Meet Rob Hanigan: How military service helps him adapt to change and overcome challenges
November is Veterans Appreciation Month at Dropbox. And for 2019, our employee resource group (ERG) Vets@ chose the theme, “Our Service Adapts.” For veterans, being adaptable to both your surroundings, situations, and experiences can be a valuable skill. In honor of our vets this year, we spoke to members of Vets@. Meet Rob Hanigan!
Q: What is your name, what office do you work out of, and how long have you been at Dropbox?
A: My name is Rob Hanigan, and I work in our Austin, Texas, office. I’ve been at Dropbox since October 2015.
Q: What’s your current role in helping make the world work better?
A: I am one of the senior technical architects on the Customer Success team. The short version of what I do is solve really complicated puzzles. The long version is that I am both an advocate for our biggest and most complex customers, as well as a product champion and expert. I help deploy Dropbox at scale by providing technical guidance and setting strategy with our biggest customers. I also work closely with our product and engineering teams to ensure we are building features that both excite and delight our customers. It’s a very interesting role, and I love it!
Q: In your time at Dropbox, what’s something you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of?
A: In 2017, I was invited to become one of the first members of a team of Dropbox technical experts. Over the next few years, the team changed in size, scope of work, and mission. As a founding member, I’ve had the opportunity to help the team grow, learn, and define who we have become. Nearly three years later, we’re some of the most trusted technical experts at Dropbox. We support the company’s largest customers and contribute to the health and success of the business.
One thing I’m very proud of is helping to take a small, unknown team from relative obscurity to the forefront of our company’s customer engagement strategy, earning the trust and respect of our colleagues, Dropbox leadership, and our customers.
Q: What does this year’s theme, “Our Service Adapts,” mean to you?
A: One thing I heard over and over again in the Marine Corps was “adapt and overcome.” This became something of a mantra to me — adapt to your surroundings and overcome all obstacles. The idea is something I apply to my life, both professional and personal.
Life presents us with endless challenges, and I’ve found that the most successful people are the ones who can adapt to the world they live in and overcome its challenges. My service changed who I am in a very positive way and continues to help me adapt to the demanding role I have at Dropbox — it reminds me that I can overcome any obstacle I encounter.
Q: Can you share your career journey to Dropbox, including your time in the service?
A: I was born in Texas, but I spent my formative years in the suburbs of Cairo, Egypt. At eighteen, I moved to Los Angeles and landed a summer internship working on a major Hollywood picture. That internship turned into a full-time job, and I dreamt of becoming a star both in front of and behind the camera. That dream abruptly changed after the September 11 attacks in 2001. It didn’t take long for me to decide to join the Marine Corps, and I never looked back.
When my time in the Corps ended, I began working in the private sector for a software company whose biggest customer was the U.S. Department of Defense. My work took me to California, Hawaii, Kuwait, Bahrain, and, ultimately, on a three-year tour in Afghanistan working with U.S. and NATO forces. After nearly a decade working in and with the U.S. military, deploying to some of the most challenging places in the world, I needed a change of pace. I decided to try my hand at higher education and spent the next four years pursuing a degree in Management Information Systems.
After graduation, I moved to Austin looking for a new challenge and to join up with my girlfriend, Lauren. I quickly discovered that Dropbox had an Austin office. I was a long-time Dropbox customer and loved the product, but didn’t know much about the company. The more research I did, the more I wanted to join the Dropbox team. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have any connections in the booming Austin tech sector, didn’t have a friend inside to refer me, and I wasn’t sure that such a popular “tech unicorn” was looking to hire a 30-something Marine Corps veteran who just graduated from college. I applied, asked my family to say a prayer and wish me luck, and a few weeks later, I got a very exciting email from a recruiter. I began working there about four weeks later, and the rest is history. Getting a job at Dropbox was like a dream come true.
Q: What topics do you feel are top of mind for you and the veteran community, and why?
A: There are a lot of issues I wish I was better suited to address, but mental health care for veterans is something our country desperately needs and something I struggled with during and after multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. It is easy for people to forget that we’ve been at war for nearly two decades. There are men and women approaching military retirement who have never known peace during their years of service.
Even the strongest of veterans are affected by this; you don’t have to be in the infantry or on the front lines to experience mental and emotional trauma. There is still so much we don’t understand about post traumatic stress and depression as a result of combat, and we don’t do a particularly good job of taking care of veterans’ mental health during or after their service. I don’t have all the answers, but I do wish politicians would stop using veteran healthcare as a talking point and start taking action instead.
Q: What do you hope people take away from this year’s Veterans Appreciation Month?
A: I’ve been fortunate to have a loving, supportive network of family, friends, and coworkers who have helped me successfully transition out of military service into civilian life. Many veterans aren’t as lucky, and life has dealt them challenges they need help overcoming. If you really want to thank a veteran, think about getting involved in your community and finding ways to support veterans in need. A quick internet search will direct you to places in your immediate community where you can make a difference. You can also contact your local veterans administration and ask about volunteer opportunities.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: I love my country, my family, my friends, and my job — not a lot of people get to say that, and I realize how lucky I am. Looking back on my life I often think of it as a series of short stories, each with their own unique beginning, middle, and end. I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve made along the way, the experiences I’ve had, and I look forward to my next story and the adventures it holds.