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How one systems engineer went from being a standout in the Air Force to a standout at T-Mobile
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at T-Mobile committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace. T-Mobile is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company
"I want to be a point of contact for any veteran who wants to come to work for T-Mobile," says Otto Chan-Arias. The former airman's open-door policy to military personnel supports that of the company, which is dedicated to hiring 10,000 more veterans and military spouses by 2023. Born in Costa Rica and raised in Washington state, Otto eventually found his way from the Air Force to working as a Senior Unix Systems and Design Engineer at T-Mobile.
Here he takes us from his experiences on the battlefield to resetting his civilian career with the help of company benefits – and how he plans to pay it forward to help others making similar job and life transitions post-service.
What led you to the Air Force initially?
I just always wanted to serve something larger than myself. I wanted to be like my Dad, who served in the Army. He wanted me to join the Air Force, because he liked its reputation within the military branches. So in 2007, at age 19, I did. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What was your active duty experience like?
My training was full of childhood dreams come true. In jump school, I got to freefall parachute from airplanes. Air assault school included repelling from helicopters. Sniper training, close-quarter combat training and so much else showed me the full capability of our military. I also got to travel to various countries, including humanitarian missions to help those in need during natural disasters, and see and interact with so many different cultures around the world, which was awesome. Ultimately, while serving in Afghanistan as a close precision engagement team leader, my unit got hit by an IED (improvised explosive device) where I suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury). I received an honorable discharge, and was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in action.
How was your transition back to civilian life?
The Air Force played a huge part. They put me through TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) to clear my mind of traumatic things so I could start anew. They helped me cope with my PTSD. I also started playing video games as a release, which got me to thinking more about technology. As fate would have it, when I first decided to pursue a civilian career in executive protection, I wound up being contracted out to a high-profile technology executive. I was around tech, thinking about tech – but he made me really want to be a part of it.
And that's what brought you to T-Mobile?
Yeah. A friend of mine at T-Mobile who's a security analyst encouraged me to apply for a technology internship. At 28, it would be a total career reset. After three months, I went full-time as an associate engineer. It's only been three years and now I am a System Administrator. I oversee customer-facing applications – like making sure you actually get your $4 movie tickets on the T-Mobile Tuesdays app! My growth has never stopped at this company, and I don't see that changing. My goal is to be a Senior Director. If I have it my way, I'd never want to leave T-Mobile.
Any words of advice for transitioning veterans?
Don't get tunnel vision. Keep an open mind. Adapt to change. I went from a combat-oriented position to working with systems engineering. I want to tell these veterans that many of the skills that you've learned in the military translate to civilian life. Maybe you don't think you have project management experience because you were combat-oriented. But you were project managing. You oversaw a high-level project and you ran with it. That can transition into a project management position in a corporate environment. T-Mobile's Veterans & Allies Network(VAN) offers great career support to employees, they can help translate your military experience on your resume. It's a great support system.
Are there other benefits veterans can tap into?
T-Mobile offers so many benefits and tools. There's the tuition reimbursement program. Once your GI Bill's done, you can use that to get your continued education for free. My plan is to get a business IT management master's degree. The T-Mobile ONE for Military Plan. It's great. It's the biggest military discount in wireless and you get unlimited data, so you can keep in communication with your spouse and family.
This post sponsored by T-Mobile
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.