Brent McManus, a Portland-based software developer with PEAK6 since 2019, was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2016, stationed in Fort Polk, Louisiana. He served as an Infantryman and completed two tours in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Here’s what Brent shared about his military experience, how that translates to being part of a tech team, and how to make an apple pie while deployed.
I’m a software developer at Apex Clearing on the cash team. We deal with all of the cash coming in and out of Apex. I joined PEAK6 in 2019, after completing my master’s in computer science at Portland State University.
The meaning of service:
I’ve always gravitated to being part of something bigger than myself and the sense of purpose that comes with military service. I’ve also been pretty patriotic from the get-go. My mother tells the story that when I was a child my favorite song was Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA . I enlisted after I graduated from the University of Oregon.
Military members often miss the deployments because life is so much simpler. Standing there with our brothers and sisters with two goals—accomplish our mission and get everyone home—is deeply inspiring. It is truly my pleasure to have served. I appreciate it when I get recognized stateside for my military service, but worry that the thank-yous for those still deployed are too seldom. Our active-duty soldiers need reminders that we appreciate the hard work they do every day.
I’d been a tech guy growing up, though my undergrad degree was actually in human physiology. One of the benefits of the military is free education, and I wanted to take advantage of it. I had always enjoyed anything related to technology and decided to take a computer science class. That sealed the deal. I earned a master’s degree in computer science, focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
You don’t have a lot of options in the military. You don’t get to complain or switch departments or jobs, so you learn how to work with all kinds of people and how to function optimally while putting your personal stuff aside. You focus on where you’re going and how to get everyone there as best as possible, while taking things in stride. It’s a useful skill to have.
MRE (meals-ready-to-eat) recipe tip:
The cheese tortellini MRE meal comes with a spiced apple cider drink, sliced apples and MRE crackers. If you mix all those together when you’re in field, it’s the closest you’ll get to apple pie. You have to find the small joys in life.
When I’m not working:
I spend most of my time with my 5- and 9-year-old daughters and my wife–hanging out watching kids shows, going to soccer practice and going on camping trips. My favorite spot to camp with them is the Malheur National Forest.
Cause that matters to me:
One of my favorite nonprofits is the Wounded Warrior Project. It helps vets and service members who have PTSD.
Best part(s) of my job:
I like that there is always a new challenge to which I may not know the answer. I am continually learning and grappling with new problems and new technologies. I also really enjoy being part of a team that is working to achieve a goal and solve problems together. That’s equally true whether I’m in a deployed environment or getting a new software release out.