Staff Profiles - Former First Responders Destiny Kee (ME) and Glenn Compopiano (AE)

Our colleagues come from all sorts of backgrounds. Destiny and Glenn share their experiences as first responders.

Mr. Rogers once recounted how his mother told him to "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." This month our focus is on emergency preparedness and workplace safety, so we tracked down a couple of our staff members who have worked as helpers in the past. Destiny Kee (ME) is an Administrative Professional Senior, and in past careers she was an Air Force police officer and an EMT at Emory. Glenn Campopiano is a Financial Manager II in ASDL and when he was a high school student in Connecticut he was a volunteer EMT. Here's what they had to say about their experiences and their very different careers at Georgia Tech.

 

Destiny Kee

Destiny Kee
ME
Administrative Professional Senior

Where are you from and what did you do before you came to Georgia Tech?

I'm from Covington, Georgia. I lived there my whole life until I joined the Air Force as a security police officer. I did that for six years. When I was in the military I started off in South Korea and then I ended up in Charleston, South Carolina. From Charleston I went to a lot of different places, like Afghanistan and Iraq. Then from the military I went to Emory and worked in the ICU as an EMT. Then I went to the dental clinic which was a totally different pace. It wasn't high speed at all. It was a normal day to day job. Then from the dental office I came to Georgia Tech.

The transition was very different. I went from someone needing me everyday to working pretty independently. There aren't a lot of people in my face, and there's no blood or trauma. It's mostly paperwork. 

How did you end up in the Air Force?

I actually went into the military to be a dental hygienist, but that job would have required me to go to boot camp and then go home for a year, but I didn't want to go back home. I wanted to go straight through, and they told me about the police officer job and showed me some recruitment videos. It wasn't quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it once I got started. 

What did an average day look like as an Air Force police officer?

We got a lot of domestic calls. That's common in the military as soldiers come home and wives or husbands adjust to their spouse being back in the household. Drunk driving was also common, as well as car accidents and speeding tickets. That was when we were stateside. Overseas there were bomb threats, or bombs going off in the area. There were more emergency situations with people needing help. 

What did you like about it?

I loved the excitement. Nothing was ever the same from one day to the next. When you went to work you had no idea what was going to happen. Now when I come to work I know what I'm going to be working on most of the time. There was a lot of adrenaline. You would go home tired or sleepy some days or crazy and excited other days because of the craziness you just saw. It was a lot of action and thinking on your feet. This is very different, but I like it.

What did you do at Emory?

At Emory I worked in the ICU. As a police officer I was used to just handing people over to the hospital or EMT. In the emergency room we were helping people. I was diagnosing problems and trying to figure out what happened and how to help, because people weren't always honest. I had one lady whose husband had beaten her up, but she had a completely different story. We were able to listen to her and sort it all out. That was an interesting challenge. I also did all of the first responder stuff - evaluating airways and wounds to make sure we could get them to the hospital in time. I miss it sometimes.

How long have you been at Tech and what do you like about it?

I've been here for two years. I really like that it's more stable, without all of the adrenaline. I also enjoy event planning. It's a different pace, but it's a lot of thinking on your feet. Crazy stuff happens at big events that you have to adjust for, even if it doesn't include blood. I really enjoy event planning. I've put together a lot of conferences and seminars, and organized visits for people coming here from different countries. It's fun to meet and greet them. I recently organized a conference for 300 people. It was demanding but fun. I didn't know what I had gotten myself into but it was so fun.

Did any skills carry over from your previous careers?

Oh definitely. I would say multi-tasking, because you get pulled in a lot of directions at one time. and always being able to be patient and think things through. Regardless of how someone responds to you, you have to think of why they are responding to you that way and not respond to them in the way they are responding to you. And patience is a virtue. 

Do many people around your office know you were in the military or worked in law enforcement?

Most people don't know. It's kind of my secret, but one professor that knows did call me and ask me for help with a situation. People are surprised when they find out. A lot of people say I don't look like I could be an authority figure. I didn't think that either, until I was in that position. You learn how to take charge. You take on a different persona. You have that airman personality in the Air Force and then a different personality in the civilian world. This is an easier life now. I don't have to give orders and tell people what to do.

Do you put that personality back on in meetings?

Sometimes I do, and it catches people off guard. They don't expect it, and they listen. It's a good skill to have. I can take charge when I need to.

Have you ever talked to GTPD about working with them?

