#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

How to Overcome Obstacles and Be Better with Steven Jaramillo

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself

Steven Jaramillo is a Project Manager at Branded Group overseeing the company’s facility management client work orders. Steven is also a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. In today’s show, Steven talks about his career transformation following a divorce and a layoff as well as how his military service was the catalyst to finding his dream job.

Steven Jaramillo portrait

“Take every opportunity that’s been given to you and just expound upon it and make yourself better.”

—Steven Jaramillo

Branded Group

53. How to Overcome Obstacles and Be Better with Steven Jaramillo

Key Takeaways

  • Sometimes a crisis leads to a new career.
  • Self-reflection is key to finding out what you really want in life.
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new.

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Steven Jaramillo is a Project Manager at Branded Group, where he is responsible for the efficient handling of its facility management client work orders. Additionally, Steven has served in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a Petty Officer Second Class Electrician Mate. He is also his unit’s training petty officer. He holds a Civilian Project Manager certification through the Project Management Institute and is in the process of obtaining a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Steven’s unit was activated and he was stationed at the TRF Submarine Base in Bangor, WA. There he facilitated a departmental transition to a remote virtual environment, managed submarine production communications, and oversaw critical path scheduling for all repairs. Prior to Branded Group, Steven has held positions as a national account representative as well as a project administrator in fire protection and facility management businesses.

“I needed to challenge myself and prove that I can overcome an obstacle.”


—Steven Jaramillo

Branded Group

Podcast Transcription

Michael Kurland: All right, welcome to another episode of the BeBetter Podcast, I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Thank you for joining me. Joining us today is Steven Jaramillo, project manager at Branded Group. So, Steven, we know each other a little bit, and why don’t you let the audience know who you are and what you do?

Steven Jaramillo: All right. Hey Mike, thanks for having me on here. As you mentioned, I’m a Project Manager with Branded Group, and I’m also a Petty Officer, 2nd class in the Navy Reserve that I’ve been doing for about 6 years now.

Michael Kurland: Great! Well, really excited to have you on the show, obviously you work with me at Branded Group as a project manager; I do a great job at that. But I really wanted to get the audience know the story behind the story. Like who you are and how you got to where you’re at. So do me a favor. We talked pre-show kind of about where you’re at 29, I think.

Steven Jaramillo: Yes.

Michael Kurland: That you started going through a divorce. So why don’t we start there. Sorry if I unearthed anything you didn’t want to say, but let’s start there. Let’s start at your divorce and then take us up to your life from there until when you enrolled in and to become a petty officer and I’ll pin you along the way, if there’s any questions.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, absolutely. So I would say I got married young. I got married at 27. I thought it was the right thing to do. We kind of did it for the wrong reasons and unfortunately it just didn’t work out.

Michael Kurland: As does over 50% of marriages in America these days. I know for me I did it because I thought it was the thing to do because my friends were doing it- for my first marriage and then I found the same thing.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, I understand.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, the wrong reasons.

Steven Jaramillo: I just didn’t make it through. So after about two years, we mutually split. I moved back to Southern California. Stayed with my brother in law for a little while I got myself kind of back on my feet; ended up getting a job with Everest College. I had a transition from working with Verizon. I worked at Verizon for about 12 years. I started there when I was 18 as a customer service rep, and I kind of worked my way up the ranks from customer service rep, I was the sales rep, then I went up to sales operations, and I made my way up to business sales as a sales executive. And that was around the same time as my divorce. So I decided to make a career change from there. I kind of just needed to kind of reset…

Michael Kurland: Where were you living at the time that this was going down?

Steven Jaramillo: I was living in Riverside County with my wife at the time. When we split, I moved to Yorba Linda to live with my brother in law for a few months until I got back on my feet. All during this time, I was also looking to transition away from Verizon, and kind of start a new career path just to kind of reset, get my mind off things, and that’s when I ended up getting a job with Everest College as an admissions advisor.


