by David Houchin, student
My name is David Houchin, and I’m a nerd. A proud one actually. I’m very stubborn as well. In my experience, it is all too common that people do not get to follow their dreams and have the opportunity to work in a career doing the kind of work they enjoy. I don’t feel “lucky” necessarily (not in the normal sense of the word as most people think of it anyway.) I define “luck” as a favorable result returned from a series of effective plans and efforts. In other words, “you reap what you sow.” My favorite way to actively look at this is to always do and decide in such a way that your future self will appreciate it.
When I graduated from North Knox High School in 2001, I went straight into college immediately. I studied Psychology for a year at Vincennes University before discovering that it was not my calling. I realized that I belonged in a field with computers. The hot career at the time was Web Design, so I jumped-in. I had a great college experience thanks to the guidance of Prof. Sebastian Kiteka. I graduated in 2004; however, the economy no longer supported the “Dot Com Bubble.”
I was once again at a cross roads.
“Luckily” I had hedged my bets on preparing for anything by pursuing a career in manufacturing leadership in the event such a case came up. It did, and I was able to sustain myself in the role I already had as I had worked full-time throughout my degree at Excell, USA as a production supervisor on night shift. This allowed me the opportunity to apply for better wages at Sony DADC in Terre Haute in 2005. Once again, I rose through the ranks toiling through night shift after night shift all the while taking classes here and there through the day at Indiana State.
My time at ISU was an attempt at re-tooling myself to another computer-based field, but one that I could count on regardless of the economic climate, again, hedging my bets in preparation. The degree program was called Information Design & End-user Computing; however, I eventually came to learn that computing was a small part of the program. I found myself fully invested in a Bachelor’s degree in what was essentially a Business Management program.
I pressed-on considering that perhaps I was destined for leadership roles in business and manufacturing since I kept falling into those roles naturally. This was an extreme error due to lack of self-reflection. I failed to realize that although I am capable of doing that type of work at a high level of effectiveness, it was not my “calling.”
I realized over time from working in leadership roles with Sony and later North American Lighting and Boral Bricks that the inner happiness or fire within was slowly flaming-out. I found I needed to regroup, recharge, and chart a course for a land more fertile for the kind of opportunity I was truly seeking. I began another leadership role with Thyssenkrupp in 2013, but this time things were different. TK (for short) offered a much more stable hourly schedule, and actively encouraged employee education as well. The opportunities of internal jobs were and still are numerous.
Once getting established in my new role, in 2014 I began a new degree program with Ivy Tech called Cyber Security & Information Assurance. This field fascinated me with all the promise for the future with growing demand for jobs as well as being the type of program that opened the door for learning all facets of Information Technology. This was a field I could really become passionate about all the while working with computers which was all I wanted from the beginning. Again, I hedged my bets on my career and lived a double-life throughout my time with TK. I took all available opportunities to grow as a leader and as a manufacturing employee all while taking 2-3 classes a semester. I put my best foot forward, never missed a day, and I never looked back.
Using what resources I had available, I set up a meeting with the IT Supervisor at the time, and we discussed what I needed to do to be successful in that field. I also met with my Ivy Tech instructor, Melanie Hurst, and my program chair, Charlie Peebles. I received a great deal of advice on certifications as well as soft skills that would help my case moving forward.
Almost a year to the day later, an IT Engineer position came open in the IT Department. I applied, and continued to toil away lost in my work and studies until I heard something back.
Months went by with no news.
I began to press for information, and I found that budgeting had pushed back the need for that role to the next year. Again, luckily I had hedged my bets and I kept pursuing every opportunity that enabled me to receive multiple raises and resume building. Over the now 15-year span of doing this, my resume has grown quite nicely. Even at that time, I had quietly built a career to be proud of over that time in a field I didn’t necessarily want to be in, but I had grown comfortable nonetheless. I was very keen to this notion, and I recognized immediately that it is a danger to become comfortable as it is a trick by the brain to avoid change. Change is good. Change is healthy. One cannot grow effectively without challenges and new opportunities previously unfamiliar.
Acknowledging that fact, I buckled down and pressed-on as I have always done so diligently in the past. I recognized that good things were coming, but it was time to gain the wisdom only achieved from patience. I made the exploration of patience and spilling its secrets before me to be my primary goal during this time. It was one of the most difficult things I had ever done. I struggled mightily initially, but in the end the benefits came in colors and shades of peace, empathy, and greater depths of self-understanding.
In 2016, the job was posted once again, “IT Engineer.” I reapplied, but instead of simply submitting a resume I redoubled my efforts. During the time of waiting, I spent all of my free time and money on acquiring certifications, compiled them into a portfolio, and I upgraded my resume into a curriculum vitae (CV for short.) A CV features relevant course work in addition to past work history, and it tends to be more telling of a student’s capability especially if they haven’t had the luxury of experience in the field yet. I gathered all of this together in a nice binder with good presentation, and I even included my picture on the front.
Several months later, I received the interview I had worked so hard and was so patient for all that time. It was with the Director of Finance and IT at TK. I had become fully prepared by this point, so nervousness was no longer a factor. I was excited, and I knew deep down there was no chance of defeat. I felt this way not because of some inflated sense of ego or anything like that, but rather I knew that by now I had I the kind of portfolio I could take anywhere and stand a good chance of getting an IT job even having not yet completed my second degree.
I didn’t get the job, but I did get an internship. I did not count this as a let down by any means. It was a paid internship doing the work I wanted to do. I didn’t even take a decrease in pay to do so. The only drawback was that it was only set for 6-12 months. Again, this did not bother me as I was fully prepared for the winds of opportunity to fill my sails toward any direction necessary be it this one or another entirely. The experience and knowledge gained from an internship only bolstered this resolve (and my CV!) To say I was ecstatic is an understatement. I took heart in this news as I walked in the summer 2017 commencement further adding to the joy of the day. Now THAT was pride.
Not long after commencement, I was approached by Terre Haute TribuneStar newspaper in regards to being a part of an article on the growing career path of Cyber Security. I wrote a fairly lengthy email in response to the reporter’s questions, and I did a photshoot with their photographer in the Indianapolis Ivy Tech Networking Lab. Friends, family, and co-workers all around received the front page article well. If a person could feel any more on top of the world, I can’t imagine how it could have been possible for me that week!
To conclude my story, in the first week of July 2017, I proudly transitioned from my role in production with the full respect of my peers and the blessing of my superiors. At the time of this writing, I have since completed my first two weeks of the internship, and I have already experienced more than I could have hoped for. I have installed brand new servers and firewalls. I’ve spent time troubleshooting internet connectivity issues. I’ve set up workstations. I have traveled to the Indianapolis office for TK to provide IT support multiple times. I have learned a great deal of small hints and tips from my mentor Jerad Heffner as well as Bob Cox and Tim Harrison. I have a great team to work with in the IT department here at TK, and I’m learning more and more what seems like every hour. I have many thanks for the enduring support of my fiancé Kristin Steed, fellow Ivy Tech alum from School of Nursing (now RN with Union Hospital) as well as Charlie Peebles, Melanie Hurst (Ivy Tech faculty,) and my former supervisor and friend James Vinzant.
My advice to all students? NEVER GIVE UP!