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Former Air Force Vet, Photographer, and Elementary School Teacher Glides into Tech

Chad Kellum is no stranger to facing change. He was a photographic journeyman for the United States Air Force early in his career. He moved around in his military career to become a student pilot and eventually a defense travel system operator. While in the US Air Force, he received his Bachelor of Applied Studies from the University of Minnesota Crookston. After serving in the military, he completed his Master’s in Elementary Education & Teaching from the University of Washington Tacoma. 

For nine years, he worked as a public school teacher in Washington state, with a brief stint as an English Second Language (ESL) teacher in Beijing, China. Chad is passionate about continued learning and knew he wanted to transition out of his teaching career. 

He ended up completing the Google User Experience (UX) Design Certificate Program through Coursera, and this piqued his interest in learning more about what goes on behind the design process. With a lifelong love of gaming, he’d always been interested in coding and decided to look more into his options.

While searching the Veterans Affairs (VA) assistance website for options to continue his growth, he stumbled upon the VET TEC program and learned about TLG IT Careers. Chad knew it would be a challenge, but he wanted to develop an understanding of how apps and software are created. He had to overcome some of the initial hesitations and doubts about making such a significant change in his career at this point in his life. Still, with his loving spouse’s support, he could push forward. 

After being accepted and completing the Software Development Engineer (SDE) IT Pre-Apprenticeship program, he now works as a Software Support Analyst at the Olympic Educational Service District #114, the organization is the perfect match for Chad because he gets to marry his experience in teaching with his knowledge of coding. 

Learn more about his experience and the advice he has for those thinking of transitioning into tech by reading our interview with him below:

Did you have any hesitations and doubts about joining the TLG IT Careers program? If so, what were they, and how did you overcome them? 

Initially, I was skeptical about my inexperience in this field, which made me hesitant about the potential for failing. Transitioning between career fields at this point in my life was really stressful, and knowing that I didn’t know what I was doing before entering the program added more stress. To get past the hesitations, I tried to read up on some of the course material, and I talked a lot about my feelings with my spouse. She was in my corner and provided a lot of emotional support. 

What was the biggest challenge for you during the program? 

The biggest challenge for me was starting from ground zero, building muscle memory for coding, and thinking as a software developer. I think that the process of jumping into the shoes of a developer requires a different perspective that took some time to get into. 

What did you enjoy the most during the program?

I really enjoyed creating apps with my cohort members. The creative side of me got to stretch its muscles. Relying on each other, learning our strengths and areas of improvement, and talking about code was really helpful and fun. 

What would you say to someone debating on joining the SDE IT Pre-Apprenticeship?

It will be a challenge and require you to push your comfort zone, but the staff and students are willing to help you get through it. You will build skills that will help you find a path into tech and make you think about your daily technology use in a different light. 

If you had one piece of advice for someone newly entering this program to maximize their experience and career growth, what would it be?

Practice, practice, practice. Find websites or ask for resources that can help you where you are struggling.

What did your job search look like?

It was a struggle to find appropriate positions for my level of work experience. Many jobs were asking for years of direct experience in software development, so there was a glass door for many positions. The main apprentice programs that TLG were linked up with prior to my cohort were in a hiring freeze. TLG helped me search for positions and network with people who had hired TLG alums before. I also leveraged connections with former students and asked them about positions in their current companies. I met with a few former students and got a lot of great information for applying for jobs and getting ready for interviews. They also let me know some of the coding languages that I should focus on for their particular job. 

Is there anything you would have done differently on your path into tech? If so, what would you have done?

During the job search phase of my path, I would have set more limits about how many jobs I was applying to and dive deeper into making connections with people associated with those jobs. I was stressing myself out by sitting at my computer for hours on end, searching for jobs. 

Why did you decide to work for Olympic Educational Service District #114?

My current position at the Olympic Educational Service District #114 was an opportunity to learn more about financial management software, utilize my teaching background in helping clients in a one-on-one setting, and present to a larger class. I also was intrigued by the potential of using my coding experience with their database management software. 

What do you enjoy the most about your job as a Software Support Analyst? 

I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of the job. When clients ask for help, I get to investigate and help people out. That has been a big part of my past careers, and I feel ecstatic when I know that I helped someone with their problem.

Is there anything surprising to you about working in tech that you didn’t expect? If so, what?

I’m enjoying the ebbs and flows of the project cycle. It helps out with maintaining a good level of stress. Some weeks are really slow for people needing help, and others, we are constantly in contact with clients. 

What’s in your future? Future goals, etc? 

For now, I am really grateful to be in a stable position. I hope that there are promotions within my current company later down the road. I also am excited about learning opportunities that will help me be a better analyst. 




Congratulations, Chad! Your path into tech is truly inspirational, and your prior experiences are a gift to bring into the tech industry. We will continue to root you on!

To learn more about your options with TLG IT Careers, visit our site or schedule a meeting with one of our Educational Consultant to discuss your unique needs and to determine if an IT apprenticeship or IT pre-apprenticeship is right for you!