Michael Kurland: So you totally uprooted your life, from being married and pretty well along a career path at Verizon living out in Riverside County and you uprooted everything, you became single, started a whole new career path and moved to Orange County. So that’s pretty intense, right there, that’s like scrubbing all three at one time. Similar to what I did. I didn’t change careers. I just started a company, moved from Connecticut to California and got divorced. So I can totally empathize or sympathize. I don’t know. I don’t even think those are bad things because it seems like we’re both in better places. So I can totally see where you’re coming from. How about that?

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah. So once I started with Everest College, I ended up getting my own place right there in downtown Anaheim. I got my own loft since Everest College was right around the corner. But unfortunately that job or career path was short lived, the college altogether ended up getting into some trouble with the whole loan student process, and they eventually went bankrupt.

Michael Kurland: Well, they were part of that scandal a couple of years ago?

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, this is a few years back. They had about three rounds of layoffs. I was unfortunately part of the last round and a few months after that. The company went bankrupt and I lost my job. So I found myself unemployed for about five months…

Michael Kurland: How old are you at this point?

Steven Jaramillo: At that point I am 28 or 29, found myself unemployed for about five months, and I would say the first time in my life I was in a situation where I’ve never been. I’ve had a job since I was 15 years old, and I’m in a situation where I don’t have a job. I’ve never been laid off before and let go. And I’m kind of just in this new position in my life where I kind of don’t know what to do. And it was hard finding work at that time because the economy was good, there’s really nobody really hiring, and I just kind of found myself stuck in a situation where I’m not sure what to do. I eventually had to move out of my apartment because I couldn’t afford the rent. I didn’t have income besides unemployment, and I had to move back to my parent’s house in the meantime until I could figure out what was going on. So at that point, I really had a hard self-reflection moment in my life to where do I go from here? What’s the best option for me that’s going to give me the most opportunity, the most benefits? I made the choice at that time to join the military. I didn’t have anything really holding me back or tie me down back home besides of course, my family and friends, but I was pointing my divorce, I didn’t have any kids, I had no job, so this seemed like the best opportunity, the best time.

Michael Kurland: Let’s dig deeper into that, because you’re 28, 29 at this point. Most of these guys that join the military are fresh out of high school like 18 years old. So you made this conscious decision to go in. So go a little deeper into that, like why the military not just because you didn’t have any kids or you didn’t have a wife; but what was it about the military that was the draw for you?

Steven Jaramillo: I come from a military family. My grandfather was in the army in World War II, Korean War. I’ve a few uncles that were also in the military, so I’ve kind of been around it. And I’ve also spoke to my grandfather a few times back when I was 18, I wanted to join the Marines, and we had many conversations, and that was when I just started working with Verizon, so I decided to put off the military and kind of pursue Verizon. And now I found myself in a position where like I mentioned, I really didn’t have anything tie me down, but on the deeper level of it, I really wanted to prove to myself and challenge myself;


And put myself in a situation where I could overcome something because I just felt like I was on this downhill spiral, and I really have a lot of confidence in myself, kind of felt like I just lost everything; with my relationship, with my job.

Michael Kurland: Rightfully so you’re in a dark place.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, and I…

Michael Kurland: Let me ask you this; during that period of time before you joined the military, were you indulging in drugs, alcohol, things to get your mind off, just going down a bad road? Or were you just spending — what were you doing to deal with the issues that you were dealing with?

Steven Jaramillo: I was never really into drugs. I did go out with friends and drink often, but I’m very family oriented. So I spent most of my time with family just having that support there was a big help.

Michael Kurland: So they didn’t really let you get too down on yourself, they just stayed with you and be the support system?

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah.

Michael Kurland: That’s great. So then you decided to join.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah. So I got to this point where I needed to challenge myself into more or less prove to myself that if I can overcome difficulties, I can overcome an obstacle. So I made the decision to join the military. While I was going to the process- it’s a lengthy process. It takes a few months to actually join and sign and do your swearing in takes like four months or so. During that process, I ended up getting a job offer for a fire protection company in Irvine. And so I found myself in a predicament where do I continue this course with the military, or do I accept this job and kind of continue doing the same thing I’ve been doing in a sense. So I decided to accept the job, but I also decided to keep my commitment to pursuing the military and instead of going four years on active duty, I joined six years as a reservist.

Michael Kurland: And so can you just explain the difference to the audience in case they don’t know the difference?

