Big Career Changes and Reluctant Entrepreneurship with Randall Cook

Welcome to episode 101 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we discuss making big career changes and reluctant entrepreneurship.

Original Recording Date: 10-29-2020

Topics – The Architect Who Built Something New

4:22 – Introductions

  • Our guest this week is Randall Cook, owner and founder of ShieldWolf Wellness.
  • Randall is a recovering Architect who has transitioned to Integrated Wellness Coach.
    • Randall worked as an Architect (the building / construction type) mainly focused in the healthcare space (hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics, etc.).

6:14 – Some Background

  • Randall studied for 7 years in college to be an Architect. After working the job he landed for 2-3 years, he had some health issues.
  • On top of this, his wife also had some health issues.
  • Despite enjoying the company and the work, it was extremely demanding. In the first few years, when Randall took vacation, he made it up after the fact in time needed to get caught up on work while away.
  • The company was very lean on manpower so they could keep the workforce even in times of a lull in business. This was a highly stressful situation for Randall.
  • Randall noticed if he wanted to progress in his career (which he did), it would take a great deal more time away from his family. As such, he began looking for something else.
  • He initially looked into Security (doing surveys of buildings, etc.). For 6 months, Randall tried networking to find a way in but had little luck. After hearing this new line of work could require heavy travel, he realized it was not want he wanted (different field, same problems).
  • Once again he began searching for something else.
  • Randall calls himself a reluctant entrepreneur. Three years ago he never would have expected to be where he is now.
  • Randall never really wanted to be his own boss but eventually found the flexibility he desired was only possible via this path.
  • Because of the severe health trouble, Randall visited a number of doctors without a real solution / understanding of what was happening. He did not want a quick fix but was looking for a real fix.
  • After devouring as much information as possible through podcasts and other sources, an opportunity with [C.H.E.K. Institute](INSERT LINK) presented itself.
    • After prayer and thoughtful consideration, this seemed like a good way to get a foothold into a new industry that fit with Randall’s passions.
    • CHEK stands for Collective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology, which integrates movement and lifestyle.
    • 8:28 – Randall’s interest in this did not peak until he got sick. Though never really considering himself in bad shape before this, he recounts how he kept going until it became a crisis.

13:35 – Walking away from Investment in Architecture

  • It was a complicated decision. Architecture was never a passion of Randall’s, and he even though about quitting part of the way through due to the intensity of the program.
  • To really enjoy it he would have needed to throw himself in at the expense of his family, which was the big decider.
  • He spent his entire career (7.5 years) at the same company with much of the same management and co-workers.
    • The company had a reputation of being a great place to learn architecture but a terrible place to be an architect (very high stress environment).
    • The company ran lean to ensure people were not laid off. It seemed like they took on a lot of small projects that were not needed but which cost them the ability to produce some larger projects.
    • After spending so much time there, Randall could not see himself moving elsewhere and stepping back in intensity while feeling like he was doing the right job.
    • John speaks to staffing levels being an issue in an area outside of technology (something we have not really heard on the show until now).
    • Randall said there was a lot of turnover at the company, which is a reflection of company culture.
    • At one point the company was acquired.

18:49 – Looking into Other Options

  • By the time he had left his job as an Architect, Randall had been doing studies with the CHEK Institute for about 16 months and had two certifications under his belt (holistic lifestyle coach and integrated movement science, each level 1).
    • This took a great deal of extra effort on his own time, and it was tough trying to accomplish this without taking away from family time.
    • In March / April of 2019, Randall’s employer allowed him to work 4 days per week instead of 5 (cut back to 32 hours). This allowed more time for study and focus on starting his business.
    • Randall mentions the ramp time in the Architecture field can really take time when someone new joins the company. Short projects might take 9 months from start to end of construction (which is an accelerated timeline), and processes may be different at different firms.
    • John references his own ramp time as a result of the move to Google Cloud despite having previous industry expertise. Check out this episode for more details.

22:42 – A Reluctant Entrepreneur

  • The transition has been a struggle, especially in 2020. Randall had a number of history blocks which needed to be overcome (ideas about his own abilities and capabilities). Getting started was a challenge.
    • When you’re telling yourself a story you’re not even aware of that "you can’t do this," then you don’t even start.
    • Nick referenced a recent video on mindset he watched from the Shieldwolf Wellness page.
    • Randall said one of the reasons he likes the CHEK school of thought is that it starts with mindset (what you want to do and why).
      • Keep in mind how badly you want something, and continue to tell yourself failure is not bad. This is especially challenging for the self-defeating perfectionist, and Randall shares his struggles here.
      • He eventually had to adopt a MacGyver mindset. "What do I have and what can I do with it?"
    • Randall’s biggest enemy as an architect was his perception of his own competence in the field (despite others saying he was very good).
      • Things didn’t seem to turn out the way he had pictured they would in his mind. He felt he was often only a step away from disaster.
      • It took some expensive mistakes to break this cycle. After the mistakes were made, he was still looked at as a competent architect by his employer.
        • John shares his theory about employers who budget for employee mistakes (i.e. error budgets).
        • Randall mentioned even the owners at the architecture firm provided encouragement after some costly mistakes.

34:20 – Telling the Family

  • Randall said he got a good job right out of school (at the architecture firm) and was given a raise every year without needing to ask for it. It was high stress and long hours.
    • Some nights it might only be a few hours of sleep near the end of a project to ensure it was completed on time.
    • With his wife’s poor health, the two wanted something more for their family.
    • Randall mentioned his kids crying every day when he would go to work and thinking "this can’t be right. This can’t be the way life is supposed to be."
    • Randall’s wife was 100% supportive of his desire to make a change. In many ways being at that job (with the architecture firm) was slowly killing him (emotionally and physically).
      • Something in the office where Randall worked seemed to aggravate his allergies.
      • For a period of about a year, he had to fly to Colorado every other week. It was challenging to stay hydrated, and the schedule was very tight.

Contact us if you need help on the journey.

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