How I Got Here: From Army Police Officer to Software Engineer Career at Vanguard

Denis Paskelnow application engineer at Avant-gardelived several lives during his 34 years.

He got his first retail job at age 16. Then, at 18, he enrolled in the The American army. Between 2006 and 2008 he worked as a military police officer, which took him around the world. He eventually returned home to the Philadelphia area, eager to see his family and friends.

“Honestly, I think at any age it’s hard to imagine where careers could take you,” Paskel said during a Veterans Day AMA interview last Thursday on Technical’s public Slack. .ly. “I’ve always believed that life is a journey, and careers are stepping stones on that journey. It’s really helped me grow and mature over the years.

Since returning to the area, Paskel has worked in IT support while earning a degree in criminal justice and political science at Temple University. He has held sales positions at Comcast, as a bank teller and as a probation and parole officer. In January of this year, he decided to pursue a career that had always fascinated him — technology — by joining technical liftthe local training camp.

Take a look at the interview on his career trajectory below. It has been slightly edited for length and clarity, but you can view the full conversation on Slack.

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Did you think about what a civilian career might look like when you were in the military?

Dennis Paskel: I hadn’t really thought about that. At the time, I joined the army to pay for my studies. I don’t even think I had any idea what a career was like back then, all I knew was that I wasn’t going to have a career serving in the military. The amount of sacrifice service members make on a day-to-day basis is truly overlooked as a civilian.

What was it like stepping out of that role and getting into the mindset that there were a lot of possibilities for career paths to follow?

DP: What word stronger than overwhelming? Because I don’t think it can even feel like adjusting to civilian life. Here I am, 21 years old, stepping out of the most rigid and structured experience, and giving back my freedom to do with it whatever I wanted. It certainly took time to find direction and a sense of purpose.

As a kid, I thought adults had all the answers. Then I learned that they didn’t; they just had more experience. This experience is what teaches us to hopefully make better decisions. I wish I had listened to myself sooner, because I would be where I am now, many years ago. At the same time, I have a great appreciation for all the perspective and insight it gave me.

I think it’s a universal experience that we think growing up will give us all the answers. So what made you consider the technology?

DP: I have always been interested in technology. I started building and repairing computers when I was 12. I spent four years in computer programs at a vocational technology school while in high school. Fear of the unknown is what has kept me from making a career out of it all these years.

What changed this year when you joined the Tech Elevator bootcamp? Was it what you thought the technology would be?

DP: Tech Elevator offers a comprehensive program. Some of their campuses offer students the choice between VS# Where Java for the backend. The Philadelphia location at the time I went only offered Java, which I would have chosen anyway. We also learned PostgreSQL, JavaScriptand a frontend framework called view. For our final cornerstone, the students were divided into groups and created a full-fledged web application.

Joining a bootcamp was the first necessary step to pursue a career that I was going to love. I think coding bootcamps are a great way for people with life experience to break into the industry. It’s intimidating at first. I left a field in which I had a wealth of knowledge and spent 10-12 hours a day learning new skills. Being in a bootcamp meant I wasn’t alone. I had 27 other classmates in the same situation and we always helped each other.

Tech Elevator did a great job of simulating what working in tech would be like. Plus, they brought in companies to talk to us about how technology is used in the company and what it’s like to work there. We then brought in 10 employers for Tech Elevator’s matchmaking event, where I had the opportunity to interview a few companies of my choice, which ultimately led to me being hired at Vanguard.

Were there military skills that translated well into technology?

DP: I think the skill that translated best to me was attention to detail. In the military, especially during war, the smallest details overlooked could seriously injure or kill you and/or others. I carry this level of detail in all my work, sometimes a little too meticulously.

What advice would you give to your younger self, or perhaps someone who isn’t sure about their next career step, after trying so many?

DP: I think I would tell my younger self to believe in me more. My worry about not pursuing a career in tech earlier was fear that jobs would be outsourced and I would be laid off or not have a stable career. I sold my happiness for stability, and that’s something I would never do again. There are good risks in life, and sometimes we have to take a leap of faith and believe in ourselves. This is the only way to reach our full potential.

Above all, it is never too late to change course in life. As a probation and parole officer for five years, I have seen people from all walks of life and of all ages change their lives for the better. If they could, each of us could surely change careers and pursue what makes us truly happy and fulfilled.

You are more likely to regret the choices you didn’t make in life. Take risks, take advantage of available opportunities, reach out and connect with others and learn from them, find what makes you happy in life and pursue it. If you fall, dust yourself off and get back up. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.

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Gordon K. Morehouse