Warsaw CNC Machining Student Celebrates 2nd Career

By Tracey Myers, Warsaw CNC student

Why do I want to be a CNC machinist? My insecure brain asks me that as I drive to class quite frequently. My brain argues that I am too old, the wrong gender, and not as experienced as some of my 19-year-old, male classmates who had vocational training in high school. Honestly, I have no response to my doubts. I simply reassure myself that most fears are irrational and I just keep driving toward Warsaw. But, something that I have become aware of over the past semester of self-discovery is that although I might not have been born with a burning desire to be a machinist, I am learning that I want to become one.

I have shuffled groups of elementary students through Ivy Tech’s OAMTC facility on field trips marveling at the massive machines, but never picturing myself standing behind one. I taught for nearly fifteen years, and, for about the last three, I had left the elementary school building at 4:00 each afternoon feeling like a deflated balloon.

I knew I needed something different. I stumbled across the CNC certificate offered at Ivy Tech on an internet search for options. Warsaw is a reasonable distance that I could drive back and forth, I deduced. It’s a short enough program that I could pay for it from my savings, I calculated. It would open up an in-demand career path where I could help support my family and have good benefits, I decided. And as soon as I announce that I was going to make this change to my occupation I began questioning myself: “Do I really want to be a CNC machinist?”

A year ago I might have answered that question with a firm, “No.” However, I am learning what a problem-solving, mesmerizing, and challenging career CNC machining can be. A year ago, my old self would not have understood the wonder of holding a smooth, shiny piece of aluminum still warm from a lathe. A year ago, my old self would not have understood the pride I have in myself because I no longer tremble and sweat when I stand in front of a milling machine. A year ago, my old self would not have understood the “machinist high” when my instructor tells me that my part is, “darn near perfect”, and I want to run outside and throw my hat in the air like Mary Tyler Moore.

I have learned a lot of things in a semester. And, although my brain still asks me, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” I can confidently respond to myself: “Come on, you know you think this is fun.”

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