It seems like yesterday: My mother and her 17-year-old son unloading a rental car on move-in day in Daytona Beach, Florida. That day was also the first time I had ever visited Embry-Riddle. All of the admissions paperwork was accomplished online from my home in Lima, Peru.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Learning a new language and flight training in a different country were all barriers I would have to overcome. Without a doubt, what pushed me the most to never give up was the support of my parents. I simply couldn’t fail them. They sacrificed many things to help me afford to go to Embry-Riddle, and I wanted to make them proud.
I had a plan: My goal was to become a flight instructor at the university as quickly as possible, in order to start building hours. Thanks to all of my flight instructors, I was able to take extra flight lessons and advance through my flight courses at a rapid pace. I never went home to Peru during those four years. By the start of fall 2015 — two years after my first semester — I was hired as a flight instructor after earning my CFI.
Flight instructing was just the first of many steps. I knew that the airlines, particularly at the major level, looked for candidates who take the extra effort to stand out, either by volunteering or mentoring. I knew Embry-Riddle had the tools to allow me to accomplish those things; it was up to me to seek them.
I became a flight supervisor for the flight department and shortly thereafter, a quality assurance mentor and an assistant training manager. I graduated with honors at the age of 21 and started flying for a regional airline. I flew the Embraer 175 jet for Republic Airways for two years, and then the Airbus A320 for Spirit Airlines.
It wasn’t long before Delta Air Lines reviewed my application and offered me an interview. It was the interview of my dreams. I prepared tirelessly for it, over a month of sleepless nights. The day finally arrived: Nov. 21, 2019. I found myself standing outside the Delta World Headquarters building in Atlanta. At 23, I was the youngest candidate to be eligible for a Delta pilot position. None of the interview candidates were doing much talking; we knew we had a long and stressful day ahead.
After hours of intense testing, it was time for the human resources portion of the interview. I remembered the words of one of my biggest mentors at Embry-Riddle, John Fit (’94): “Above all, remain calm, cool and collected.”
The final verdict came a few hours later. When the manager of pilot hiring approached the candidates with conditional job offers, he looked at me and said: “Sergio, 23 years old? Sometimes I get asked about why I hire such young candidates. You not only have worked so hard until today, but you excelled on all of the interview scoring.”
At that moment, my family came to my mind. My mom in Peru, 2,600 miles away, waiting for me to call her with the news. “I did it, Mom. I made it. Your only son made it!” were my first words to her. Looking back, all the effort was worth it. Having a strong support system behind me was key. Every check ride, every step I accomplished throughout my flight training, I shared with them. They were my “fuel” to keep going.
Thank you Embry-Riddle. All of you became my American family during those years. Thank you for welcoming me, but most importantly, thank you for laying out the path to success for my professional career. Now, for me, it’s all about giving back and sharing my story with young, aspiring aviators all over the world.
I have a few words for them: I missed my family as much as you will. Yet, remember, you are not alone. Your family’s happiness as they watch you succeed will be your primary motivation. You will encounter many obstacles along the way — learn from them and don’t let them sway you away from your dreams.
Editor’s Note: Sovero is a Delta Air Lines First Officer. He earned a B.S. in Aeronautical Science in 2016. He is a member of Embry-Riddle’s Prescott Campus Aerospace Advisory Board and the Eagle Writers Corps, a group of volunteer writers for the office of philanthropy and alumni engagement.