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Using Unique Perspectives to Lead
By Pete Torres
For leaders like Pete, a Director in Software Engineering and Army veteran, guiding teams through innovative and exciting work in Tech is only half the story. At Capital One, Pete and other leaders have the opportunity to give back and inspire others, and the chance to make an impact and help others grow is Pete’s true passion. Learn how his family, military experience, and Hispanic heritage have shaped both his innovative tech career and his heartfelt leadership journey.
Pete serves as the Platform Engineering Lead for Slingshot—our Enterprise Data Commercialization effort that’s bringing our proprietary tools to better manage Snowflake to market and is establishing Capital One as a SAAS provider. The Commercialization of our Data Management capabilities represents a natural evolution for Capital One as a data pioneer and the first major bank to transition to the cloud.
As a child, I wanted to be just one thing when I grew up: My grandfather. He was a quiet giver and a problem solver. He didn’t talk—he just did—and was always focused on solutions. It may have been a trait he picked up in the Army. I didn’t know much about his time in the service until after he passed away, but I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps. So I joined, too. My grandfather inspired me to be a good leader—to lead by example and solve problems for myself and those around me. He helped set me on the path to becoming a tech innovator and a leader in new spaces others hadn’t been.
Passion for tech sparked while connecting with family overseas
It was in the Army as an intelligence analyst that I got my introduction to technology and saw firsthand how I could solve problems and make the world an easier, better place. Toward the end of my service, I was stationed in Europe, and it was there that my fascination and desire to work in technology began. It all started with a simple phone call. To connect with family back home, we used calling cards loaded with credits for “minutes” which allowed us to make long distance calls. They were ridiculously expensive, and I was trying to find other ways to chat with my family in New York. That’s when I began to understand the value of the internet.
In my work, we used video conferencing, and I wondered if this same technology could be an easier, cheaper way to connect with my family. To test my theory, I bought a laptop and a video camera, and I opened up an AOL account. I tried out an app called NetMeeting, which allowed me to video conference, much like Zoom does today. After going home on leave to set up my parents’ computer with a camera and the required apps, I began video chatting with my parents from overseas. My mind was blown. Sure, I had used this technology during my job, but now I was using it in my personal life to stay close to my family from halfway across the globe. I was hooked on the world of tech from that point forward. The logic component, that cause and effect situation of “if you do y, then you get x” was exactly what I loved. It aligned very much with my thinking, approach and eagerness to understand the world around me. When I transitioned to civilian life and entered the professional world, I focused on exploring opportunities in tech.
Leading from the front: Owning my identity as a veteran
When I first entered the business world, I was hesitant to share my experiences as a disabled military veteran and discuss it openly in the office. I felt that it might not be something people would understand, and I didn’t want to alienate anyone. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t bringing my full self to the office, and I couldn’t keep hiding that part of myself and my life.
The first step towards becoming the leader I am today was being open and honest about being a veteran and how those experiences shaped me. One thing we, as veterans, pride ourselves on is leading from the front (by example). So, I took a leap of faith. To fully own my identity as a veteran, I needed to talk about experience with my coworkers and leaders and wear it as a badge of honor.
The enthusiastic openness I felt from my team and leaders was a great comfort and made me feel supported and cared for. They invited me to speak and tell my story. It was humbling and an honor to know that others were willing to listen and hear my story. It also opened more doors for me to connect with others and take on leadership roles.
Embracing leadership through Salute and Hispanics in Tech
Sharing that I am a disabled veteran was another level of opening up about myself. After I began speaking about it, I was inspired to take a leadership role in Salute, the military Business Resource Group at Capital One. I believed that if I could put aside my fear and concerns regarding oversharing, I could maybe, just maybe, make it easier for one of my brothers and sisters, or their spouses and family members, to feel more comfortable in their skin. Others helped me...it was time to pay it forward.
A few years ago, I was asked to speak at an external event focused on disabled veterans. The conversation quickly “got real.” I found myself opening up about past events more than anytime before. Before I knew it, the panel discussion was over, and I was meeting with people. The amount of appreciation I received for being open and honest was humbling. People shared with me how it was helpful to them to see someone who had gone through a difficult time come out the other side. These events helped me help others and formed the foundation for my approach to leadership. I found that through common shared experiences, I could relate to people and help them find the courage to reach for more.
In addition to Salute, I’m also part of the leadership team for the Hispanics In Tech (HIT) Business Resource Group. When I first joined Capital One, there were no visible Hispanic tech leaders standing out and speaking about their tech journey. I remember saying to myself, “I just haven’t met them yet.” Prior to HIT being officially launched, I would go to conferences geared toward Hispanic professionals and meet leaders and other Hispanic people in tech at Capital One as well. But I did not see a space for us all to connect in our everyday work. HIT has bridged the gap and brought Hispanic Tech associates together. So much has changed over the last couple of years, and I look forward to working with/for some of the amazing new talent we’ve cultivated from our Hispanic community. Much like my military brethren, I feel committed and empowered to encourage a more diverse set of Tech associates and future technologists who’ll join the field.
Lasting ties to the military community
My life outside of the office is still heavily linked to my military ties and the bonds I made while serving in the Army. My wife is an Air Force veteran and my military sweetheart. We’ve been married for 20 years. She’s my biggest champion. Her unwavering faith that I could switch career fields kept me motivated to venture outside of military contracting to explore the tech field. I live each day aspiring to reach the limitless potential she sees in me. We’re also surrounded by our military brethren, brothers and sisters we’ve served with. We even moved to the Washington D.C. area because of our military connections, our “chosen” family. We don’t just identify with the military, we are the military.
I’m grateful to have been able to serve. I feel an unwavering appreciation for the discipline I learned in the Army, and the perspective, people, training and education, friendships, family and sense of community it gave me. All of these things shaped who I am and where I am today.
If there was one message I’d hope people will take away from my story, it’s that you can always use your experiences and your unique perspective to lead and inspire others. You can be the advocate for others like you and the inspiration that helps them feel confident and capable to tackle anything they set their minds to. I am inspired to be a better version of myself through these opportunities to empower others. I am always learning and growing along with those I help and lead.
Read more about how Capital One supports our military associates.
Capital One is a Silver Military Friendly Employer, as referenced in the 2021 Military Friendly Employer Guide. The Military Friendly designation creates better outcomes for Veterans by setting the standard for American companies. This accolade is a testament to Capital One’s commitment to Veteran programs and diverse and inclusive culture of belonging. We’re proud to celebrate this achievement with our Military Business Resource Group, and across the company.
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