The NOAA Corps Wait

I am very anxious to hear from the recruiters at NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration).  I was recently interviewed for a position in NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and the only one with a scientific and environmental mission.  I am pretty sure the interview went well. At the very least, I got to travel to Maryland and D.C. for the first time, and I had the opportunity to learn all the details of what NOAA Corps officers do and what I could expect.  After my interview, I felt more excited than ever about joining a uniformed service, and about getting into a career of adventure where I could truly make a difference.

I am probably not going to hear back until late January, after the selection committee selects the 18 officers for this year’s BOTC class. The selection process is highly competitive, and not having much of a biological sciences background is likely to set me back a little. On the other hand, my diverse background could also prove to be an asset for NOAA.  So at this point, I really have no clue if I’m going to make it. This uncertainty brings me a great challenge, because this month and a half of waiting time could not have come at a worse time.  I am facing severe financial difficulties to keep up with my bills and being a full-time electrical engineering, so I can definitely not continue my education at Calvin College. In fact, I can definitely not afford being a full-time student anymore, unless I could study nights and/or online like I did at Davenport. Unfortunately, that is not an option for engineering students in almost every college, since classes and labs usually take up most of the day. So, my next option if I still want to pursue robotics is to find a full-time job, pursue an online degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, and take some night classes at a community college to complete the requirements for a master’s program in robotics.  It is not a pretty path, but it could get me there.

If I were able to join NOAA Corps, then things would be easier. I would go on to BOTC, followed by a 2.5-3 year assignment at sea, followed by a 2-year assignment on land.  While on my land assignment, I could either finish an engineering technology degree or study a master’s in hydrology or another area more closely related to NOAA’s mission.  Thus, I would have it both ways — my education, and my dream job.

If I cannot make it to NOAA Corps (which would be completely disappointing), I could still follow one of two alternate plans:

Plan A: Focus completely in joining one of my two dream jobs, NOAA Corps and the FBI.  I would join the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to get some experience in deck and boat operations. I would also do only contract work for a while (in IT), trying to focus my contracts in information security (as this would help me move into cyber security at the FBI). Meanwhile, I would finish my associate’s in electronics engineering technology, and also take some classes at GRCC that would transfer to any bachelor’s program in engineering technology (to help me when I re-apply to NOAA). In the Spring, I could enter the Seafarers International Union Unlicensed Apprentice Program, followed by a merchant mariner job late next year. This would give me seafaring experience for NOAA, and also critical physical fitness and small weapons handling skills for the FBI. Then, I would focus on making it into the FBI. If I didn’t make it, I would continue with my bachelor’s while working either IT contracts in science areas or waged mariner jobs, to help me re-apply to NOAA later on.

Plan B: Focus on my robotics education plan. This means getting a full-time job in IT (software development), finishing my associate’s, getting into an online bachelor’s program, and 2-3 years from now, pursuing a master’s in robotics.  While in IT, I would try to get into embedded software design to assist me in getting into that master’s program. Meanwhile, I would volunteer at the Coast Guard Auxiliary to get in shape for the FBI physical fitness test, and to acquire experience for NOAA. Later next year, when I am ready for the physical fitness test, I would continue the FBI process. If I couldn’t make it into the FBI, I would just continue with IT work, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and my education so I could re-apply to NOAA in 4-6 years.

Where I have to be careful is that I only have one shot at the FBI. If I fail the process, I will never have an opportunity to apply again, ever!  That is why I want to be in excellent physical condition, and acquire more information security experience, before I continue the process. That way, I will maximize my chances of entering the Special Agent program.

At the same time, I need to be careful not to take any full-time jobs if I cannot commit to them for at least a year.  I do not want to cause a bad impression, or leave with bad references.  That is where the challenge of awaiting news from NOAA comes in.  This week, I started applying to full-time jobs, because I seriously need a job ASAP! Well, I got several interviews scheduled already. I know that a typical hiring process usually takes months, and I hope that is the case for the companies where I applied. If I were offered a pretty good position before I heard from NOAA in January, I would not know what to do. I could not say no when I know I need the money, but I could not say yes knowing that NOAA could call me a few weeks later, forcing me to leave the job shortly thereafter.  At the same time, I feel bad interviewing for any job knowing that I would decline any offers if they called me after NOAA did, since I would have just wasted the recruiter’s time. So, I feel like I’m in a bit of a pickle.

Sure, I have two solid alternate plans, but I can only put them in place after I hear a yes or no from NOAA Corps. What am I supposed to do in the mean time? Should I continue applying for jobs? Should I focus on contract work for a while? Should I start the application process for the SIU school yet?  I do not know. I do not know what to think or what to do. My heart is telling me to hope for the best, but my brain is telling me to prepare for the worst.  I feel like I should wait at least until late January before making any life-changing decisions, but I just cannot do that. I have never put my life on hold for anything before, and I don’t think I should start now, as important as this job is to me. I just don’t know what to do…. and my job interviews are approaching fast! If only I heard from NOAA soon…

About Gabriel Mongefranco

Gabriel Mongefranco is your software developer for all things data: extraction, integration, analytics and security. He is also a blogger, a poet, a proud father and a faithful Christian. He is always eager to contract with faith-based nonprofits! Learn more.