I haven't. When I first got out of the military I did talk to my local police station, but it just didn't feel right. I think for those jobs you have to feel right. You have to be able to commit to do it well. I think I lost the passion for it after doing it for so long, and I didn't want it to be just a job. That work is so important. It can't be half-hearted. 

Do you have any tips for helping people handle a crisis?

You always want to be on your feet. What they taught us in the military is to be able to assess the situation and also have patience at the same time. Look at the situation in the first minute or two, assess it and try to understand what's going on, then understand that the people involved are going through a crisis situation that you're not going through. You have to have understanding for them.

 

Glenn Campopiano
ASDL
Financial Manager II

How did you become an EMT?

The state of Connecticut started a new EMT program back in the mid 70's. It was a volunteer program through the high school, and we had to take a 200 hour class over a 10- or 12-week period during nights and weekends. We did classroom work and spent time in the hospital ER, did ride-alongs, and did a state level test. I remember the testing. We walked from room to room and each room had a different scenario that you had to figure out. You had to be able to evaluate and prioritize care and all of that stuff. I was 17 at the time and didn't have a driver's license yet. When I started we were assigned to the police department in town. We were volunteers and we had a small office with a bell in it. There was no 911 back then, so everything came through a dispatcher. We had a Cadillac ambulance but I couldn't drive.

What kind of calls did you get?

We were in a small town. Most of the work was heart attacks and broken bones from football games and accidents and things like that. There were a couple of bad car crashes with mortalities involved. For the most part it was a good experience and there was a group of us - about 8 or 10 - that all graduated from the class. We were all friends and we were involved in a lot of things.

When did you stop being an EMT?

I did it for a few years, and then in the mid-80's when AIDS became prevalent as a blood-born pathogen, I reconsidered. I wasn't getting paid for this and it was a very big risk at the time. Things were different then - we didn't glove up or put on masks when we were treating people. We pulled glass out of wounds with our bare hands. Gloves just weren't part of the standard routine back then. So I did my few years of voluntary service and had some good saves. Looking back it was a good experience.

My aunt was an ER nurse, and my mom was a nurse too. My dad was in Knights of Columbus. We were always doing community things as a way to give back. This seemed like a great opportunity for me to learn a skillset. I got extra credit for it too, so that helped. 

Do you think that training has stuck with you?

The training has definitely stuck with me and influenced me. Both of my sons were lifeguards and went through all of the advanced lifeguard training for CPR and stuff like that. Most of the training sticks with you for what to do in most emergencies. Some guidelines have changed, like CPR doesn't require doing the breathing part - they mainly want you to do the chest compressions. If I were to do any of it I think it would be old hat, but there might be some things I have to think a little bit more about. But fractures, sutures, and lacerations are the same today as they were back then. 

It doesn't go away. I could probably still deliver a baby if I had to. It's actually very easy for the paramedic - way easier than for the mother. It's messy and loud, but not hard. When the baby wants to come out it comes out. 

When did you come to Tech and what brought you here?

I've been at Tech or six years and before that I spent five years at Georgia Southern. I was working down there on a big NSF project that was actually administered by Georgia Tech. So I got to know people up in Georgia Tech grants and projects, specifically Rob Roy. That project ended in Statesboro and I'd been told, "If you want to come to Tech we'd love you to work for us." Shortly after that there was an opportunity. I applied and came up. I've spent two years in grant and projects, a year in OSP in contracting, and three years now in the department. 

Before that I was a chef. I had my own Italian restaurant and other restaurants prior to coming back to work. When I retire I'll probably go back to the restaurant business. It was a big part of my life. When I got to Statesboro in 1998 I opened up the Italian place and ran that for five years before I opened another place aimed at the college crowd. Neither open of them is open now.

What do you like about working here?

I love it here at Tech. I certainly didn't think I'd be here for six years. I thought I would have moved on to something else, but I've been able to move up the chain and working here at ASDL is really fun. I'm big into planes and stuff like that so coming to aerospace was great. I had some relationships with Dr. Mavris and Dr. Tai and Jim Woodruff. Coming down here was a perfect fit for me. ASDL is quite large when it comes to the number of students we have and the number of sponsored projects, as well as the staff. I manage the budget, purchasing, travel, and basically every financial role here goes through my office at some point. It's a big job but I love it and I have some good help. 

Are people you work with aware of your training?

Everybody on my floor knows I have medical training. They know where to find me. There's somebody in our office with a serious medical condition and I'm aware of it and can help her if she has an emergency. She has a special kit at her desk and I'm prepared to talk to any medical personnel for her to explain what's going on if it ever comes to that. People know that I'm here to help if they need me.