Aaron Rountree III (2015, BA in Communication)

Operations Lead at American Airlines in Charlotte, NC
Headshot photo of man with beard smiling and wearing a white shirt, blue tie, and khaki jacket

Tell us about your current job role/employer and what you’re currently working on. 

I work for American Airlines assisting with and helping manage the day to day ramp operations. These operations include overseeing the sometimes forgotten aspects of air travel such as maintenance of planes, routing of bags, and effectively managing the movement of planes when they are on the ground in Charlotte.

What personal and/or career experiences did you have prior to landing your current job and leading to where you are now?

Before I joined the airline industry I played professional basketball in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. After that, I taught elementary school for two years before transitioning to my current industry.

What was the most challenging aspect of your first “real world job” and what did you learn from it?

The most challenging aspect of life in the “real world” for me personally was finding my “routine”. In college, a lot of our daily routines (and personal well-being) are dependent on the departmental class schedules, the clubs/groups you participate in, and the friends you spend the most time around. As an adult, your daily schedule is dependent much more on your career and your personal goals and not as influenced by others.

What advice would you give to new Wake Forest graduates about developing their personal life habits after college (finances, health, values, work/life balance)?

Work life balance is so important. There are likely going to be plenty of times (especially early on) when your job feels like it’s wearing you down and if it’s 80% if your life, it’s going to be so tough to get out of the feeling of being “in a funk”. Having hobbies and interests outside of work can be super beneficial in that aspect and also can help with making new friends & acquaintances outside of your Wake Forest network. As far as health goes, establish a primary care doctor and don’t be ashamed of finding an in-network therapist (talking to you, male Deacs). Lastly, BUDGETING IS YOUR FRIEND.

How have you made personal and professional relationships in your city, company, or community?

Seems simple, but don’t be afraid to talk to people, especially when it comes to asking questions. You’ll be surprised at just how many people are as interested in your field/career/education as you are in theirs.

Have you been mentored by anyone at Wake Forest or in your professional life? If so, what impact has that relationship had on you?

I am blessed to have too many mentors to name individually but I think that goes back to not being afraid to ask for questions or help. We all walk different paths but you can learn from other people and the trials and triumphs of their journey.

What advice would you give to current Wake Forest students and/or young alumni who are about to start their first professional job?

Embrace the process and “comparison is the thief of joy.” Whether you love your first job or it turns out to be the stepping stone for your true career, make the most of every opportunity. Believe in yourself and your greatness.

What are your future career goals or plans? How are you being intentional about working towards them?

Currently deciding between continued progression up the managerial side of the airline industry or completing pilot school and becoming a commercial pilot.

Story published in November 2022. For current updates on Aaron’s career path, visit his LinkedIn profile.