Return to KLA Advance


Inclusion for All: KLA’s Military Veterans Talk about Transitioning to Careers in High-Tech Industry

Nov 29, 2022 8 min read

Whether they served in a nuclear submarine or an electronic maintenance unit, military veterans have transferable skills and values that can lead to long-term growth careers at KLA.

“Although not all military members have advanced degrees, many have hands-on experience in mechanical and electrical systems which, along with their culture of discipline, perseverance and teamwork, can put them on a path for high-technology jobs as civilians. They have the training and personal skills to excel working with customers and the ingrained ability to work on high-performing teams.”

Cheryl Gee, senior director, human resources, KLA

For these reasons, KLA has a focused program on recruiting military veteran talent. KLA participates in industry initiatives such as the SEMI VetWorks program to raise awareness of the opportunities in the semiconductor industry and at KLA. The company also reaches out to veterans at industry events and online recruitment events and by searching online professional profiles.

Veterans contribute across multiple functions at KLA, including engineering, manufacturing, procurement, service, supply chain and human resources. Many join KLA in customer support roles, traveling frequently to install or maintain KLA equipment at customer sites across the U.S. and around the globe. The company supports continuous learning, and many veterans earn bachelor’s or master’s degrees through the company’s tuition reimbursement program.

Chris Cavins, manager, U.S. indirect procurement operations, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“KLA is everyone-friendly”

As a procurement manager in the United States Air Force, Chris Cavins was responsible for buying everything from supplies to construction equipment – a job that helped to shape who he is today.

“The Air Force makes you adaptable to any situation,” he says. “The military is structured, but things can change on the fly, and I always had to be ready for something new. Often, changes would uproot your life for months, so I came to corporate life well-prepared for sudden change.”

After six years of military service, Chris was ready for a return to civilian life in 2015 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business management. In 2019 he was contacted by a KLA recruiter, and he joined the company with a job in procurement, bringing with him important lessons he’d learned in the military culture.

“The Air Force gave me the drive to be better and to respect everyone, which KLA also values,” Chris says. “It’s important to help people become better versions of themselves, because the best way to succeed is to help others succeed.”

Chris is currently working toward a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

How does he like KLA’s culture?

“We’re transparent in what we do, and we’re an employee-friendly company that’s very inclusive for everyone,” Chris says. “In fact, KLA is everyone-friendly – we have some great employee resource groups.”

Tony Coombs, test engineer, Newport, Wales, United Kingdom

“Can-do attitude and calm demeanor”

For Tony Coombs, transitioning from a radar technician in the British Army was made easier by having resettlement training within the military system that included training in civilian trades.

For 12 years, he served in the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), which maintains the Army’s mechanical, electronic, electrical and optical equipment. Although Tony found civilian life to be far different than military regimen, he came to KLA prepared with technical knowledge and the right mindset.

“Veterans have a can-do attitude and calm demeanor, so we don’t get fazed by deadlines or panic about things getting out of control,” Tony says. “We also have a wealth of problem-solving experience which we utilize very well. When reporting a problem, I often offer up a solution at the same time.”

And, he has knowledge to share.

“My team leaders know I am a veteran and very proud of my service to the country,” Tony observes. “They also recognize that I offer our younger people a wealth of experience, and I can impart that knowledge very well. I have trained several new employees, and it’s satisfying to see that they are improving all the time.”

Cass Dinsmore, talent strategist, Austin, Texas

“I use my experiences to try and help people put the pieces together”

When Cass Dinsmore completed her time in service with the United States Marine Corps in 2018, she faced and met the challenge of transitioning to civilian life. Now, she helps other veterans beginning their journey to new careers.

“As a Marine for five years, I was 24/7 gung-ho,” she explains, “and not having that Marine structure and lifestyle was very difficult at first. Since then, I’ve been doing a lot of mentoring for veterans and am learning these feelings seem to be the norm. I ask about their stories and make human connections.”

Cass came to KLA after a KLA recruiter found her profile on LinkedIn. “After researching KLA and learning about its branding, diversity and innovation I said, ‘That’s what I’m looking for,’” Cass recalls.

Her last military role as a staff sergeant was directing 65 Marines in a maintenance shop providing networking, data, telephone and satellite communication support to a division conducting critical military operations. That, combined with crash training in electronics earlier in her military career, “allowed me to speak KLA’s language, pick up the lingo and talk the company’s talk.”

As a recruiter focused on bringing veterans to KLA, Cass steps back into being the person she was when she left the Marines.

