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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Economic crunch forces big decisions

June 5, 2013

SJVC Online Student Mike MattinglyIn 2008 Mike Mattingly and his wife Tabatha were enjoying the good life in Phoenix, AZ. Mike was earning a good salary working for a civil engineering firm with all the perks. Then, whoosh, it was gone. The economic crunch hit them hard.

It was a time when businesses were downsizing aggressively and Mike was caught up in the wave of layoffs. “I had a lot of experience and was very good at my job, but businesses were using a fine-tooth comb on employee qualifications and if you didn’t have a degree you were gone,” says Mike. He found the same situation in the months ahead, as he searched for work. “Employers are very specific about a degree,” he says. “They have a level of prestige they want to offer clients.” At 29 Mike knew he had to “get that piece of paper”.

In 2011, after a few years of struggle, Mike and Tabatha moved to Laguna Beach, CA where she went to work as a loan processor for a large bank and he got a full-time job as a concierge at a beach-side hotel. He enrolled in SJVC’s Construction Management Online program and buckled down. It was the right move.

Mike got lots of support from Tabatha who encouraged him to just “Do what you need to do,” to make it happen, and she would take care of everything else. Together for 13-years, “We just make good life partners,” says Mike. “As the primary financial provider, she basically allowed me to go back to school.”

Once he locked in to back-to-school mode Mike definitely made it happen, earning a 4.0 GPA throughout his 14-month program. He liked the fact that his instructors all worked in the construction field. “They would bring their real-life job issues to the classroom, so it wasn’t all textbook,” says Mike. He juggled work, school and home life, and this February Mike graduated at the top of his class.

Mike’s first official interview after graduation was for a Project Engineer position with a big construction management company of about 100-employees. When he got home he told Tabatha that he really felt good about the interview, and that the company said they would get back to him in a week or two. Mike turned on his computer and there was an offer letter from the company he’d just left. “We read it together and were elated,” says Mike, who “couldn’t wait to put in my 2-week’s notice at the hotel.”

His recent success in both his education and employment has spurred Mike to take it higher. “I’d like to get my Bachelor’s and get into the technical and design end of this business,” he says. But, for now, he is content with the rewards of his effort.

His first office job meant “I have my own desk and drawers, my own computer, my own stapler,” he joked. “I really got lucky with a great company; we are a good match with great chemistry,” he says. Something tells us that luck has very little to do with it.

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