Programming didn't come naturally for Chris Turner. He entered Lock Haven University intending to focus on engineering, but after a lackluster first year, he dropped out.
"I had no idea what I wanted to do. I took a Programming 101 class, and that really clicked for me -- but it was extremely difficult. The only experience I had with computers was AOL messenger. Everyone else was talking about how they'd coded on their Commodore 64, and I was literally starting from nothing. I had to work twice as hard as everyone else in the class to understand the concepts and the practices, and I ended up neglecting my other courses," Turner says. Though it was challenging, Turner persevered. Once he mastered the basics, he realized he'd found his passion and decided to make programming his career.
An advertisement for Chubb Institute in Springfield, Pennsylvania, seemed like the perfect opportunity. "I thought, 'Why am I going to college and taking so many 'irrelevant' courses, when I could get a tech school trade degree in eight months and get a job within a year?'" Turner says. After completing the program in the summer of 2001, he landed a single interview, and then -- nothing. But in going down this path Turner had found his calling.
"I struggled so much in college that first time around. I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do, and why things like English and history were important. But at least Chubb showed me there were areas I could excel -- I went from being on academic probation at Lock Haven to a 4.0 average in my Chubb classes, and that changed everything," he says.
The early 2000s saw the dot-com boom finally go bust, and the resulting economic insecurity left little opportunities in the job market, even in technology. After struggling to find a technology job, Turner decided he had two options: Join the military or return to college.
"At that point, it was the Army or try to get back into Lock Haven and finish my degree. I was starting to understand that it wasn't enough to just have the tech skills, I needed more than that," Turner says.
When he returned to Lock Haven, he declared a major in Computer Information Systems, which emphasized not just hard technology skills, theory and practice, but also incorporated business, economics and communication skills.
"I opened my mind to the fact that there was more to education than just 'job skills.' Looking back, I learned a lot from my psychology classes, my business classes, and I even found I have an aptitude for art. When I graduated with my BS in CIS, I was actually three classes away from having a minor in pottery," he laughs.
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