Software engineering requires a unique skill set. Aaron, an Engineering Team Lead at Wrk, shares how his experience working in the Canadian army provides him with the discipline and tenacity to build and continuously improve our automation platform.

My life growing up included a lot of time on the computer. I was always fascinated by technology and loved messing around with the family PC (much to the frustration of my parents). Today, aside from having a larger screen and a few more grey hairs, not much has changed.

As a child, Aaron was preparing for his future in software engineering and for his current position with Wrk.

As a child, Aaron was preparing for his future as a software engineer, and for his current position with Wrk.

I am a professional software engineer now, and working as an Engineering Team Lead at Wrk, I get to spend my days interacting with interesting technology and fascinating people. That is, during the weekdays. My weekends and summers look a little more like this:

Some time ago, I decided to join Canada's army reserve. The reserve is a part-time force that augments the full-time regular force. We train on evenings, weekends, and summers, and are attached to regular force units or deployed independently on both overseas and domestic operations. I serve with 15th Field Artillery Regiment, a unit made up of reservists like myself who have civilian careers in accounting, construction, law, and many more. Also, we blow things up.

I decided to join the military for several different reasons, the primary one being that I wanted to work on myself. I wanted to become more comfortable with discomfort, get stronger and more disciplined, and become a better member of a team. What I didn't realize was how helpful my experience in the army would be to my life as an engineer. Soldiering is very different from software engineering, but the skill sets needed to be successful have considerable overlap.


If you've ever watched a military movie, you'll know that life can be stressful. Timings are tight, voices are loud, not to mention you're often getting shot at (blank rounds in training of course!). The skills we learn in this environment go a long way. The military teaches us how to handle stress and how to be more disciplined about spending our time. The military also encourages us to be self-directed problem-solvers. If I have a problem, I am expected to figure it out, not just wait for an order. In that way, it's very similar to being an engineer.


The most obvious overlap between engineering and soldiering is in teamwork. At Wrk, our culture is meritocratic. This differs strongly from the military of course, given the formal chain of command. This is helpful though because it reminds me that there is more than one good way of doing most things.

Great ideas are what make us succeed at Wrk: this lends itself nicely to a meritocratic structure where the best idea succeeds, regardless of who suggests it.

In the military, uniformity, coordination, and speed are more important. This gives the formal chain of command strength: it is often more important that one and only one person is in charge, and that those person's orders are executed immediately. Working in both environments helps me pick up the strengths of both and apply them to each other.

Prioritize and Execute

A common mantra in the army is "prioritize and execute." This is a way to handle the overwhelming nature of combat operations by breaking large, daunting objectives into small, delegable tasks. This is exactly what we do at Wrk.

We break down business processes into tasks that can be delegated to independent humans and machines; likewise, our leaders in the army break down complex situations into immediate actions, which are further separated and delegated down the chain of command.


One of the best things the military taught me was that criticism is not personal. Before I joined, I would constantly avoid criticism and argue against it when it was given. It's common among engineers: our work is an extension of ourselves and we're very protective of it. Criticism of our work feels a lot like criticism about us as people. It's often difficult for engineers to let that go. However, when I started basic training, criticism came so frequently that we all started to get desensitized to it. Eventually, we started picking up patterns. The criticism was never about us as individuals, it was always about our performance as a team. Even when we were being disciplined for something that was the fault of the individual (perhaps one person performed a drill incorrectly), it was always placed in the context of the greater team (when you mess up your drill, you break the unity of your team). This taught us that criticism is about the objective, not the person.

The military is an important part of my life, just like my career in software. I've forged friendships through both that have lasted many years. My part-time adventures in the army provide a nice contrast to my otherwise desk-bound existence. It has also become a fantastic mutually beneficial combination of activities that each help me get better at the other. I'm grateful for both my team at 15th Field Regiment and at Wrk, and intend to continue learning and growing at both for years to come.

Want to know more about how our team is redefining work and reimagining the human-machine paradigm? Learn how Wrk is the only automation platform of its kind.