Empower Series Featuring Carl Chaisson
I am Carl Chaisson, from New Orleans, Louisiana, and the President & CEO of United One Communications, a company I started in 2015. United One Communications is a solutions provider that specializes in cybersecurity, systems engineering, network operations, and IT management services for government and commercial customers worldwide. I have had 15 years of experience in information technology (IT) and gained 21 certifications. It may sound interesting to an individual who is also interested in computers in today’s world. I attended Miami Dade College and graduated with a certificate in computer information systems. I later attended Florida International University and graduated in Business Administration with a concentration in finance. I have been employed by three fortune 500 Defense campaigns and provided mission support services to the Department of Defense. I was later deployed to 16+ military base locations throughout Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar. This presentation is an empowering series of my personal and professional journey, which portrays my experiences as an entrepreneur in my company.
Interest in Computers
Would you have ever thought I collected Goosebumps books, played Pokémon cards, or wanted to be a scientist? Yes, it is true; I wanted to be a scientist. However, my interest quickly changed when I owned my first personal computer, which my mother gifted me in 1995. Before Best Buy had a Geek Squad, I was the kid charging my mother’s church members, family, and friends to reformat their computers when infected with viruses. My dad still recalls the day when one of my sisters upset me, and I removed the computer’s power supply to avenge what she had done. In those days, even my parents wondered where I got the information from, but at the same time, they were happy because they knew my future was going to be bright someday.
Although my passion for computers continued to grow throughout my childhood and middle school years, I also enjoyed playing basketball, football, video games, watching wrestling, and eating pizza. I would feel a great sense of enjoyment when playing those games. However, basketball released the homework stress that I got from school and helped keep my body fit because I used to eat a lot of junk food. I had a strong admiration for Michael Jordan, a basketball idol. I liked his shooting skills in many matches that he played. The most exciting thing is that he used to score when he took a shot. Moreover, football and video games were my go-to activities every day. I would, at times, switch to watching wrestling because it would cheer up my moods.
Starting High School
Searching for the best high school to attend was a challenge. Private schools were not affordable, and public schools did not offer the best education. However, after passing the admission test, I was fortunate enough to get accepted and attend Rabouin Career Magnet High School. I selected the career path in Computer Electronics for my 9th to 12th grades. I learned more about developing, troubleshooting, and installing computers and processors in control systems. Also, I was taught how to work with networking hardware and software. From that moment, I knew that I would be whom I had always wanted to be since I was a young boy.
At Rabouin Career Magnet High School, I met my favorite teacher, Mr. Joe Conde, who taught me about the different types of computer hardware, software, networking devices, and operating systems. Mr. Conde was also a part-time business owner, and his company provided residential and commercial security systems. Because I showed more interest than many of my classmates, Mr. Conde asked me if I was interested to learn how security systems work and promised to pay me any time I did an installation for his clients. It did not take long to understand how motion detectors, control panels, windows, and doors sensors worked. After school, Mr. Joe Conde allowed me to work for him, and I was responsible for doing installations for home and business customers. Although I enjoyed getting paid to learn something new, I knew the security system business was not my desire, and I had to do something that I had been passionate about.
In high school, I excelled academically and often volunteered to assist with projects that involved installing new computers and network cables in different classrooms. These were before the days of wireless networking technology, such as Wi-Fi. High-speed internet was only available to commercial and government entities. From 2004 to 2005, I became a computer electronic student in St Rose, Louisiana. St Rose was among the colleges of the ITT Technical institute that offered technology-oriented programs studies. The administration offered me an admission card scheduled to expire in December 2006. While there, I could feel and perceive that I was in the right place, doing the right thing because the studies were computer-related and mainly in the field that I liked.
If you were into music like many other teenagers, then the computer lab is where you would spend most of your time. If you are old enough to remember, Napster was equivalent to iTunes and what Spotify is today. In the lab, one album would take just minutes, and if you were fortunate enough to have the internet at your home, this same download would take hours with a 56k connection. Most students would access high-end music in the computer labs and the best productivity software they could use in music production. Maybe most of you are not old enough to have witnessed what the computer lab entailed. As I had mentioned earlier, only people of my age can relate to what I have said. I can assure you that the computer labs were among the most aesthetic and lively places for music students to be and pursue their careers.
