Skip to main content

2019—Rob O., senior network engineer at Southwest Airlines

After retiring from a 20-year career in the Army, this warrant officer forged a sturdy career in network engineering.

Former Army network engineer Rob O. shares how MSSA helped him connect his military experience to industry priorities.

Catch us up on your career moves since you completed MSSA. What has your career looked like?

I started with network operations where I supported the existing enterprise network, making sure it remained up and healthy, and fixing network-related issues as they arose.  After a year I became a technical lead for the same team, becoming the funnel for issue escalation and technical guidance for the other engineers and the team.

Now I’m the technical lead on the network engineering team that deploys new network capabilities, integrating developing technologies to build out and enhance our network.

Tell us about your job. What do you work on now?

I help engineer the essential infrastructure that keeps our business running. I got to take the no-fail mentality that was instilled in me from the military, and integrate that thought process into the networks we engineer in terms of redundancy and resiliency.

We make sure that our networks are bulletproof and are always able to provide critical IT services to our business and customers.

Describe the impact you have on customers, the organization, or the tech industry.

As a network engineer, we provide the IT plumbing that literally connects all other IT together to make everything work. We connect our customers to our business, and we connect our business to other businesses. We connect all our employees to the applications that allow them to do their job. So, from that perspective, everyone is our customer, and we have an impact on everyone every day.

Brag on your IT career for a moment. What’s the coolest part of your job?

As a network engineer, we enable all other IT. The coolest part for me is working with so many teams of IT professionals—software developers, cloud engineers, solution architects, to name a few—to build something new.

It’s neat to see different teams come together and learn about different roles, technologies, and how they all fit together. I enjoy being involved in every step of the project, from collecting the requirements to designing and implementing the network to delivering and testing a big final product and then seeing it all come together.

How did MSSA help you with your transition from the military? 

Leaving the military after 20-years and entering the wildly unfamiliar landscape of the private sector was a bit scary. I’d always had structure and direction provided by the military. So, for me, the emphasis on holistic professional development skills was important. From developing professional objectives to learning to market ourselves and our professional brand, MSSA broke these career essentials down into bite-size chunks and gave me new skills and confidence in that space.

Do you have advice or key learnings to share with transitioning service members?

It can be scary getting out, especially if you’re leaping to a completely new field. I’ve found most transitioning service members have an end state in mind, like becoming a network engineer or a data scientist, but they don’t know where to start.

The key is to know that there are mentorship programs available. I had one through American Corporate Partners where they connect you with a subject matter expert in your field of interest, and they’ll help you build a framework to get in the space you’re interested in to set you up for success.  Also know that it’s never too late to learn a new skill.