Steven Jaramillo: So active duty. It’s a four year contract. You sign up, you go to basic training, and then you get assigned to a ship and you’re attached to that ship until you get a new set of orders. As a reservist, you go through the same process, you go to basic training, you go to your A school and then you get sent back home and you get attached to a NOSC, a Naval Operational Support Center. That’s your home base that we go to one weekend in a month and two to three weeks out of the year, we’ll go to, it’s called annual training and we perform whatever your job is in the military. So it just kind of depends on your specific rate or your job that will determine what you do when you’re 18.

Michael Kurland: Okay, great. Thank you for that and then tell me this, so you had to go to basic training.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, so I went to basic training, I got hired with the fire protection company and probably, I’ll say five months in, I had to leave for basic training. So I left to Great Lakes, Illinois, in December. It was cold. It got to like -13 degrees, and we were outside marching in the snow. So that was an experience, but I was…

Michael Kurland: And were you the 30 year old guy with the 18 year olds?

Steven Jaramillo: So my division there was about 120 of us. The majority of them were young guys, 18, 19 or early 20s. There was a few mid-20s. I was one of the older guys in the group. There was a 34 year old. I had just turned 30 at the time, so I was 30 and there was a 28. We were considered the old guys in the bunch.

Michael Kurland: What I wouldn’t do to be 28, 29 again.

Steven Jaramillo: So that that interesting, and it was a big mental change to be 29, 30 years old;


And being told when to go to sleep, when I can eat, when I can go to the bathroom, having to shower with 25 guys at the time, it was hard to kind of make that transition to kind of have to sit back and listen, take orders, and do what you’re told as a 30 year old.

Michael Kurland: It wasn’t your drill sergeant or was that your cultural sergeant?

Steven Jaramillo: In the Navy they’re called RTCs.

Michael Kurland: Wasn’t your RTC younger than you as well?

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, there were also mid-20s, so that was an adjustment that I had to take.

Michael Kurland: You seem like a very even keeled guy, though, so I think you can handle this kind of stuff obviously.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, I can take orders and just get through it.

Michael Kurland: I would have done so many pushups if I was there. I cannot get yelled at by the younger people. Sorry, keep on going.

Steven Jaramillo: So basic training that was about 8 weeks, and then following basic training, I went to my A school, so I joined the Navy. I don’t know if I mentioned that I joined the Navy. My rate or my job is a naval electrician, AN electrician navy. So following basic training, I went to my A school, which is my kind of an overall school to get my fundamental knowledge for my job. That was about 7, 8 months. It’s pretty much like military college, we live in barracks, and we have four roommates. We have bunks with a desk or we’re in class 8 hours a day. We’re attached to a duty section, so certain days you might have additional duty that you have to do stand watch stuff like that. So that was an experience all in itself to kind of be in college again, but with the military twist, we marched everywhere. We had to get information, marched to class, marched back to our barracks. So that whole situation was new and different for me. But I was able to complete all my courses. I did like a Common Core Engineering course and apprentice technical training course and electrician made kind of like basic fundamental course that I had to complete and graduate before I can be sent home. I was able to complete that, came back home, went back to my fire protection job, found myself kind of getting involved with projects with that company. I started dabbling in a few small projects and really kind of started to enjoy the process of the planning, scheduling, budgeting with projects. So I decided to look more into it and take some courses outside of the company, some courses to kind of just build my knowledge on the whole aspect of project management. And come to find out, the military had offers, they have a program, it’s called the Navy Corps program. Where based on your rank and your rate, your job, you qualify for certain civilian certifications that kind of correlate with your job on the civilian side and on the military side. So I was able to get my project management certification from PMI through the military. They paid for my classes and my course and paid for me to take my test. So that was one of the benefits that I was able to use that helped my civilian career. Kind of move forward on that aspect, soon after I got that, I transitioned into a new job where I was able to get more involved in project management.

Michael Kurland: So still with the fire protection company?

Steven Jaramillo: No, it was with a new company, this company, it was called Glidewell Laboratories, also located in Irvine.

