If you asked me in 2005 what I would be doing now, I would have told you I would be a lawyer. I knew I loved researching and logic, so law school seemed like a natural fit. That is, until I received financial aid packages.
I ended up getting a job at the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) after completing my undergraduate degree. While at VBA, I was really interested in the logic of processes and systems. I would often ask myself, “What makes this event happen in the system?”
Fast forward to 2011 and I was promoted to supervise a team of claims processors working on claims related to service members awaiting medical discharge from the military. At the time, many service members deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, or both. Many were severely injured, and we were lucky to serve people that risked so much and paid a dear price while wearing the uniform.
In this environment, I learned to code using Visual Basic and was lucky enough to collaborate with friends and do some great things. This led to later learning analytics and reporting, but I still wanted to solve hard problems. With new skills, I tried to apply efficiencies to processes I thought needed enhancement.
This culminated in helping to create the Official Military Activities Report (OMAR), which started in Tableau. I collaborated with Dr. Andrew Shaver, Founding Director of the Political Violence Lab and Assistant Professor at UC Merced. The dashboard organized abut 750,000 events such as direct fire, indirect fire, and improvised explosive device (IED) blasts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This dashboard helped streamline research related to VA claims submitted in relation to mental health conditions.
Currently, I work in audit analytics and am a sort of “jack of all trades”. Some things I learned over the years:
- Be diligent with learning, but don’t try to learn everything in one day.
- You are more capable than you give yourself credit for.
- Hard problems seem insurmountable, but break them into pieces and solve them that way.
- The person sharing the little that they know is better than the genius hoarding everything.
Veteran | Data Analyst
Chris Aragao is a veteran of the Marine Corps (2001-2005). He is a civil servant and lives in Rhode Island with his wife and three children, He is one of the Co-Leads for the Veterans Advocacy Tableau User Group.