“My Transition” Story #4: Mark Otto — Marines to New York Stock Exchange

Mark is an excellent example of servant leadership. A veteran of Panama and Desert Storm/Shield, he has made a name for himself as a trader on the New York Stock Exchange for the past 24 years. Now, he is beginning a new mission with UWVC to help veterans.

Ask yourself what motivates you before selecting a career path. It’s been noted that over 50% of Post 9/11 Veterans leave their 1st job within a year. In order to ease your transition I would suggest researching and joining one or more Veteran Service Organizations.

New York, NY — Mark Otto is a 2x Combat Veteran of the United States Marine Corps and currently serves as Vice President of the United War Veterans Council based in New York City. Otto is a Champion of Veterans and is active within the veterans communities of both NY/NJ by way of volunteering, mentoring, fundraising, forming collaborations between Veteran Service Orgs and bringing awareness to worthy Veteran related causes. Otto remains a licensed trader on the New York Stock Exchange where he’s led a successful career for over 20 years. Mark and his wife Jennifer met on the NYSE and have been married for 15 years. They reside in Red Bank New Jersey along with their 5 year old son Zachary.

DJS: Why did you join the military?

MO:

I was brought up to be patriotic. I wanted to serve in the military since I was child. I ended up being the 5th person in my family to serve in war.

DJS: What were the most important skills or lessons that you learned?

MO:

As an active duty U.S Marine from 1988–92, I spent the majority of my time on small ground intelligence gathering teams. When I had just turned 19 years old I was forward deployed to the Panama Invasion and then to Desert Shield/Storm. I’ve spent the past 24 years on Wall Street. Transitional skills sets that aided me throughout my civilian career include the ability to lead and make sound decisions in high pressure situations, team building, verbal and written communication skills and the ability to instruct others on complex tasks.

Marine Corps training constantly pushed me to my physical and mental limits. Cold, tired, wet and miserable were normal training variables used to prepare us for war. The greatest lesson I learned was that metal toughness and a good sense of humor will get you through most of life’s challenges.

The greatest lesson I learned was that metal toughness and a good sense of humor will get you through most of life’s challenges.

DJS: Did you know what you were going to do when you got out?

MO:

Honestly, I had no idea what I was going to do when I got out of the Marines. However, I knew that some day I wanted to have a family and that would be difficult as a career Marine.

DJS: Did you face any struggles?

MO:

Like many I struggled to make the transition back to civilian life. None of my friends served in the military so there was no one that understood what I’d been through. Especially since I served in combat twice before I was legally able to drink.

DJS: Tell me about your initial job search?

MO:

I spent the 1st few months out of the Marines working at a gun shop. A head hunting organization I hired called International Career Consultants was searching for oversees jobs for me as a military contractor. I was offered a one year position to work on a surveillance team in Nigeria at the same time that a position opened up with a firm on the New York Stock Exchange. Instead of the quick money on a one year contract I chose to lesser paying entery level job on the NYSE that had tremendous upward potential if I succeeded.

DJS: How did you end up at NYSE?

MO:

In 1991 I was home on leave before I was to be deployed to Joint Task Force 6 doing surveillance of the U.S Boarder with Mexico. A high school buddy called and asked if I’d like to visit him on the New York Stock Exchange. I remembered seeing the movie Wall Street with all of the chaos and pandemonium and was excited to take him up on his offer. I ended up meeting his boss who happened to be a well established Marine Vietnam Vet. We hit it off immediately. When he asked me what my plans were for the future I answered that I had no idea but the high stress, fast paced environment of Wall Street seemed to be a place where I could potentially thrive. He got me my 1st job as an entery level clerk with the largest firm in the trading floor. He told me “I got you in the door. The rest will depend on you.” John Eric Smith was my mentor for 15 years until he retired. To this day we still remain close and have lunch together every month.

When he asked me what my plans were for the future I answered that I had no idea but the high stress, fast paced environment of Wall Street seemed to be a place where I could potentially thrive.

DJS: What was your initial training and experience like at NYSE?

MO:

Back when I started on the NYSE there were over 5,000 traders and more millionaires working there per square foot than anywhere in the world. Most people did not make it through their 1st year of training. It was an intense and brutally competitive atmosphere. However, everyone was forced to start at the bottom. It was an apprenticeship where you began with menial tasks and you had to earn the right to be given the opportunity of taking on more responsibilities.

DJS: How did you find your current job at UWVC?

MO:

I was recently voted in by Board Members and given the privilege to serve as Vice President of the United War Veterans Council. Our mission is to rally our communities to honor and serve Veterans and their families. I still maintain my trading licenses on the NYSE.