Michael Kurland: I literally drove past it yesterday on the way to a chiropractor who’s right across the street and then she just moved there. It’s funny, you just solved the mystery for me. I was driving there and I saw Glidewell and I was like, “Why do I know this name? Someone was talking about this with me recently. I can’t remember who.” It was you when we were talking preshow. So thank you for solving that.


Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, it’s pretty interesting. Nobody knows who Glidewell is. They are like the apple of the dental world. The CEO, Mr. Glidewell, kind of started this company in his garage. He had this idea of having affordable dental implants for everybody. And he drew this company to what it is today. It’s one of the largest dental production companies in the world. They happen to have an in-house construction team that does all of their in-house TI’s, new builds, dental laboratories. So I was able to get hired on their construction team as a project administrator, but I got to kind of manage my own projects. And that’s where I kind of got more involved with that whole project, construction facilities, field of work. And also my Navy experience being electrician and kind of played a part into the whole aspect of working with electricians, working with electrician team, being familiar with the process and what they’re talking about, being able to read the plans.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, your skill set is very unique, at least from our point of view in the project management, because you usually get someone who knows the administrative portion of it and they’re probably not as good technically or someone who’s technically great but isn’t as good administratively, but with you, that was what we were drawn to, is the fact that you had both and you were able to really hone that in. So anyway, keep doing a good job.

Steven Jaramillo: And that’s one of the reasons why I kind of chose the electrician job is because I knew it would be easy to transfer over to the civilian side and even talking with GC’s or electricians, since I do that on the military side and I get hands on, it’s easier for me to communicate and know what they’re talking about because I have that on hand experience and knowledge. So worked at Glidewell, got more involved with projects, find myself wanting to get kind of gain more experience. And I happen to come across Branded Group. I got a referral from a colleague, Jenn Dailey. I worked with her before and she hit me up and said, “You know what, there’s opportunity here, it’s a great company. You should check them out.” So I decided to pursue Branded Group. I kind of read up about the company, love what Branded Group was doing, especially with the community. And I was able to get a job offer as a project coordinator, got involved, and soon after I was able to get promoted to the project manager position that I have now, but I fortunately only been with you guys for about eight months. And in the early stages of the whole pandemic situation, I got called, my unit got activated and I got deployed for a covid-19 response up to Washington State.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, talk about that, so you were working for us for eight months, like you said, I think during those first eight months, you definitely had a week of active duty to at one point. And then you came back and you said I just got called active duty for — what was it — like one to two years? You didn’t know at the time, right?

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah, it was supposed to be like 16 months that we were going to get deployed, but it ended up being about 10 months once everything finished. But that was the first time our unit, my unit surge main unit was ever activated, so it was kind of like a milestone with the unit in itself, and pretty much all of our weekends and our annual trainings is what prepares us for a situation like this.


This is what we’re training for. This is what we are meant to do. So when the call came out, we answered the call and I think there’s about 1,600 of us that got activated and we’re kind of spread across the four to five major naval bases across the US.

Michael Kurland: And so, what were you doing when you were on active duty? I don’t know if you can go too deep into whatever, but just like on a daily what we’re kind of getting into?

Steven Jaramillo: So initially, my first two months because of my Navy job electrician, I was assigned to a temporary services shop. So any boat or submarine that came into port, our job was to connect shore power, installed the lighting that they needed throughout the boat, install any ventilation they need, install fire houses, fire trees throughout the boat. And then once they’re done, take down everything, take everything apart, take it off the boat. So it’s very labor intensive, especially in Washington. Very cold in the mornings, you can get 20 degrees. And we’re still out there working, holing eight inch ventilation, piping down a few flights of decks. And it was different, different than being a project manager for sure.

Michael Kurland: Sure. You definitely earned your supper every day.

