David Gowel is a U.S. Army veteran turned entrepreneur who is now the CEO of RallyPoint.

RallyPoint is the world’s largest online military network and a WoVeN partner organization. He spoke to WoVeN about his military background, the mission of his organization, and his advice to women Veterans.

Tell us about your military background.

My father passed away when I was young, and I watched my mother pivot from being a full-time mom to working full-time and building a career to support us. As a result of this unfortunate event, I felt as though I had a lot of ambition but not a lot of direction as a teenager. My brother (who is three years older) went to West Point. After visiting my brother repeatedly, I grew interested in pursuing a West Point degree & commission myself and was accepted to join the class of 2002. After graduating from the military academy, I served active duty in the Army for six years, including as a platoon leader in Iraq. My last active duty job was at MIT with the ROTC program. I joined the Reserves from 2008-2010 and remained at MIT while starting my first company.

What was the most rewarding aspect of your service?

I believe it is the feeling that you are a part of something bigger than yourself—doing more for the people around you than you are asking of them. The training at West Point pushed me intellectually and physically to do more than I thought I could do. I then drank from the fire hose of maturity and leadership as an officer in the Army. As a kid, I felt like I was lacking in both of these areas. It was this foundation that led to anything I’ve done in my professional career.

What inspired you to become involved working with women Veterans?

I have great respect for military service and all who serve. Unfortunately, in our male-dominated, warfighting culture, I sense women don’t always have the same share of voice that we men do while serving. I think that also extends into life as a Veteran where many women don’t even identify as Veterans after they leave service. For my civilian career, I wanted to make sure that whatever I did wasn’t just to earn a paycheck, but work that I would be proud to tell my family about. I wanted to teach my children about working hard to achieve personal success while also finding a way to give more to your community than you ask from it.   

I started my first company with my wife, who really was my first civilian coach. She taught me what I needed to know to successfully transition into the civilian world. It was in that company where I learned how social media is a very powerful set of tools that allows people to connect at a scale greater than I had ever imagined.  And for most people at that time, that was just for purposes of having fun. I realized that the transition to civilian life could be made much easier by using a more professional version of social media, LinkedIn, which became an extremely valuable tool for me. I taught companies how to use LinkedIn to get new customers and I was also giving pro bono classes to Veterans to teach them how to use LinkedIn to transition. One such class included a Veteran who ultimately would become a co-founder of RallyPoint. He thought that LinkedIn was powerful, yet didn’t focus enough on the military. The jargon, the culture, and the career progression of military life were too different from civilian life to allow the core of the military – especially the junior enlisted ranks – to feel comfortable expressing themselves professionally on LinkedIn. RallyPoint was initially created as a platform for current service members but has expanded to veterans and their civilian supporters. After the platform had grown to hundreds of thousands of members, I was asked to lead the company and build out the business model in the process. I have now been leading the company since 2016.

I am happy to share that we now have over 5 million posts about military life. We use technology plus member administrators to moderate all those conversations. We’ve found that females make-up 11% of RallyPoint’s member base but have created 14% of our discussions. Women Veterans often feel that they don’t have an equal share of the voice in the military community, yet they are overproducing content per capita in RallyPoint. We are proud to be a safe space for all members of the military and veterans to talk about anything important to them.

Tell us about the mission of your organization.

The mission of RallyPoint is to help all members of the military community lead more successful and fulfilling lives. We do that by allowing our military members, current service members, veterans, family members, caregivers, survivors, civilian recruiters, and civilian supporters of the military to build a profile that celebrates their connection to military service and engage in a community of individuals like them. We offer the ability for people to connect in a way that the chain of command doesn’t always make easy when in service. We also help connect the military community to programs that can help their careers, mental and physical health, and provide a feeling of social connectedness even if they have transitioned to an area where there are not many veterans. We work with organizations both inside and outside the VA to find out what programs already exist to benefit our members. We digitally connect and allow them to join these programs. We are connected to diverse programs serving the military, including the VA, Cohen Veterans Network, AAFMAA, Vet Tix… the list is very extensive. RallyPoint includes a broad set of members, partners, and discussions, including all of the milestones that the VA has identified in the ‘Veterans Journey Map.’ 

What advice do you have for women who are transitioning out of the military?

Working at RallyPoint, I have become much more aware of the concerns and interests of other types of Veterans who are different than me (such as gender, branches, the era of conflict, etc.) What I see is the VA and other programs are actively looking to help female veterans who don’t identify publicly as veterans when they finish their military service. My advice is to be proud of your military service by letting your coworkers and friends in civilian life know about that part of your life. Also, look for programs designed for women veterans. I’ve heard from many women veterans that the VA and others have more high-quality programs than they expected. Many women look past the VA and other close partners assuming that’s not where they would get their care, but they should look into these resources first. 

What advice do you have for women who are transitioning out of the military?

Women Veterans are one of several growing populations on RallyPoint whom we are looking to better serve. Other groups in this category include caregivers, survivors and even civilians who are better trying to understand and hire or work with Veterans in some way. If you’re hearing this interview, come on RallyPoint, check us out, and let us know how we can better serve whatever part of the military community you care about most.