My Journey to Become a Strategic Consultant

Part 2: College and the Early Years

by Terry Langholdt

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather Russell told me, “If you want to write a good story, grab their attention.  Start at the end, and then take them to the beginning.”

In part one, I took you from the genesis of my career through the first half of high school.  Now, my journey continues into college.

As I went through my junior and senior years of high school, I excelled when I could use my computer to write papers or enter data on the early forms of a spreadsheet.  I assisted many of my classmates with an introduction course, and helped my teacher answer questions during lab time.  It was rewarding for me to assist them in seeing how this could really guide their futures.  I graduated with straight A’s in any course that was technology-based.  Although I had discovered my passion, the next stop on my journey was still unclear.

I remember the thought of college being heavy on my mind.  Several universities offered me scholarships, but surviving a four-year education that wasn’t solely based on technology seemed impossible to me.  Being young and very strong-headed, I chose to attend a two-year tech school that would provide me with the necessary experience to pursue a career in IT.

Western Iowa Tech Community College was the quickest  way for me to get into the technology world.  In college, we had a computer that was a NASA grade machine.  By today’s standards, that machine’s power is nothing compared to your smartphone.  But to a young mind that had been focused on basic computers, the power and capabilities of this mainframe was extraordinary.

My classmates and I relied on each other.  We pushed each other to succeed.  Almost 150 of us began this journey together.  When it was all said and done, less than 30 of us earned a degree.  I’m proud to say I was one of them.  It required grueling work seven days a week – constantly reading books and learning about the inner workings of talking in zeros and ones.  I lived in the computer room every day from 6AM to midnight.  If IT was a drug, I was a dealer, and I loved the high of the breakthroughs by exploring things that were just being created.

In the winter of 1988, I began my search for a job.  I bought “the” suit, attained “the” business haircut and spent hours of practicing my job interview skills.  These interviews were very difficult since I had never had a professional role before, but I kept going and never gave up.  This is what I wanted to do, and I was meant to do it.

I interviewed with several firms that winter, and came away with highs and lows.  The struggle of not being offered every job was a new feeling to me.  My instructors kept with me and said the right one will be out there: “Just keep looking, and be yourself.”  I spent my Christmas season hunting for a job.  That’s not exactly how I planned on spending my holidays, but at 19, I expected the world to move faster.  It was early January when I received my first job offer, and a day later, a second.  Now, the world was operating at my pace.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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