My involvement with supporting our military began years ago by participating in care package drives. From there I became Co Chairman of the NYSE Veterans Committee where I spearheaded veteran outreach initiatives and mentored transitioning veterans. I then became an active volunteer or member of six Veteran Support Organizations who’s missions vary from fraternal membership, connecting veterans with thier communities, empowering wounded veterans to participate in assisted sporting events and Equine therapy for veterans battling with Post Traumatic Stress. In more recent years I’ve stepped up to becoming a leader within the Veteran community. I am the Veteran Engagement Director and Ruck Director of Team Red White and Blue’s NYC Chapter. I began as a UWVC volunteer then Advisory Council Member and now I’m the Vice President. In 2016 I rucked 1,000 miles with an average 45lbs ruck carrying the American Flag to promote awareness of Veteran PTS related suicide while blogging about it through a social media campaign. I realized that through all of this work I have found my calling in life.

In 2016 I rucked 1,000 miles with an average 45lbs ruck carrying the American Flag to promote awareness of Veteran PTS related suicide…

DJS: If you knew one thing before the transition process that would have made your experience easier, what would that be?

MO:

I wish I knew how difficult the transitioning process would be and that the preparation for it should begin approximately 6 months before separation.

DJS: What one piece of advice do you have for anyone reading this?

MO:

Ask yourself what motivates you before selecting a career path. It’s been noted that over 50% of Post 9/11 Veterans leave thier 1st job within a year. In order to ease your transition I would suggest researching and joining one or more Veteran Service Organizations. Through this, you can begin reconnecting with like minded people and forming your own network. For most, nowadays networking plays a critical role in landing a job. Additionally, if you plan on continuing your education, employers want to see that you remained productive after your time in uniform.

I wish you all the best of luck!

Networking plays a critical role in landing a job.

Service Details:

Mark served with 2nd Force Recon as a communications specialist. After a few months with the Company, he received orders to join Intelligence Company, 2d Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group (2ndSRI), where he received specialized training in maintaining and deploying various sensor types, radio operation, and radio code signals.

In 1989, Otto was deployed to Central America to assist in the U.S Invasion of Panama, a result of the breakdown of relations between Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and the United States. Otto also deployed a second time for Desert Shield/Storm in 1991 with “Task Force Troy”, where his unit conducted reconnaissance operations, sensor monitoring, and diversions along the Saudi/Kuwaiti border.

Award and achievement highlights: Combat Action Ribbon with Gold Star, Airborne Jump Wings, Meritoriously Promoted to Non-Commissioned Officer.

Top Resources:

United War Veterans Council — The mission of the United War Veterans Council is to mobilize our communities to honor, support and serve America’s veterans. (Mark recently left NYSE to serve as VP here).

Team Red, White & Blue — Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

LinkedIn — LinkedIn is an excellent resource for networking, job search and professional development. They are currently offering 1 free year of Premium membership to veterans.

GoRuck — GoRuck builds high-quality gear in the USA, leads team-building endurance events based on their experiences in Special Forces, and they love to ruck. Check it out and sign up for a challenge sometime. Good livin!

Desert Storm “Chocolate Chip” camouflage. The parka I’m wearing in this picture was designed to avoid detection from night vision. I preferred using fighter pilot gloves which provide better dexterity and sensitivity than the issued leather gloves.
1991 Marine Corps Birthday Ball. Greg and I served together in both the Panama Invasion and in Desert Shield/Storm. We’re still in touch after all these years.
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! It’s been an honor and a pleasure being a trader on the New York Stock Exchange. The trading floor community is full of patrioc military supporters. The skateboard was a prop used for a bell ringing event. It was early morning so I couldn’t resist using it to cut loose!
From 202–14 I served as Co Chairman of the NYSE Veterans Committee. It was a wonderful experience that allowed me to connect with and mentor transitioning veterans. I’m accompanied by then NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer and NYSE Veteran Associate David Smith.
The view of what it looks like to orchestrate price discovery for an NYSE Initial Public Offering. I’m lower left in the photo verbally announcing the price range. This is one of those high pressure situations where the ability to make sound decisions based upon limited information is the key to success. Fortunes can be made or lost on days like these.

Are you interested in sharing your story of transition? Or are you a military transition specialist who would like to share some tips? Send me an email at MilitaryTransitionStories@gmail.com

The goal of this series is to bridge the military-civilian divide in three ways: 1) Highlight the incredible skills and value that military veterans of all generations and backgrounds bring into the workplace. 2) Help transitioning veterans understand their true value and therefore aim as high as possible in their employment and educational goals. 3) Discuss the common struggles, pitfalls and indicators of success in veteran transition, in order to provide better transition assistance from both military and civilian sides.

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David Smith

David Smith

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Hubby & daddy. USMC veteran. Marketing professional. Entrepreneur. I like mountains, whisky, travel and mischief. Live in Norway. Insta: @americanvikinginnorway