By Isaac Ingram
The journey of my career started with an Atari 2600.
When my cousins and I weren’t running around the land on which my aunt and uncle were building their house, we were in the trailer home succumbing to Hulkamania or playing Keystone Kapers. Professional wrestling didn’t stick, but I was hooked on video games early in life. Perhaps after enough quarters were spent in arcades to justify the cost, a Nintendo Entertainment System came home. Subsequent generations of game consoles followed, but one day when I was 12, if I recall, I was at a barbecue where I witnessed the host’s son piloting an X-Wing on his 486DX2 66 MHz PC. I was sold; we saved up and eventually got a PC of our own. My curiosity of electronics up to that point quickly turned to resolve when I realized the joystick connector in my PC was not installed correctly. I began a self-study, reading what books I could get my hands on to learn about hardware, operating systems, and applications.
In high school, I failed to show up regularly; after a second attempt at my junior year, I dropped out. On the job hunt, I interviewed with Chattanooga Online, the area’s first internet service provider when connecting to surf the Web was pain for the ears and AOL was spamming the country with floppy disks. I began in user support, picked up systems administration and networking skills, and began web development. Still failing to show up regularly, I was fired. My boss told me to go get a G.E.D. and come back to talk. This was my first trip to Chatt State. I sat for the test on the second floor over in the Student Center, passed, and went back to ask for my job. They were kind enough to hire me back, and I picked back up on the web development, working a few projects.
One of the company’s contracting us was looking to bring someone on full time for development, and it ended up being me. It was a small company in Ooltewah specializing in electronic payments. There were two of us carrying the IT responsibilities, so I was applying everything I had learned up until then. I decided it was time to pursue a post-secondary education, so I enrolled in evening classes - my second trip to Chatt State. At that time, the powers that be handed me a project to develop a product to be sold and to be delivered within 60 days. I liked having a place to live, so the job took priority over school. A few years later, the company sold, and I resigned to give college another go.
Over the next several years, I put my sights on a few universities, though they did not pan out in the end. Trying to balance work and courses, I found some odd jobs and contract work, and I eventually went back to working in electronic payments full time in the evenings while I attended morning classes at Chatt State. Having to stay after hours interfered with classes, and eventually I relented to go back as a full time student to finish. I used my savings and borrowed some student loans to enroll in the Regents Online Degree Program. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I went back to work as an IT contractor in electronic payments to financially recuperate a bit for my wife and me. That company sold as well, and so my path diverged away from electronic payments once again.
On my most recent job hunt, I found the opening for a technician here at the KLIC on the TBR web site. I was ready to explore options outside the corporate world and find work with social value. I will have been here one year in April, and it seems like the time has flown. With changes in technology coming faster every year, helping to ensure our resources are continually accessible is a significant and rewarding endeavor. I enjoyed my time here as a student, and I’m happy I’ve been able to return in my career.