We talk with the Pathfinder Labs founder about FourBlock’s Career Readiness Program and how her own company is assisting veterans with civilian reintegration.
Service: United States Army (active duty, human and counter-intelligence/MI) 2003-2012, SFC (E7), OEF and OIF, Purple Heart
Education: Cornell University (BS and MEng) Class of ’02. Currently Baruch College (MBA focused in data analysis and information systems)
FourBlock Affiliation: Associate Instructor for FourBlock NYC
Current Employer: Pathfinder Labs, Inc. (www.pathfinder.vet)
Position: Founder and CEO
Hobbies: Mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking and outdoor things, computer and sci-fi things, my old and kind of dumb cats
U.S. Army veteran Elana Duffy is the founder and CEO of Pathfinder Labs, Inc., an exceptional company focusing on military to civilian reintegration. In 2018, Duffy joined FourBlock as an associate instructor, providing members of the foundation’s NYC cohort with her reintegration expertise.
We recently spoke with Duffy to discuss her work in the veterans space and how organizations like Pathfinder Labs and FourBlock are helping veterans and their families during the difficult transition from active duty back into civilian life.
FourBlock: What barriers did you face during your transition from active duty back into civilian life?
Duffy: I didn’t plan my exit very well, and didn’t really have much of a network outside of some old college friends. Because it was a medical retirement and I didn’t want to leave the service in the first place, I was unsure about what I might do if it turned out I couldn’t get a federal position. I lined up a federal job, but with the freeze that was taking place at the time, ended up not being able to start, which meant I needed money. I floated around with engineering jobs and couldn’t make up my mind on school or work, and wasn’t getting the help I needed, in part because I didn’t know what I needed or how to get it. I eventually fell into some veteran networks and started building contacts, mostly through volunteering, but these struggles definitely were the impetus to founding and building my company.
What drove you to become involved with FourBlock?
I heard about the program but it never fit with my schedule, and then I started a company, so it wasn’t really until I started interacting with the instructor team that I really became involved. I think it’s a great program, and I’m happy to put my network to further good use in connecting veterans in the course with positions that might interest them.
Has the Career Readiness Program impacted your own transition in any way?
My work has become helping veterans, and FourBlock has reinforced this mission with each course of instruction. The discussions are always interesting, and there is always something to learn.
What have been your key takeaways from the course?
There are a lot of similarities among the veteran community, but these can and should be translated to civilian life to find the commonalities there. And of course, the network is the most important thing!
Duffy founded her aforementioned company, Pathfinder Labs, in 2015. According to its website, Pathfinder Labs “was created to ease military veteran transitions back into civilian life.” The service provides “veterans and their friends and family members a way to rate, review, and connect with local community resources.”
What do you love about your current company?
I founded Pathfinder.vet in an effort to help ease the reintegration of veterans and families through the use of artificial intelligence, and I love the mission. Each person I bring onto the team understands this mission, and makes it a priority.
How is it supporting, or looking to support, the veteran community?
We are not just a search, connect, and review mechanism for veterans to find local support and resources; we are working with the resources to help grow and connect the entire community that affects military and civilian reintegration. We are also building out a training platform for veterans and spouses who want to improve on programming skills, hosting events for local (and virtual) communities to come together and learn about technology and civic engagement, and staying heavily involved in area activities.
What one piece of key advice would you give to veterans who are currently transitioning?
Always remember: the last 4 or 10 or 20 years of your career were great, but you still have probably at least 40 to go in life. Focus on what is next and how you are going to continue to contribute, learn, and grow, because you aren’t done yet. Get involved and do more. Build a network by reaching out to military and civilian contacts alike. Talk to people, ask them for advice (people LOVE to give advice), and take advice from lots of sources to form your own opinions. Do what you like to do and network that way. So if you like to rock climb, join a climbing meet-up or club and ease into networking. You never know who you will meet, after all, and what they might be able to add to your life or what you might add to theirs.