On any given day, Johann Soto volunteers to help students improve their math skills or mentor young engineers. But when Soto is not teaching students about STEM, he is serving his country as a civilian with the Department of the Navy (DON).
Soto became a civilian seven years ago supporting the research and engineering competency in Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). The experience he has gained over those short years now helps him manage and develop a $2 billion program. Born in the Dominican Republic, Soto came to the U.S. at age six and then returned to the Dominican Republic after eighth grade. With the dream of going to college and becoming an engineer like his father, Soto moved back to the U.S. for his senior year in high school and attended Syracuse University. As the chapter president of the Society of Hispanic Engineers, Soto decided to volunteer at a job fair helping NAVAIR recruiters with their presentation to candidates. “During this time I got to know and impressed the NAVAIR employees,” said Soto. “They explained the work and sacrifices civilians make in support of folks that make larger sacrifices to keep our country the best in the world. Their insight undoubtedly intrigued me. I set a course to change my citizenship to become eligible for DON work and immediately followed up with NAVAIR after becoming a U.S. citizen. I was on board four months later.”
Building on his understanding of the difficulties and challenges in hiring and retaining diverse candidates, he revitalized NAVAIR’s chapter of the Hispanic American Association and also built a coalition with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Meanwhile, he became the go-to person for many recruiting efforts because of his commitment to diversity and inclusion. He has built relationships with the Community Development Corporation and forged industry partnerships. Soto coordinates base tours and NAVAIR participation at SHPE. “People take for granted the large sacrifices made by our military and how our work makes sure they have the best chances of succeeding in their mission and returning home safe to their families,” said Soto. “Working on unmanned vehicles leads the path forward in this respect and that is why I love what I do today.
Thousands of civilian careers in the DON offer real world challenges with real life rewards – careers where purpose and patriotism unite. Questions on DON civilian employment information may be directed to DON Employment Information Center at DonEIC@navy.mil or by visiting www.donhr.navy.mil.