This Veterans Day, we honor our employees and others who have served in the Armed Forces. Charles Kohlenberg, Senior IT Manager, shares how serving our country has shaped his life.

Tell us about yourself and your role at Sempra Infrastructure.

I am a Senior IT Manager in the Technology and Cybersecurity organization, and I oversee the IT Program Management Office (PMO), IT Governance and Business Relationship Management (BRM) teams. My teams are responsible for the planning and execution of IT projects that support the strategic goals of Sempra Infrastructure, both for the Business and IT. They are also responsible for establishing IT governance and standards, managing IT audits as well as facilitating the adoption of technology at Sempra Infrastructure.

My father was a naval officer, so I grew up in a military family. We led a nomadic lifestyle, usually moving to a new home every 2-3 years, across the United States or to a foreign country. I actually graduated from high school in Naples, Italy.

If there is one thing I am passionate about, it is traveling – both locally and abroad. The great thing about traveling is that it has a way of truly broadening your perspective on life. I've had the good fortune of seeing many amazing places, but there is still so much more to see, and I want to continue exploring the world.

What motivated you to join the Air Force?

From my earliest memories, I was fascinated with aircraft and always wanted to be a fighter pilot. The Air Force provided me with a path to follow that dream.

Where did you serve the majority of your time in service?

For four years, I served as an active-duty Still Photographic Specialist (basically a photographer) assigned to the 56th Combat Support Group at MacDill AFB in Tampa, Florida. My photo assignments would include:

  • Change of Command and award ceremonies.
  • Assignments for the newspaper, human interest, military hardware, and training exercises.
  • Accident scene documentation.
  • Crime scene documentation.
  • Aerial photography from helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Developing/printing photos in darkrooms (It was all pre-digital!).
  • Processing satellite reconnaissance.

On one assignment, I accompanied the U.S. Navy on a salvage ship for a week to document the recovery efforts of an F-16 aircraft that crashed in the Gulf of Mexico.

How would you describe your experience in the Air Force?

The Air Force provided me with an opportunity to continue my education and learn some key life lessons along the way. It taught me the importance of discipline, teamwork, adaptability, preparedness, and that results matter. For those lessons, I am eternally grateful.

What do you consider your biggest accomplishments and lessons?

While serving in the Air Force for those four years, I was also a full-time college student working towards my bachelor’s degree. In addition, I had a part-time job on the weekends working at the base recreational facility and managing a family with two small children. Although it took a considerable amount of determination and perseverance, I was able to complete my degree by the end of my enlistment and was accepted to the Air Force Officer Training School. However, after considerable thought, I decided not to continue my career with the military and chose to pursue a different path.

Which one of Sempra Infrastructure’s values, do the right thing, champion people and shape the future, do you relate to the most and why?

To me, doing the right thing generally means making decisions that are not necessarily based on my own personal needs or what’s best for me.

It means doing what is best for the greater or common good. Throughout my career and personal life, I have been committed to some guiding principles which have served me well over the years. They include:

  • Acting with integrity to ensure the trust of friends, customers, colleagues, and partners.
  • Being honest; always telling the truth.
  • Being reliable; always keeping my word and honoring my commitments.
  • Being a positive role model for my employees and colleagues through my actions.

I truly believe an effective leader leads by example. He or she embodies the organization’s values and, in doing so, provides a role model for the entire team. If you want your team focused on doing the right thing, it’s essential that you show yourself equally willing to do what’s right under all circumstances.