“I chose talent acquisition in part because I value everyone’s individual stories. I use my experiences to try and help people put the pieces together and figure out where they can be five years from now based on their own backgrounds,” she says.

Looking ahead, Cass will earn her master’s degree in strategic communication in December 2022 and hopes to pursue a Ph.D in industrial organizational psychology through KLA’s tuition reimbursement program.

Jeff Riese, senior field applications engineer, Chandler, Arizona

“KLA was outstanding” when activated for overseas deployment

As a signal officer in the United States Army, Jeff Riese planned, installed, operated and maintained voice, data and information systems. He joined KLA as a customer service engineer right out of college in 1995 while continuing to serve in the Arizona National Guard.

“KLA was my transition job, and returning to civilian life had challenges,” Jeff recalls. “The Army’s structure didn’t carry over, but handling stressful situations and working with teams did transition with me. Also, my field work diagnosing and troubleshooting issues with Army communications equipment transferred and gave me the kind of good start that’s hard to learn in college.”

For a while, Jeff managed two careers – one at KLA and the other as a National Guard member. He says “KLA was outstanding” when he informed the company that the military had called him to active duty and he would deploy to Iraq for a year. He retired from the Guard as a major after 23 years of service.

Soldiers, Jeff says, always challenge themselves as they progress in their careers.

“I apply that same philosophy to my KLA career by not focusing only on one product but exploring opportunities to advance after reaching a plateau point in a division,” he says. “Then I made the decision to keep progressing by pursuing an MBA with tuition reimbursement support so I can approach KLA’s business from a leadership perspective.”

How does he motivate 28 direct reports at KLA? 

“In the Army, you learn to have crucial conversations to influence people to do what you want them to do,” Jeff says. “One important thing that carries over to civilian life is setting the right example for others.”

Rum Bahadur Saru, assembly technician, Newport, Wales, United Kingdom

A sense of discipline and good quality

Transitioning from the British Army to a civilian job after almost 14 years of military service wasn’t easy at first for Rum Bahadur Saru. But because his work in the REME corps involved vehicle mechanics, he gravitated toward a manufacturing role where he believed his skills would transfer.

After five years of working at a global supplier for military customers, Rum switched to KLA, attracted to the company not only because the Newport site is closer to his home, but also due to its support for military veterans and reservists.

“When I interviewed with KLA, I loved the collaborative working environment and wanted to bring my military sense of discipline and good quality of workmanship to this position,” he says. “During Army training, I learned to become independent, honest, sincere and selfless in whatever job I do, and I acquired a lot of practical and lifelong skills which I believe has helped me survive and adapt wherever I go.”

As someone who is new to the company, Rum foresees room to develop his career and aspires to grow first to team leader and ultimately to a job in engineering.

“I’ll definitely consider KLA’s educational opportunities such as tuition reimbursement not only to progress and develop my career, but also to enhance day-to-day life as well,” he says.

Chris Tebbens, service manager, Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Let’s do the job and get it done together

After operating nuclear reactors on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and a training facility for nine years, Chris Tebbens attended a hiring conference before his discharge in 2012 and gravitated toward KLA. He interviewed and, a short time later, started his job as a customer support engineer in Malta, New York.

“It was an easy transition, in part because at least four others in the office had worked in nuclear operations roles in the Navy,” Chris recalls. “I quickly found that people who work at KLA treat each other respectfully and tend to see each other as human beings and not numbers, so returning to civilian life was refreshing.”

Chris earned an online bachelor’s degree while in the military and a master’s using the GI Bill – and assistance from KLA, because one course wasn’t covered by the government.

How are things going for him after 10 years with the company?

“As a ‘nuke’ in the Navy, you’re responsible for safety issues, which means you question every potential danger situation no matter what rank someone might be, and we have that kind open environment at KLA,” he says. “Even junior employees can raise an issue, and people will respect that. Having that kind of questioning attitude has helped me succeed here. KLA’s attitude is, ‘Let’s do the job and get it done together.’”

Read our employee spotlight on KLA sales account manager and U.S. Army veteran Amanda Fava. Be sure to catch up on our previous employee spotlights in our Opportunity Ahead, Making the World a Better Place and Inclusion for All series, and don’t forget to browse the KLA careers page for the opportunities ahead.

Subscribe to receive
News from KLA

Blog Subscribe
Data Transfer *
Marketing *

Are you sure?

You've selected to view this site translated by Google Translate.
KLA China has the same content with improved translations.

Would you like to visit KLA China instead?



If you are a current KLA Employee, please apply through the KLA Intranet on My Access.