Fork In The Road

It was shortly after New Year’s when the realization hit me. I would soon be 35, quite literally in my mid-30’s. Not exactly old yet but getting closer to the point where I wouldn’t be able to call myself young for much longer either. I’ve worked in the steel mill as an electrician for the last ten years. There was a period of time where I got some enjoyment out of the job, at the very least found it tolerable, but over the last few years a feeling inside me had been growing. That feeling, coupled with the realization of my age, led me to finally tell myself that I didn’t want to do what I have been doing for a living anymore and if I wanted to make a change I’d have to do it sooner than later.

The spark igniting the fire of this epiphany is my family. My kids are growing up fast. It’s a cliche to say so but the reason it’s a cliche is because it is true for every parent. I have two boys. The youngest is two and requires constant attention. My oldest has just started elementary school and has been more and more involved in BMX racing over the last year. I want to be there for every race to cheer him on, to help him with school work, and basically just watch them both grow. Right now I’m lucky to make it to one of his races every other week. I work rotating shifts and when I’m on nights I may not see my family for more than a few minutes a day for a week.

All these thoughts and emotions had been piling up on me. The new year is always the time people think about changes or improvements they want to make. When it arrived this year and I pondered what it was that I wanted for myself the thought hit me hard: It’s time for a career change, NOW!

I’ve always had an interest in technology from a young age. I had to have the latest and greatest gadgets. The newest game consoles, televisions, and computers. When I couldn’t afford a whole new computer, I started replacing parts and upgrading the ones I already owned to stay as current as possible. I have watched in awe as the internet has evolved from basic web pages and search engines to full blown applications that function as tools in our daily lives.

I was intrigued to see what went into creating some of these applications and so I started learning basic programming on my own in February with Javascript. I immediately liked the creativity involved, the many different ways you could approach a problem, and the gratification of creating something that is useful and serves a specific purpose. Hell, I even enjoy the troubleshooting when code doesn’t work properly or at least the way you expect it to. My favorite part of being an electrician all these years is figuring out problems and solving them. Parsing through code and making corrections that allow the program to work properly brings me the same satisfaction.

A few months later, after making it through a few books and prep courses, I was convinced that I wanted to continue towards a career in software development. My crazy work schedule would not allow me to go to regular classes that were at the same days and times each week. My only option was schooling that was available online and could somehow work around the constraints of my full time job. This lead me to Flatiron School where I pulled the trigger and started their online Software Engineering course.

The future is unknown. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about that, but I’m simultaneously excited to know that I’ve put myself on a completely different path. The only way to make a change is to find a different route than the one you’ve been on. It’s never easy to veer off from what you know. I saw the fork in the road and mustering every ounce of courage I had I decided to take it. It’s a huge decision to make, but one that will hopefully bring me many years of happiness and success. The only way it’s going to happen is to take a chance and go for it. Here’s to the future.




Industrial electrician working towards a career change in software engineering. Graduate of Flatiron School. Family man. Zappa fanatic.

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John Troutman

John Troutman

Industrial electrician working towards a career change in software engineering. Graduate of Flatiron School. Family man. Zappa fanatic.

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