Senior Year High School & Starting College
My senior year was off to a great start. I had a car, and I was an early release student with only two classes. It may sound awkward that in my teenage years, I had managed to purchase a car that most of you by then were unable to afford because they were busy schooling. How I managed to buy the vehicle will be a story for another day, which I know most of you would love to listen to and be motivated. I did not elect to play high school sports. Instead, I was more focused on finding my next job. I attended ITT Technical Institute and majored in Computer Electronics for only one year because of hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina and Relocating to Florida
It was in August in 2005, a month recognized as hurricane season. The local news reported that a tropical storm named Katrina was coming our way, and we needed to take care of ourselves at all costs. Towards the end of the month (the last week), the storm increased and was officially a hurricane. But, of course, being from New Orleans, a hurricane was not overly concerning. Over the next few days, the media reported that the storm was getting stronger and stronger. Finally, on Sunday, August 28, the day before landfall, the Mayor of New Orleans declared a mandatory evacuation. With a Category 5 storm heading our way, we decided it was best to pack enough for a week and drive to Texas the same day and stay in a hotel for a week. If we had stayed in Orleans, I might probably be long gone because it was definite that the hurricane would cause much death to the residents.
The weather was terrible, and heavy rains led to mudslides. At some point, I can recall that our car nearly fell when my mother lost the steering momentum while driving. I remember witnessing death with my eyes when a strong wind raised our car from the cliff. Luckily enough, we managed to control the situation, and we all survived. If my mother were the only person to survive, the whole ordeal would now be fresh memories in her mind. After 16 hours on the road filled with total fear, I was tired and could barely see anything. At first, I thought I was blind until I heard a tornado and trees falling from every corner. I struggled to open my eyes and observe what was going on at that moment. This is not what I imagined my first time driving to Texas would be; everything was terrifying.
The following day, we turned on the news and watched as the hurricane destroyed the City of New Orleans. However, it wasn’t until the next day that we heard that the levees had breached, and the water was quickly rising, which would cause death to many city residents. By August 31, the Mayor declared martial law and directed officers to do “whatever it takes” to restore order. At this point, we knew going home was not an option, and with rising hotel costs, we had to make a quick decision. My sisters, who resided in Miramar, Florida, and followed the news closely, persuaded us to go there and wait until things would get back to normalcy. I, therefore, relocated to live with my sisters, bearing in mind that I would never go back to New Orleans.
Starting College in Florida and IT Jobs
With the City of New Orleans in disarray, I decided it was in my best interest to start a new life. After all, it is not always the end of life when one end fails to meet. It is our responsibility to take another move in life that will lead to us achieving our goals. After several months of having access to the beautiful beaches and sunny weather, Florida was the right choice, and I would live there as long as I was alive because there was no way we would go back to the City of New Orleans. In pursuit of more knowledge, I enrolled at Miami Dade College for Computer Information Systems and graduated with a certificate in computer information systems. I updated my resume on CareerBuilder and applied for several jobs during that time. A few weeks later, I received a call from Somerset Academy for a position as a Computer Technician. After two interviews and a background check, I was gainfully employed, and I only worked for one year.
After a year on the job, I received a call for an IT position supporting the United States Southern Command. I did not know it was on a military base until I attended the in-person interview. I was a bit tense about what would happen later, and my worry was getting the interview done and being offered the job, such that before the interview day, I had rehearsed the different ways of easing tension during interviews. However, I ensured that I practiced beforehand in all the critical areas of computer technology to be competent to answer any related questions and ask relevant questions after the interview. Honestly, I prepared enough, and I was confident that I would pass the interview. During the interview, I met supervisor Will Solomon, the hiring manager who, lucky enough, gave me the opportunity at USSOUTHCOM. That was the happiest moment, knowing that my hard work had paid well.
Additionally, I was lucky enough to work for Lockheed Martin Corporation from 2007 to 2009 as a government contractor in computer electronics. I must have been a lucky man to secure jobs smoothly without much struggle. While in Lockheed Martin, I was responsible for providing international systems and global services. This career path shaped my skills, and I desired to do other things in life. While still working in the United States Southern Command in 2010, I took more technical jobs working with the General Dynamics Information Technology department. While in the company, I received Commander’s Coin from Admiral James G. Stavridis to provide him with excellent customer service, which was reflected in how I fixed irresponsive operating software on his computer. All the companies I worked for opened the door to my journey of starting my own company.
In September 2010, I was deployed in Afghanistan to support the warfighters. I was in Kandahar Airfield, the most extensive military base, where I used to handle all computer-related issues. I was offered an office desk, and the management required me to be in charge of all computer operations. I would troubleshoot all the computer applications that did not seem to work, and if they failed to restart, I would install new ones. Moreover, I would update the systems software that the warfighters used to access most of their information while at the military base.
Additionally, I worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Jordan, and Qatar, engineering tactical and strategic solutions for the Department of Defense. However, the administration required me to operate in an undisclosed location because it was a safe place working from while in the country. With my computer knowledge, I had to make sure that any operation undertaken by the United States army was safe and would not get to the second party. I had to ensure that I controlled all the systems and tracked any suspicious movement made by the army. My other responsibility was to check the stability of the Wi-Fi network and ensure that all the telecommunications services were working to ease communication between the forces and the administration.
