From Corporate Board Rooms to Cramped Attics

My path to the trades…

My early career was as a firefighter in a suburb in North Texas. I loved what I did, adrenaline pumping, life-saving work. Unfortunately it didn’t pay well and as my family grew it became clear this wasn’t going to work long term as a career. So I left civil service and went into the corporate world.

As I worked, I continued to learn, gain new skills, add certifications, etc., but I found very quickly, that none of that mattered. Everyone is expendable in the corporate world. In the course of 5 years I was laid off 3 times. Corporate restructuring.

That’s also the time when I started getting restless doing corporate work. Staring at a computer all day, doing zoom calls, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations, and on and on. I felt like I would end up putting my head through a plate glass window if I kept this up.

I needed a change. I craved working with my hands again, like I did in the fire department. But I was also tired of being expendable.

As I started to think through what my next step would be I set up some criteria. First, it needed to be something that wouldn’t go out of style, something that I could rely on to provide income for years to come. This led me to the trades in general. Second, it needed to have a barrier to entry, like a license. This narrowed down my choices to the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical trades. I didn’t want to put in years of work, learn a new skill, just to have anybody or his brother just start up and compete. There needed to be some type of difficult requirement to weed out the dabblers.

I did my research and found that HVAC seemed to be the most promising. Based on a report like this one it was clear that HVAC had what I was looking for. At this point, I had no clue if I would like working in AC but I felt this was what I needed to be able to consistently provide for my family and keep some consistency in income.

That’s when I pulled the trigger and jumped in. I put in my time, did the training, and then got my license…4 years after starting in the trade. From there I opened up my own shop doing AC repair. We’ve been running our own company in HVAC for 8 months and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m such a believer in the trades that I want all my children to put 2 years into a trade and get their journeyman credentials before ever stepping foot in a college or corporate job. After two years they can go on to whatever they want, but they’ll do so knowing they always have this to fall back on in case they ever find themselves in the same boat I was in, being expendable to the corporate world.

Husband of one, father of six, child of God.