On sharing an alma mater, an avocation and an affinity for family
The Otero brothers—Angel, Luis Daniel (Danny) and Carlos—have a lot in common. They are family, Florida Tech alumni and Florida Tech faculty members. Danny ’02 M.S. arrived on campus in 1993 as an undergraduate, earned two master’s degrees and later joined the faculty in 2009. Today, he is associate professor of engineering systems and director of the Transportation Systems Engineering Research Lab in the College of Engineering. Carlos ’09 Ph.D. joined the faculty in 2013 as associate professor of computer engineering, and Angel ’01 M.S. came on board in 2014 as assistant professor of accounting and academic chair for online programs in the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business.
In this conversation, they reflect on returning to Florida Tech, their shared dedication to their disciplines and the value of family.
Different paths …
Angel: “I grew up in Puerto Rico (PR) and, while in high school, realized I had an interest in math and numbers. I used to visit companies with my dad as part of his job and met with accountants, controllers and CPAs. We would talk about the company’s strategic financial plans, cash flows, debt, financial projections, business plans … this sparked my interest in an accounting career. I decided to attend a university in the United States to study accounting, improve my English skills and see snow.
“Upon graduating from Penn State University, I returned to PR and got my first formal job as a financial auditor. While working for about two years, I saw a need to integrate technology with my accounting background and, thus, shifted my focus back to school and moved to Melbourne to obtain a master’s degree in software engineering from Florida Tech. With both the accounting and technology backgrounds, I returned to PR and joined the global, Big 4 accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche, LLP as a financial/IT auditor. I worked for over 10 years at Deloitte and attained the position of senior manager overseeing offices in Florida and Puerto Rico.”
Danny: “Growing up, my plan A was to become a professional baseball player. My plan B was to become an engineer and work with bridges, as I found them to be fascinating structures, especially the ones that span over bodies of water. It really never crossed my mind to become a professor and talk to audiences until later in life—midway through my second master’s degree.”
Carlos: “I have always been fascinated by computer systems. As a kid, I was lucky enough to have Radio Shack’s Tandy computer, Atari and Nintendo’s gaming system. I was happy any time I could get my hands on an electronic system.
“I received a job offer at Harris Corp. during my senior year of college, and I began spending all of my time on industry-relevant work. That’s when I fell in love with the lifestyle of life-long learning. I became part of outstanding computer and software engineering teams working on exciting state-of-the-art systems. These projects motivated me to become better. I gradually started shifting all of my focus from industry work to academia until I earned my Ph.D. in computer engineering (after 11 years in industry). Shortly after that, I obtained my first faculty position with the University of Virginia system.”
… to the same destination.
Danny: “Carlos and I received full baseball scholarships to finish our junior and senior years of high school at Florida Air Academy in Melbourne. Florida Tech was local in Melbourne, and I first discovered it through interviews arranged by my high school coach. I was impressed with the campus, academic programs, small class environment, plus I enjoyed living in Brevard County. One year later, after finishing high school, Carlos joined me.”
Carlos: “I considered Brevard County my home away from home, since I spent years in high school, college and industry here. So, coming back to Brevard [as a faculty member]was a desirable option. Professionally, Florida Tech is well known, and it is surrounded with high-tech industry. This combination provides me opportunities, as a faculty member, to better complement my classroom material and research with relevant industry work. Florida Tech provides all of the components necessary for faculty to provide more meaningful learning experiences for students. With these goals in mind, the electrical and computer engineering department seemed like the perfect fit for me to continue pursuing my career goals.”
Angel: “I discovered Florida Tech through my brothers and earned my master’s degree here. I never envisioned myself working with them at the same university, but family and the opportunity to contribute my accounting and information systems experience with students inspired me to come back to Florida Tech.”
Danny: “The three of us being faculty at the same university did not cross our minds until it actually happened! One of my main reasons for joining Florida Tech was the unique opportunity to be part of a growing systems engineering program in a university that was continuously improving its nationwide visibility. Joining the department of engineering systems, with such an excellent faculty and academic environment, was completely aligned with my goals.”