In 2012, I joined Camp Phoenix, and I was in charge of all computer systems in Afghanistan. Camp Phoenix was known for the training of the Afghan National army. The United States troops would gather in Camp Phoenix and be guided on how they would fight their enemies. It was an honor to work as an IT person in charge of designing techniques that would solve problems using information technology. However, I ensured that I trained the warfighters on using design systems that I created using a computer. Having skills in hardware and software was an added advantage because I was able to manage set-ups and configure systems. I would work during the day until 5 PM, and a colleague would take over and work at night because handling computers was supposed to be a 24 hours job, a failure that might mess up the operations of the United States Army.
In 2013, I was at Shindand Air Base, where I was involved in manufacturing the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk; I was good at system engineering and ensured that I did my best to bring out a better product for the United States Army. The administration asked me to be part of the people who conveyed in the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP). I conducted all system updates and tracking of the United States enemies. I provided GPS information on where the enemies might be hiding. The construction of the helicopter was one of the achievements I made in life.
Being part of the Afghanistan team and as the system analyst, we ensured that we celebrated and wished all the citizens happy holidays. We would gather as a team holding a white cloth from both ends, written “Happy Holidays from 335th Afghanistan Team.” We were at Bagram Air Base in 2014, where citizens were not allowed. However, various news broadcasts would come to the base, record us, and then broadcast it. Therefore, the citizens would view us on television, and our message would be compelling for them since they were assured that the military army was protecting them against attacks.
In 2014, the United States administration gave me a containerized housing unit that would be my room while in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. The room was self-contained with internet that would help me conduct system installation and search for new information that might help the warfighters. I have traveled on planes in Afghanistan, such as MQ-9 Reaper, to places like Bagram. During most of my trips, I would process data using software applications, such as Oracle and MS Excel, thus proving to the organization why the business class seats would sometimes go empty.
In 2014, I got a chance to apply my system engineering knowledge to develop the Boeing C-17 Globemaster 111. I installed web browsers, programming software, and application software that the warfighters could use to acquire information. This type of aircraft transported the military for the United States Air Force. The pilot would stop the plane at the Camp Arena, where the warfighters would gather to get trained. During the same year, Stephen J. Hager, the commander of the 335-signal command and a two-star commissioned officer, gave me the challenge coin as a way of honoring my work on installing computer software in the Boeing C-17 Globemaster 111.
In 2015, I was issued with a 160th signal brigade card in Kuwait, also a place I never imagined I would ever find myself living. In Kuwait, I was transferred to Camp Arifjan. My roles were to process data using effective programs and train the warfighters on how they could use the system. It sounded interesting because I would still be able to make a few friends. Furthermore, Major General Daniel C. Balough of the 335-signal command awarded me the challenge coin in 2015, which entailed the organization’s symbol for providing him with the best website that I had spent weeks creating. I still had another interest in doing business in Kuwait and decided to enroll at Florida International University for my BBA degree in finance.
United One Communications
In January 2015, I decided to challenge myself further. In this regard, I set a new goal; to start United One Communication while in Afghanistan. I attended the Special Operations Forces Industry, a venue that involved an interaction between the SOF community and the industry while partnering on any challenges that might arise. In October 2015, I received the first subcontract supporting the Joint Communications Support Element at MacDill, AFB, which provided cybersecurity support. Since I was interested in computers from when I was a young boy, I wanted my industry to be involved with what I was passionate about and make a change in society.
In 2017, the Director and Chief of Information Officer awarded me the challenge coin that held the joint communication support element symbol. The coin signified that people needed to work in unity to enhance the success of the United One Communication business. The business performed well, and we decided to buy the Gulfstream G 550 in 2018, costing $64M. However, I received the SBA Emerging Leaders class of 2019 award for being the best leader. The award meant that I was good enough to provide entrepreneurship education to other business-oriented personnel. Additionally, I received the 2021 Minority-Owned small business of the year Florida SBDC at the USF award. The awards gave me more reasons to establish the United One Communication business.
My personal and professional journey has been incredible, and it’s worth every individual to listen to whenever it is told. My interest in computers started when I was still a young boy, and as a result, I have accomplished great things in life, such as purchasing my first car while at school, traveling across the world, and participating in manufacturing a plane, among others. I have always liked furthering my computer knowledge and skills, so I have been to several schools/colleges, such as Rabouin Career Magnet and Miami Dade College for Computer Information Systems. My relocation to Florida due to Katrina Hurricane somehow shaped my future.
I hope I have motivated someone here, and from now henceforth, you will focus on what you are passionate about and achieve great things in life. Thank you for listening to my story.
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