For military spouses, permanent change of station orders can sideline a career. Not at Prudential.
By Adam Hunter
They call Alaska “The Last Frontier” for good reason. For most Americans, the 49th state evokes a frigid wilderness capped with electric-blue glaciers and frozen tundra, with spruce forests overrun by grizzly bears and crystal-clear rivers swimming with salmon. For the Braccos, a military family that was relocated from El Paso, Texas, to Fairbanks a year ago, it’s the polar opposite of everything they’ve ever known.
Stephany Bracco, a software developer with Prudential’s Global Business & Technology Solutions group, born in Juarez, Mexico, met her husband, Jason, an Army specialist and helicopter mechanic, in El Paso. As a military family, the Braccos expected to move often—every three years on average. But neither Stephany nor Jason expected their permanent change of station, or PCS, orders would send them to a place where the winter sun shines only three hours a day.
“I liked that Prudential would give me the chance to work from home and keep my job when my husband had to move, because we knew that was going to happen sooner or later. ”
“I freaked out,” Bracco says. “My husband and I would always joke about it—if you get stationed in Alaska, I’m going to stay here. It wasn’t a joke anymore.”
Her supervisor at Prudential, John Mack, helped calm her fears. “He said, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’ll have your job, that’s not going to change. We’ll help you with the move.’”
That job flexibility was the primary reason Bracco joined Prudential in 2016, shortly after getting married. She was hired into Prudential’s El Paso business and technology solutions center, which exemplifies the company’s commitment to providing quality jobs for veterans and military spouses. Prudential was recognized last month as a 2019 Top 10 Military Friendly® Spouse Employer.
“Prudential has been at the tip of spear to find new ways to recruit and retrain not only veterans, but also military spouses,” says Eric Eversole, president of Hiring Our Heroes, an organization that partners with Prudential to provide corporate fellowships and other services to veterans. Prudential has forged partnerships with nearly 60 companies and organizations to help the military, veterans and their spouses improve their financial wellness.
“I liked that Prudential would give me the chance to work from home and keep my job when my husband had to move, because we knew that was going to happen sooner or later,” Bracco says. “My previous employer couldn’t give me that opportunity.”
Just getting to Alaska was an adventure. She and Jason arrived in Fairbanks by pickup truck after an eight-day, 3,700-mile journey from El Paso, their dog and cat in tow. After more than two days on a ferry and a harrowing drive through a blinding ice storm at the Yukon-Alaska border, Jason took his first step at Fort Wainwright, their new home, slipped and fell on the ice.
“The winter was just starting and it was already the coldest I’d ever been,” Bracco says. “The coldest it got last year was minus 35. People here called it a mild winter.”
Slips and falls aside, the Braccos have come to love their new home.
On Saturdays they often go to the farmer’s market, where they’ve found a surprising diversity of food—Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, African—“all cooked by people who are from there who know how to cook it,” Bracco says.
Across the street from their home, they rent kayaks to take out on the Chena River that runs through the city, or ATVs to ride through the backcountry. At the peak of summer, when the sun is up for 22 hours, she and Jason have gone fishing for pike—at midnight.
“I sent pictures to my friends and family and they asked, ‘What time is it over there? It looks like the middle of the day,’” she says.
Although her workdays begin much earlier because of the two-hour time difference, Bracco’s setup at home is just like it was in her El Paso office.
“I have my two monitors, my docking station, my laptop,” she says. Her view out the window, however, is quite different. “When it gets dark we’ll just stare out the window at the northern lights.”
As new arrivals, the Braccos are in the majority—only 41 percent of Alaskans were born there, according to Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development. But the couple recently added to the native Alaskan population—their daughter, Aubrie, was born on Sept. 10.
“There’s a town near here called North Pole, they have this cute little Santa Claus house that they open in the winter,” Bracco says. “My husband and I would always say we’re not going to take our kids to the mall for a picture with Santa. But here we’re in the actual North Pole, we kind of have to do it.”
For media inquiries about Prudential’s Veteran Initiatives, please contact Alicia Rodgers Alston.