How Zillow supports employee veterans

At Zillow Group, our goal is not only to help people find home, but make them feel at home in our employee community.

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Transitioning back into civilian life can be difficult, as Zillow Software Development Engineer and Air Force veteran Andrew Cadwallader knows. “There are challenges translating what you did in the service to make sense on a resume for people in a different industry,” he says. “Additionally, it’s hard to reconnect with people after having been isolated for years. To find a community, to find a place like Zillow where I feel at home, has been a real blessing for me.” Kevin Olson, Air Force Vet and Zillow software development engineer, agrees. “The military provides many people with a sense of purpose, so trying to find a place where you can get that same sense of purpose is important,” he says. “At Zillow it’s been nice to have a team that is very willing to help each other out or lend a hand if you’re struggling with something.” 

‘Service time is honored, not burdened’

A supportive and flexible workplace can make all the difference for a veteran, as well as an active service member like Ryan Dobrusin, Zillow senior product counsel and current Major in the Army Reserve. “My team sees my role as a reservist as an overall benefit, and Zillow culture has been really supportive,” he says. “My manager and leadership team find it interesting and admirable, which I don’t take for granted. I’ve been at other companies where it is, in a way, viewed as a burden.” 

Zillow participates in the Statement of Support Program, joining hundreds of thousands of employers that act as advocates for employee participation in the military. This means we’re there to support our team members’ military commitments, and Zillow’s policies offer leave and preserve employee benefits and seniority during service.“It’s very important for big companies to support reservists,” Dobrusin says, “because the military as a whole cannot exist or survive without the Reservists and Guardsmen.” 

‘Fostering a culture where everyone is seen, heard and valued’

A welcoming company culture that opens doors and uplifts others starts with empathy for employees, which is something Zillow Connections Manager Lali Rose knows is especially important for veterans. Rose is the engagement committee lead for Zillow’s Veterans employee resource group, which currently has 289 members, including veterans, reservists, allies and supporters. “The veteran community is a very small group, and they are often hesitant to disclose whether they’re in the military or are a veteran,” says Rose. “I see that as a sign to provide more safety and advocacy.” Rose, whose husband was an Infantry Marine Corps veteran, is an ally aiming to raise awareness of the community through her work on the committee. “I’ve tried to come in and approach the group with empathy,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot from them, I’ve seen how empathetic they are, how understanding and patient. I’ve seen their ability and willingness to be in the moment with people and experience that hurt. We can gain a lot of valuable insight from those folks that are still in the transition phase.”

For Army Veteran and Zillow Senior Program Manager Tina Turner, a supportive environment has enabled her to bring her whole self to work and use her unique skills in impactful ways. “Veterans often face challenges finding jobs because our backgrounds are usually non-traditional, and the structure and culture of the military tends to be different from most workplaces,” says Turner. “Though Zillow wasn’t my first job out of the military, I very much appreciate how the company celebrates and appreciates what everyone brings to the table, and how we find value in diversity of thought and approach.” In fact, Turner has been able to move internally to a role that leverages the diverse skill set she cultivated in the military. “I did a lot of planning and coordination for units as big as 1,000 people – which I later realized was essentially project management,” she says. “I am now getting the opportunity to move from an HRBP role into a program management role, which will allow me to further demonstrate and develop those skills, which I am so grateful for!”

‘It’s not just what we say, it’s what we do’

Veterans, whether transitioning into the workforce or established in their civilian life, offer a unique perspective that can enhance their work. At Zillow, it’s even improved our products. Cadwallader drew upon his personal experience of trying to find financing for a home on Zillow to create a HackWeek project that became a feature on the website and app. “The previous process was finding a condo for sale, then going to the loan guarantee hub on the VA’s website and searching through their listings for that state. However, the data wasn’t really standardized and certain fields would be wrong, so the two websites didn’t correlate,” he says. “When I saw the idea to work on VA approved condos on the Social Impact team’s pitch board, I knew right away that I had found my project.” 

As Cadwallader dug in with a team of other employees, he found that there were a number of people who had experienced the same issue. The project ultimately became what is now the VA loan eligibility tool on Zillow condo listings, allowing users to immediately see if the condo they’re interested in is VA-loan eligible. “I was really blown away to not only see that the veteran category was something included in Social Impact, but that there even was such a thing as the Social Impact team,” says Cadwallader. “I found that very telling of the Zillow culture – that it’s not just what we say, it’s what we do. These HackWeek projects aren’t just for fun; the company really puts resources toward making them come to fruition.” 

Dobrusin agrees. “We’re going to do what consumers ask for – what’s good for consumers – no matter what. That is going to be our North Star,” he says. “I think we really put our money where our mouth is.” And Olson says he sees echoes of what he experienced in the military at Zillow: “I would say the team aspect, the common purpose, and then the sense of pride,” he says. “I think being in the military, there’s a lot of pride in serving your country, and I do feel a sense of pride working at Zillow, too.”