SEATTLE - The culture of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is its biggest draw. I love working on large and important projects, all without sacrificing my soul to the crunch culture that is pervasive in the private sector. As a single father to an 8-year-old daughter, quality time together is critical for her development.
Working for USACE allows me the satisfaction of being a part of projects that affect the American public, all while still being able to pick my daughter up from school.
From 2003 to 2011, I worked in the restaurant industry, whose culture mandates overtime, punishes burnout, and offers limited growth opportunities. From 2011 to 2016, I served in the U.S. Army as a technical engineer with the 27th Engineering Battalion (Combat/Airborne), planning and overseeing small construction jobs on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While these careers have different missions, they have similar demands: they both push building strong teams, promote sacrifice to complete goals, and can cause some to struggle with maintaining a good work-life balance.
The types of missions USACE takes on is vast, and the work is both challenging and rewarding. Projects are complex and multi-dimensional, but their impacts affect more people in the U.S. and around the world than other projects. And yet, the primary focus is on the people doing the work. This focus does not impede our mission effectiveness; it promotes it. I believe the focus on “People First” is USACE’s largest single contributor to success. It carries out this promise by implementing and maintaining programs like the Fitness and Health Program and Employee Assistance Program, to name a few.
My team’s use of cooperation and teamwork creates an environment that supports a healthy work-life balance. It's sometimes necessary for us to share our workload and shift responsibilities, to adjust to changes in situations on site. Being able to adjust and find success with changes in the field also works to foster an atmosphere where our mental and physical health can be prioritized. If one team member needs to take time off, our combined skills and practiced coordination allow for the work to be done and the mission to be completed to the same standard we always maintain. Our teamwork allows us to take needed time off without worrying about “letting the team down." My supervisors empower me to tailor my schedule in a way that gives me more time with my daughter after school. The care I experience from my supervisors has been exemplary.
With the extra family time, my daughter and I enjoy more time together, exploring the natural world and conducting science experiments including when we experimented with polarized light. Using two polarized films and a glass of sugar water, we were able to show how light is “twisted” as it travels through the sugar water. Having the time to put together learning experiences like these, is attributed to USACE's culture.
Another way USACE takes care of its people is through professional development opportunities. I joined through the Pathways Internship program as a student trainee and learned about the different roles in the construction career field. After completing the internship, I joined full-time and enrolled in the Department of the Army (DA) Fellows Program, which exemplifies USACE’s dedication to provide opportunities for employees to increase their knowledge and professional competencies.
The DA Fellows Program is a self-guided and mentor-supported professional development program that provides structured learning and the opportunity to work in different departments. It gave me the chance to increase my knowledge base through professional courses, private certification classes, and on-the-job training in departments I would not have been a part of, before. For example, I recently completed a rotation with our district tribal liaison Lori Morris. While working with Lori, I learned how cooperating with our tribal partners is critical to our success.
USACE’s vision of “People First” puts work-life balance at the forefront and promotes professional development for its employees. This focus allows single parents, like me, to have a rewarding career without sacrificing our families’ well-being to do so.
After his military service, Anderson enrolled and graduated from Saint Martin’s University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. He and his daughter live in Lacey, Washington, and he currently works as a mechanical engineer in technical quality, serving resident and project offices on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Tacoma, Washington.