I used to work for an airline, doing everything except flying the plane. I worked at the ticket counter, the gates, as a ramp agent, and even push-back for the planes. Yet it wasn’t the career I envisioned for myself. I couldn’t see a pathway forward. I’ve traveled extensively overseas, and a few years ago, when I came back to the U.S. after visiting Spain, I decided that was the time to look for the next chapter in my life.
Unexpectedly, I met a professor of building automation from Georgia Piedmont Technical College (GPTC). As I am a self-declared nerd and someone who loves all things computers, this professor really piqued my interest with his invitation to tour the four labs that are part of the school’s Advanced Manufacturing Center. Walking around that place, my eyes were as big as saucers. I knew this was in my wheelhouse and when the professor told me about the potential opportunities after graduation, I was sold completely.
I should mention that I’m 48 years old, and I had never in my earlier years considered earning a two-year degree. It was never suggested to me; I never investigated it. Which is funny because I attempted to earn a four-year degree, several times. In each attempt, life got in the way and four years was too big of a hill to climb. It was always the wrong timing.
It’s not about getting everything done right now—life’s more about reaching goals at the right time.
So two years ago when obtaining an associate’s degree from GPTC became a possibility, I wanted to be sure I could not only finish school but also have something to show for it. I wanted to be able to enter the marketplace and obtain a viable career. As chance would have it, between 2010 and 2017, Georgia added 45,000 manufacturing jobs, and the industry accounts for 11 percent of our state GDP. Finally, everything had aligned: the timing, the industry, the school, and even the professor.
In 2019, I graduated from GPTC with an associate’s of Applied Science, Building Automation Systems Technician degree and about two weeks later, I was hired by Siemens as a Systems Specialist, working for the Smart Infrastructure business out of Atlanta.
Now I’m like a kid in a candy store. This work gives me the most satisfying feeling. My role is in new building construction and right now I’m working on the new WellStar Kennestone Hospital Emergency Department in Marietta, GA. It’s been fantastic for me to go in there and get a network up and running. This is an emergency room, so it’s critical that everything works correctly all the time. It can’t be closed, and to know that I have a part in making sure it’s going to operate properly—and that I am helping my community—is an amazing feeling.
One thing I’ve learned is to be more patient in how I approach life. It’s not about getting everything done right now—life’s more about reaching goals at the right time. Embracing this perspective helped me not to give up on earning a degree, or finding a career where I would be satisfied, financially successful, and feel like I am of service to others.
If we want more students to find their paths, we need a clearly communicated pipeline from the educational system into the industry. Yes, a student must have the drive, energy, and desire, but in the great sea of all possibilities out there, if there isn’t an obvious pathway for a person to see, it’s very hard to know the right way to go.
So, no matter how long it took me to get here, I’ve only scratched the surface of what I can do in building automation with Siemens. Now that I’ve found what I really want to do—and what I’m really good at—I’ve got a fantastic professional future ahead of me.