And in February 2022, Nava was awarded the coveted Golden Hoodie, reserved for the rarest of Salesforce Trailblazers who go above and beyond in their community.

For his dedication, work and volunteering, David Nava was awarded a ‘Golden Hoodie’ in February 2022.

Perseverance and determination lead to a ‘Golden Hoodie’

Knowing his history, Nava’s Golden Hoodie shouldn’t be a surprise. He began his Salesforce education earning his first three Trailhead badges: CRM for Salesforce Classic, Accounts & Contacts for Salesforce Classic, and Leads and Opportunities for Salesforce Classic. Then three more. Then five. Now? He’s up to nearly 2,000 badges earned. 

Or, to put it into perspective, out of 73,000-plus Salesforce employees, Nava is in the top 20 badge holders, and has his eyes set on number one. His LinkedIn bio sums it up pretty concisely: “Salesforce Golden Hoodie Recipient ☁️ | 19x Trailhead/myTrailhead Ranger 🧭 | 14x Salesforce Certified Application Architect 📐 | Navy Veteran ⚓️”.

Nava has always had the personal POV of “leaving a place better than I found it,” and so he gives back in the best way he knows how: By hosting weekly Salesforce Office Hours for Military Trailblazers and Allies to help them get started in the ecosystem. Pairing up with a different co-host each week, Nava has already led more than 50-plus sessions which were seen by more than 2,000 participants in the first year. 

Trailblazers see failure as a necessary part of the learning process … They get up, they dust themselves off, they go again.

DAVID NAVA, Lead Solution Engineer, Salesforce

It’s been a perfect combination: Nava’s military experience and intense desire to better himself (and others) paired with the free curriculum and programs within Salesforce Military and Trailhead Military make him – and veterans like him – perfect Trailblazers in the making. 

“Trailblazers don’t look at failure in the same way that other folks do,” Nava explains. “They see failure as a necessary part of the learning process … They get up, they dust themselves off, they go again. It’s this perseverance and this determination of will that makes a Trailblazer.”

David Nava mans the cockpit of his EA-6B Prowler over the skies of Afghanistan in the 2003-2004 timeframe.

More information:

  • Learn more about Salesforce’s commitment to Veterans here.
  • Read how another Salesforce employee helps continue a legacy in his work.

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