On the job: This military vet now trains first responders with virtual reality

From a distinguished career as a Marine to exploring cutting-edge uses for VR, Jason Fraser brings his training to work with him each day at HP.

By Sarah Murry — July 5, 2018

You’re probably familiar with VR for movies, entertainment and gaming, but not many know about its untapped commercial potential for helping soldiers and first responders to be better at their jobs.

It’s one of the reasons that Jason “Jay” Fraser went from serving as a Marine to working in one of the most cutting-edge areas of tech. As HP’s VR business development manager for its Workstations business, Fraser spends his time on the road, meeting with potential content partners and customers, and exploring the possibilities of VR for training people who routinely put themselves in harm’s way.

“Bringing VR to market for training applications is making our servicemen and women more proficient at their jobs and face less risk when they are overseas — that’s a great job,” says Fraser who works in business development for the military, first responders, and for specialized training in aviation, energy, oil and gas, and other technical fields. “We can use technology to give back to this community and at the same time provide a benefit to society at large.”

As the youngest of three brothers growing up in Boston, Fraser’s desire to serve others is modeled after his father, a firefighter, and his mother, a nurse. He’s proud of this blue collar raising, and the legacy of military service in his family:  His father, Joe Fraser, served as a Marine during the Vietnam War and then as a Boston-area firefighter for 33 years. He and his brothers followed in their dad’s footsteps. “I always wanted to join the Marine Corps,” he says. “It was instilled in us as kids.”


Courtesy of Jason Fraser

Jason Fraser (far right), with his brothers, in their Marine Corps dress uniforms.

Fraser graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2007 and joined the Marine Corps as an Infantry Officer. Over the next eight years, he worked his way up to Operations Officer, while also serving two stints in Africa and the Middle East and getting his MBA from UCLA.

 “For my final three years of active duty, I was working for the Marines Monday through Friday, and studying for my MBA on the weekends,” Fraser says. “I knew I wanted to get into business and I needed assistance with bridging the gap from military service to the corporate world.”

As it turns out, the transition was fairly seamless. After graduating from UCLA, he didn’t skip a beat. In fact, he started as a business manager on the Personal Systems Services team at HP the very next day after ending his active duty, in September of 2015.

We caught up with Fraser, 33, in his adopted hometown of San Diego (he was formerly stationed at Camp Pendleton, in North San Diego County), where he lives with his wife.

Courtesy of Jason Fraser

Fraser in Djibouti.

What’s the best thing about your job? 

The coolest part of my job is being able to bring all the pieces together. We are very much in startup mode and it’s a nice place to be in. It’s exciting and it’s challenging. At the end of the day, it’s an awesome job, and I think it will bring some serious value to HP and to the market.

Was it tough coming straight out of the military and into corporate America?

I landed on a team that is distributed, with employees all over the place and a lot of folks in different states and even different countries. I was used to being able to speak to people eyeball-to-eyeball, and now I’m on a lot of Skype calls. That was a big difference.

What’s the most interesting commercial use case for VR that you’re exploring?

This one is really interesting: cultural and soft-skills training. A large part of military and law enforcement is interacting with people. Part of my job [when deployed] in the Middle East was trying to win over the hearts and the minds of the local population. It’s extremely hard to train people for those skills, you need to hire actors and it takes a lot of time and money. With VR, you can have people train in realistic, dynamic scenarios with these virtual avatars. It gives them a new way to build up those soft skills that are needed to be effective.

Do you draw on the skills you learned as a Marine in your day-to-day work?

The military is kind of a grooming course for leadership. A lot of the same tenets apply: Taking ownership of your job and everything that comes with that. Being accountable for your actions, being personable, having a will to succeed.  Having the character and integrity to do the right thing, being a selfless team-player and demonstrating humility. Being a generally good person, and social. Sparking relationships with folks, understanding what makes them tick. Using your EI (emotional intelligence) to motivate people. 

Courtesy of Jason Fraser

What’s your must-have accessory when you’re traveling for work?

I always travel with a book and a magazine. Either the Atlantic, the Economist or the Harvard Business Review. I’ll always have one of those with me.

So, what are you reading right now?

[Ron Chernow’s] “Alexander Hamilton,” because I went and saw the show. I’m also reading Never Split the Difference,” it’s about negotiating tactics.

What’s something you’re proud to display in your home?

The number one piece of memorabilia in my home is my dad’s firefighter helmet. He passed a few years ago. I have it on display in my home office and it reminds me of the sense of service he had, the risks he took, the culture of fire-fighting, and of my father overall.

Give us your best advice for a recent college grad?

Open your ears and listen. Be a sponge. Learn as much as you possibly can and have a sense of humility about it, because no one knows everything. Do the work. At the end of the day, being proficient at your specific job gets your foot in the door, but taking ownership of your job is what keeps you there.

What drew you to working at HP?

In the military, we are all about the history, the story, the culture and the traditions — and really rallying around a bigger cause. It’s very much the same at HP. I loved the idea of the founders’ story, how Bill and Dave approached leadership and business overall. Aside from having a great opportunity in an exciting area of business, it was the story of HP that really piqued my interest.