The Way CHD Influenced My Career
6/12/2014 9:27 AM
By Ryan Leist
Since I was in middle school I knew I wanted to be an accountant. I know the stereotypical image of an accountant is someone who carries a pocket protector and does taxes, but all the career tests I took growing up recommended it based on my interests and personality type. Another test as part of the career process in high school was the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
The day in high school we took the ASVAB was September 11, 2001. It was ironic to be taking the armed services test the day of the notorious terrorist attacks. I will never forget the United States of America military personnel turning on the television in the library to see the second plane hit the tower. From that moment on, I wanted to serve in the military; however, with a congenital heart defect, I was unsure I would be able to.
I knew I would be able to pass the physical fitness test, but I didn't know how my previous heart surgeries would affect my eligibility. Joining the military would have allowed me to serve while getting financial assistance for college. The discussion of my interest at the Air Force recruiting center in Marion, Indiana, went well until I mentioned my heart surgeries. He was polite, but explained how I would unable to serve given my medical history. I understood the liability my heart condition would be, but still wanted to serve or work in public service.
I worked throughout college to pay for my tuition and living expenses; however, I still wanted a career in public service. Through friends, I heard about an accounting and finance agency of the Department of Defense (DoD). It was the perfect opportunity to be able work for the DoD and do what I was meant to do.
I was surprised to learn it was located in Indianapolis, which is approximately a two-hour drive from where I went to school in Fort Wayne. I was excited to discover their leadership development program for new graduates and applied during my junior year of college. I was invited to tour the facility and learn about their programs and education required to be successful in their organization. Unfortunately, I was not selected for the program, but learned the skills and education they wanted in potential employees and set out to get the required work experience.
Immediately after completing my bachelor’s degree, I started a Masters of Business Administration program and started the process to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) while working full time. My full-time position was working as an accountant for large auto manufacturer. As soon as I became a CPA, I submitted my resume to an open announcement for jobs with the DoD. After a few months I finally received a call and got an offer!
The process taught me with hard work and determination, I am now able to have the career I wanted regardless of my heart condition. I have had the opportunity to work with servicemen and women, veterans, and other civilians who because of physical limitations were not able to serve, but still wanted a career in public service.
If I had not been born with CHD, my life would be much different than what it is today. While I may have some physical limitations, I continue to challenge myself both mentally and physically to be the best I can be. As I get older, I have grown to appreciate the challenges and used the limitations as motivation to reach my goals.
Ryan Leist was born in 1984 with a ventricular septal defect and interrupted aortic arch; he has had three heart surgeries (including his first open heart surgery at 8 days old). He has a B.S. in Accounting and Masters in Business Administration from Indiana University at Fort Wayne. Ryan is a lifelong learner, sports fan, and is working on living a more healthy and active lifestyle.