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Sometimes You Shouldn’t Follow Your Dreams…

As kids, we are often asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I wanted to be a concert pianist. That didn’t work out. But even for people with more practical ambitions — biologist, physical therapist, small business owner — the happy ending didn’t come in the job they expected. Our experiences shape our interests, our skills, and who we are and what we wanted to be when we were 5, 12, or 16 changes as we grow.

Meet three of our employees who started with a plan and allowed life to show them another way. Career changers are resilient and strong and when it seems like there’s nowhere left to go, they keep going.

Headshot photo of Textio's Frazier Monk at a beach

Frazier Mork:

TLDR: It takes courage to make the leap and incredible resolve to push through. Don’t give up.

Growing up, I knew I didn’t want to be a programmer. That’s what my dad did, and he spent his professional life fixing bugs and occasionally swearing at his monitor.

I wanted to be a scientist.

Sure, maybe that dream started with watching Dexter’s Laboratory, but by high school it had matured into something real. I was going to be a biologist. I found a research lab that worked there as often as I could.

At the advice of my research advisor, I studied physics in college, and to my surprise, almost immediately found myself failing. I went to TA sessions to survive and accidentally found a home instead. Looking back, I still miss those late nights working under fluorescent lights, comparing a friend’s third sheet of scratch work to my fourth to track down my mistake.

I continued doing research, both during the school year and every summer, and went on to grad school, now an experimental condensed matter physicist (translation: I studied cold stuff and occasionally used a wrench). The deeper I got into research, the more I realized that my field had changed around me. The once-communal late nights had turned solitary; the problems I’d fallen in love with were now intractable behemoths. I lost interest, made mistakes, dropped out, and moved back in with my parents. My dream was shattered.

My uncle, who is also a developer, encouraged me to explore programming. Uncertain, but now willing to try anything, I went to a code bootcamp, Code Fellows, to learn web development. Oddly, I discovered that programming was far more similar to the problem solving that first drew me to science than doing research ever was.

It was only when I started at Textio that I rediscovered the other half of what I was missing: community. Every day, I work with a team committed to asking questions, finding answers, and building the future. It’s not Dexter’s lab, but it’s real.

Photo of Textio's Shannon Capper with fields and water in the background

Shannon Capper:

TLDR: Reassessing a choice you made in the past and deciding that it is no longer the right one doesn’t make you a quitter; it makes you a pragmatist.

I never thought I would be one of those people who graduated college with as much sense of direction as a cub scout with a broken compass. No, I had a plan. When I was 18, I decided that I was going to be a physical therapist, primarily because most of my family worked in healthcare. Confident in my choice and eager to achieve my self-prescribed goal, I spent the next several years moving from excelling at my pre-reqs to opening the acceptance letters. Everything was going according to plan.

And then that plan went haywire. There were signs. Signs that I was making the wrong choice, signs that I might make a better engineer, however, my ironclad commitment forestalled any debate over the matter whether with others or myself. It wasn’t until I worked as a full-time physical therapy aide in a clinic that I finally resigned myself to the nagging doubts. I was bored. While I chafed at the idea of letting all my hard work go to waste, I came to the reluctant conclusion that to bull-headedly continue jamming my foot in to a shoe that didn’t fit, wasn’t the right solution.

What did I do? I followed those signs that had been pointing me towards engineering. When I tried learning a programming language I almost instantly felt a void fill that my previous endeavors had left empty. I loved the challenge of facing a tough problem and the excitement of discovering a solution. Each day presented a new challenge — or twenty! This was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.

Through countless tutorials, Google searches, and syntax errors, I emerged with a skillset that I never would have imagined I was capable of. Shortly afterward, I was lucky enough to join the team at Textio. A team where my coworkers inspire me every day to be the best that I can be. Don’t let yourself be shackled by half-informed choices from your past. There’s no hole too deep to climb out of, and it’s never too late to make a change.

Photo of Textio's Charna Parkey indoor rock climbing

Charna Parkey:

TLDR: At every step of the way people will have an idea of who you are and it often aligns with what they need you to keep doing. Introspection is the only way to know if *you* need a change.

Neither of my parents went to college. We lived in a small town in Florida; my dad and grandfather both owned “mom and pop” air conditioning businesses where I would help my father when I wasn’t in class or studying. They love tight knit communities and wanted me to love it too.

Fast forward to high school when I opted for a vocational school that was combined with a high school. Here I found the most technical program I could and started earning IT certifications. This aligned with the idea that I could start my own small town business. It was nice to know that I had certifications to back up my skills but I wasn’t satisfied. Then our school stared to participate in FIRST robotics, which led to an interest in engineering in college. That first year I took a class that changed my life, Digital Signal Processing (DSP). The professor was also working at a mid-sized startup and had us coding embedded systems from day one. By the time class was over, I had a job as a DSP Engineer at that same startup.

Just as was graduating and deciding to leave academia that same professor suggested that I get a PhD with one of the world’s leading professors and experts in DSP. One introduction and my academic career was launched, but I couldn’t let go of the industry either, so I did both.

Over the next few years I realized my love having an impact on the strategic direction of a company. With this newfound realization, I began looking for a new role a week before defending my dissertation, and I found it as a senior software engineer at Textio. Leaving academia and the defense industry meant jumping into the unknown, again, but I knew it was what I needed. As Textio grew, I continued to have a hankering for change and founded a new department: Customer Success Engineering. This is yet another challenge of the unknown that I am looking to conquer.

It’s easy to allow yourself to feel stuck and remain stuck when you realize your plans may have been wrong. When you take what you learn and combine that with determination and an open mind to try new things, you could end up with a much better plan.

By the way, we’re hiring!
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