Taking new direction through the skies

Fresh out of college after attending Western Michigan University for music and math, Prospect foreign exchange host parent Anton Sasmitamanggala was unsure of what he wanted to do next. Previously, he had smaller jobs working at a fast food restaurant, a greenhouse and a theater as a stage manager. 

Nothing really stuck out to him until he saw an opportunity to be an air traffic controller, and he figured he had nothing to lose by going for the job. He has now been a part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for 15 years and is very happy with his choice of occupation.

Sasmitamanggala started working in an approach control job in Elgin after college. Approach control mainly sequences flights for takeoff and landing. He then moved up the ranks to DuPage Airport, Midway Airport and into his current position as an air traffic controller at O’Hare Airport. 

Though he never went to school for anything aviation related, Sasmitamanggala says that his college education did help him in his job now.

“I think just having the skill set [from studying] music and math, [and] being able to both be analytical and creative, really helps … [because] you need both of those skills,” said Sasmitamanggala.

Being an air traffic controller involves ensuring the efficient and safe flow of traffic in and out of the airport and on the ground. Many air traffic controllers work in the towers that surround the airport and help guide and control the planes. They are also responsible for any snow vehicles or emergency vehicles that might have to be on the ground.  

Even though he never imagined himself having this job years ago, it was a great decision to pursue the opportunity.

“Being able to see all the airplanes out the windows, I love it,” Sasmitamanggala said. “Absolutely love it. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.” 

However, there are still some issues that come with being an air traffic controller just as there are with any job. The hours are Sasmitamanggala’s least favorite part of the job. The airport is open 24 hours a day and he works six days a week. Some of his shifts are early morning, some evening, and some around midnight. 

This is challenging because of his family, he has two young kids and during the school year, he hosts Prospect foreign exchange students. This year he hosted Carolina Mezzanotte from Italy and last year he hosted Valentine Soulet from France.

 The hours can impact family activities because sometimes he has to miss out on things or reschedule them. 

“Today it’s actually my wife’s birthday and I had to be here at work for the evening,” Sasmitamanggala said. 

Regardless of the downsides, Sasmitamanggala still loves his career, and gives high school students the advice to keep an open mind when it comes to job selection.

“If you think that sounds like an interesting opportunity, give it a shot,” Sasmitamanggala said. “If I hadn’t [taken an interesting opportunity],  I wouldn’t be in this amazing career, and sometimes just taking the chance is the best thing you can do.”

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