Hard work is inherent …
Danny: “Our parents instilled in us a mentality of continuous improvement and encouraged us to always push hard to get to the next level. Our father promoted the engineering profession in our household, and as it became evident that computing would play a big role in future professions, the connection between engineering and information systems was natural. Our mother emphasized creating a household environment of strong faith, always encouraging us to pray and put God first in every aspect of our lives. Without a doubt, I believe that strong faith and hard work are essential ingredients to achieving high goals in life and, more importantly, being truly happy and at peace.
“After obtaining a degree in civil engineering (and working for a while), I decided to pursue a graduate degree in computer information systems with hopes to merge both fields.
Carlos: “Computers are fun to me, so having the opportunity to study computers from different angles attracted me. I spent a great deal of time writing software in industry on different embedded platforms. With time, I became interested in engineering a computer system from the ground up—that is, to have the hardware and software expertise to design and build my own computers. This is how I ended up combining computer science and engineering.”
Angel: “Integrating technology into my accounting background has given me the opportunity to pursue other specialized fields within accounting, such as auditing information technology (IT) environments for organizations, specifically their accounting and financial systems. As an IT auditor, I gain a deep understanding of IT environments, particularly how organizations respond to risks arising from IT. From a financial standpoint, knowledge about the IT environment is critical to understand how financial transactions are initiated, authorized, recorded, processed and, ultimately, reported in the financial statements. I further get the opportunity to provide recommendations to companies’ management on how to improve their existing systems in order to protect their financial information and mitigate risks to acceptable levels, which I find to be a very rewarding part of the job.”
… but family comes first.
Carlos: “I left Puerto Rico at 15 years old together with my brother Danny. Even though we were physically away from the rest of our family (and on our own), we never felt alone. We have a very strong family support system, and at the end of the day, we each try to make each other proud. That keeps us going. We understand that family comes first, and we try to instill this way of life to our kids.”
Angel: “Our mother was also crucial in teaching us the spiritual side of life. Both, our dad’s push to study and become a professional plus our mom’s discipline in maintaining a strong faith in God, were crucial in defining what we are and where we are today as brothers.”
Danny: “At least two of us meet almost every day for lunch, and all three of us meet two or three days per week. We talk about family-related things, like vacations or how our children are doing in school, and research topics related to our individual fields. We also get together regularly with our families, which typically includes great food, music, playing baseball, football, video games, and lots of laughing and good times.”
Professional opportunities …
Danny: “The College of Engineering, department of engineering systems and Office of Research at Florida Tech have provided essential support to help me develop the Transportation Systems Engineering Research (TSER) laboratory. State and federal grant awards have already highlighted the significant research work that takes place at the TSER Lab. Florida Tech’s support to conceptualize ideas that lead to the development of entities such as the TSER Lab is one of my favorite things about our university.”
Carlos: “Florida Tech’s computer engineering program has all the necessary components to compete with the best national engineering universities. Being part of the faculty that helps it reach the next level is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Angel: “Florida Tech offers a great working environment and opportunities for growth.”
… and a personal support team.
Angel: “I am proud of Danny and Carlos’ commitment to achieving their objectives. The best advice they have given me is ‘Always work hard and try to excel at what you do.’”
Danny: “I brag about my brothers’ dedication and discipline to achieve any goal they set for themselves. For example, Carlos authored a text book that is currently being used at major universities, and Angel earned his Ph.D. while working full time in a Big 4 accounting firm, which definitely shows discipline, commitment and a serious mentality to achieve goals.
“Angel has always encouraged me to be organized, plan ahead and put God first in everything that you do. Carlos reminds me to continue pushing forward and be the best.”
Carlos: “My brothers are productive members of society who support and take care of their families. They are great human beings.
“They also told me: ‘Run or you will be sorry if I catch you!’”