Steven Jaramillo: Oh, yeah, definitely. So after the two months, we kind of had a touch base with the master chief down there, kind of a one on one that wanted to get to know us and what we do on the civilian side. And he acknowledged that I did project management. So after a lot of meeting, he asked me to stick around and he asked me if I was interested in doing something else. And I said, “Yeah, sure. What do you got for me?” So they made me the repair officers, executive administrator. He pretty much told me we want to use your project management experience to help facilitate some things for the repair officer to make their lives easier, to help them streamline the processes. I was like, “Yeah, sure, let me see what I can do.” I was able to help them transition the bulk of their communication to a virtual environment because the whole Covid situation and the social distancing. I was able to have them transition into using Microsoft Teams for the majority of their communication, for the production. I also helped them transition into using Microsoft products to be able to manage their scheduling, track their critical path work and some other administrative changes that was able to implement and help them streamline their department, their whole repair department itself. So I found myself utilizing my civilian experience into my military job, which is kind of unique, it’s usually the other way around, but in this situation, it kind of worked out for my benefit, being able to use my civilian experience in my military position during a mobilization.

Michael Kurland: That’s awesome. So while you were gone, we kept your seat warm for you. So talk a little bit about that and then we’ll get into a couple more things and we’ll wrap up.

Steven Jaramillo: So it was hard enough having to get up and leave my home. We had 30 days to pretty much get all of our gear ready and kind of show up and move to a different state set up. The whole process was stressful in itself and getting settled, situated over there was a process, but honestly, throughout the whole time I was there Branded Group, I had multiple people reach out to me on a different…


So during my 10 months, I was gone, I had multiple people reach out to me from Branded Group just checking up on me, seeing how I was doing, wishing me success, saying, “Hey, we miss you here.” I got invited to a lot of Branded Group’s virtual happy hours and stuff like that, unfortunately, because my schedule was able to join. But just the fact that the company, the people that reach out to me took the time to kind of just show me their support and letting me know that I’m not forgotten, I’m still part of the team, part of the family, that was a great feeling, especially being away from family and friends back home. So I thought that was pretty cool, I’ve been deployed — not deployed, but with the previous company, when I was gone for eight months, I didn’t do any of that. I can already see the difference and seeing how the Branded Group treated their employees and treated me in the situation and honestly felt like a family. So I appreciated that knowing that Branded Group was there and I was excited to come back to you guys.

Michael Kurland: Yeah. And you even nominated us for an award. So talk about that. That was really cool. We were so honored to get the award, so let the audience know a little bit about that.

Steven Jaramillo: Yeah. Like I mentioned, just the continued communication and continued support even before getting mobilized, just the accommodation Branded Group made for me, needing a day off to get some military stuff done or needed to leave early to get anything done military wise, I was accommodated. And especially during the whole pandemic with things that were going on with businesses and different companies and just the continued support Branded Group showed me throughout this whole process. To show my gratitude and my appreciation, I was able to nominate Branded Group and the executive teams, the executive team members, as well as my direct supervisor, Andrew, for the Patriot Award, which just recognizes the overall support Branded Group and each of you guys gave me and just in the support of the Guard and Reserve component of the military, it shows how passionate you guys are in your overall support for the sacrifices that we have to make and just you guys being able to accommodate that and just support us while we’re answering the call of duty.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, I got to say, we’ve received numerous awards over the years, but I think by far this is my favorite award that we’ve ever won. So I really appreciate you doing that for us. But really more so appreciate that you came back safe and sound and now you’re back and working with us and the family. So, thank you for your service and I appreciate everything that you do for the country and for us. So this is really a great better story of — you took your life and you don’t know where you’re going and the military is an option. It doesn’t matter how old you are. And you can make a career out of it or you can make it what you want it to be. So you’ve done nothing but taken every opportunity that they have given you and just expounded upon it and made yourself better. So thank you for doing that as well. So, Steven, if the audience wants to get a hold of you, how can they do so?

Steven Jaramillo: You can find me on LinkedIn at LinkedIn profile. I do have an Instagram as more of just my personal Instagram, but you can find me on there as well or my Branded Group email.

Michael Kurland: Well, you’ve got to give them to the audience. What’s your Instagram handle? What’s your LinkedIn name to look for and what’s your email address?

Steven Jaramillo: Email address is sjaramillo@brandedgroup.com. My Instagram is Stevy_Steve3

Michael Kurland: Stevey_Steve3. I like it.

Steven Jaramillo: And my LinkedIn should just be my name, Steven Jaramillo.

Michael Jaramillo: Well, this has been a great conversation, Steven. I really appreciate everything you do. So thank you and audience, until next time.

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