ATF special agent gives career advice to CJ students

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Criminal Justice students packed the Hazel B. Kerper courtroom in the Beto Criminal Justice Building of Sam Houston State University yesterday to get a better understanding of the on-goings of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from a first-person point of view.

ATF special agent Alex Johny presented at the first “Real Talk with CJ” event of the fall semester. During his speech, Johny discussed the agencies that make up ATF and gave advice to aspiring ATF agents in the crowd.

The mission of ATF is to enforce firearm laws and reduce violent crime. To accomplish this goal, the ATF is broken down into two bodies: Industry Operations Investigators, who conduct investigations and inspections to find suspects, and Special Agents who enforce criminal law that lead up to arrests.

The Arson and Explosives portion of ATF comes into play whenever an investigation is too big for a local fire department to handle. At that point, ATF will step in and assist with the investigation.

According to Johny, agencies tend to work together when solving an investigation because each department plays a different role in solving a case.

“You may spend two years or more on the same case, but you can impact society whenever it’s solved,” Johny said.

Going into the criminal justice field, Johny said that he was stereotyped as being too small for the job and told he wouldn’t be able to do it. Despite that, he said there is a place for everyone that wants to be in ATF.

“Anything you want to do, you can do,” he said. “Just put your mind to it.”

While criminal justice majors are in a competitive field, Johny gave students advice on how to effectively interview and apply for jobs. He encouraged them to develop their own brand to set themselves apart from the rest.

“You have to brand yourself and become your own biggest fan,” Johny said. “When you’re competing with everyone for the same job, you have to make sure you’re the best candidate that there is.”

After being with ATF for six years, Johny said that the tasks he does for work, such as filling out mandatory paperwork for cases, wouldn’t be as easy if he had not taken classes that prepared him for it. Although he hated his technical writing class in college, he says that it has helped him the most in the workplace.

“Take pride in what you do,” Johny said. “When you get the opportunity to learn, learn. You never know when you’ll use it.”