A day at the office is never the same for Austin Burrow. He travels around the world working for the State Department.
The Navy veteran is an electrical project coordinator for State’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.
He maintains the electrical systems in U.S. Embassies and keeps the staff and diplomats safe.
“This is really a dream job,” Burrow said. “I never thought I’d be doing this work and sometimes I still can’t believe it.”
Burrow started on this journey after earning his engineering degree at Tidewater Community College.
A former nuclear electrician’s mate for the Navy, Burrow, 30, was stationed in Hampton Roads when he began his studies at TCC in 2017.
Newly married at the time, Burrow’s wife Kristen also began retraining for a new career at TCC.
“I knew I was going to transition out of the military and TCC was a cost-effective way to explore career options,” he said. “I took a variety of classes before settling on engineering.”
Burrow says the college’s small classes enabled him to ask questions and get to know the faculty.
“I’m very grateful to have started at TCC and found it to be the best college experience,” Burrow said. “I’m definitely a fan of community college because I got to know my professors and they knew me.”
He also credits his engineering faculty with preparing him for the work because of their own on-the-job experiences. “All of my TCC professors were working in the field and that really added another dimension to the learning,” he said.
Another highlight for Burrow was the STEM Club on Chesapeake Campus. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the club represented TCC at the air show at Naval Air Station Oceana.
“It was amazing sharing my love of science and technology with kids and demonstrating everything from a 3-D printer to an electric bike,” Burrow said.
Burrow began his career as a field engineer for InPwr, Inc. He worked at Norfolk Naval Station preparing engineering drawings and doing electrical engineering.
“It was long hours and hard work, but my TCC degree prepared me, especially the AutoCAD and engineering classes,” he said. “I still remember the lessons from my favorite teachers, Edward Morris (engineering) and Kenneth Jones (calculus).”
Newly located to Northern Virginia, Burrow is working on his bachelor’s in electrical engineering online through Arizona State University. When he is not globe-trotting, he works at the State Annex in Arlington.
Ongoing learning is important to Burrow, a master electrician, who also holds industry certifications in Certified Construction Manager and Certified Associate in Project Management.
Recognition for his work came quickly for Burrow who was named an Independent Electrical Contractors Emerging Leader in 2020. He was also one of the Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine’s “30 under 30” for 2020.
As for Kristen, she now has a job she loves. A TCC nursing graduate, she found her calling as a frontline health care worker. She works in the neurological step-down unit at a Washington D.C. hospital. Kristen also holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from University of Tennessee.
Burrow used his GI Bill benefits to pay for college and says his time in the Navy and at TCC launched him into a rewarding career. “I enjoy going to work every day and encourage others to find work that fits them well,” he said.
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