At the very heart of AEO is our PEOPLE. Our associates are REAL. They’re authentic, resilient, and optimistic- each with their own story. Our REAL PEOPLE series highlights those who drive innovation, embrace teamwork and strengthen AEO’s inclusive culture.
In honor of Veteran’s Day this week, we are highlighting Ben, Sr. Systems Administrator at AEO and former U.S. Army Operations Sergeant.
Ben entered the Army in 1999 as a Communications/IT expert where he provided technical expertise and oversight of various communication networks for commanders. In 2003, he served as an Operations Sergeant, where he was a member of the 100th first airborne division’s initial invasion into Iraq. His VIP convoy was responsible for moving items including property and personnel across 300 square miles of high-risk terrain. His time in the military was invaluable, but like many veterans, the scars of war went beyond the surface.
Ben left the military in 2008, where he admittedly had a tough time adjusting to civilian life.
“When exiting the military, my technical skills were fine, but I struggled with communication. In the military, communication is very direct and command driven. It’s completely different in the civilian world,” Ben said.
To grow his professional skills, Ben took various contract IT roles where he was able to expand and practice his communication skills. He eventually joined AEO on the shared services teamwhere he now has the responsibility of monitoring all the devices in the company. Throughout his time at AEO, he has been involved with a number of critical projects that help drive efficiencies across the entire company. This year, Ben supported the team in rebuilding the IT monitoring platform- an initiative that saved the company both time and resources (and he did it from home!)
“One of my biggest concerns with any company has been how accepting they will be of me. I am ex-military with tons of tattoos,” said Ben. “I thrive in a team environment because that’s how we operate in the military. In my AEO interview I remember seeing another associate with tattoos and felt a sense of relief that I could finally be myself!”
Ben has struggled, like many veterans, with PTSD and anxiety. Through a program called Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Ben became the proud owner of Bolt, a registered service dog.
“When I approached AEO about Bolt, everyone was overly supportive and immediately asked ‘is there anything else we can do to help?’ I am proud to share that Bolt is AEO’s first and only official canine associate – she has a company badge and has even met Jay!”
Even after years in the civilian world, some days are tough, but Ben continues to feel supported through AEO and especially through his team.
“I’ve worked in a ton of different industries, but I’ve felt the most at home at AEO. If there’s a day that I need a mental pause, I just let my team know and I always have their support. It’s true that your health and well-being are always the priority here.”
We asked Ben what his favorite part of AEO has been in his almost 4 years here.
“Our culture is so unique in that we are SO accepting of others. You can really be who you are. I have never had to hide or change who I am. The company values people and good work- what more could you ask for?”
To learn more about Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs or to make a contribution to the organization click here.