Ever think about pursuing a new career? Many people do at some point in their work day, but few actually act upon it.
These three Clive residents, however, shared their stories of how they decided to take the leap and go in a different direction in life — each with a degree of success.
More importantly, they all agree, is that they’re happier in life.
Discovering his passion
Finding work has not been an issue for Pete Halaczkiewicz. He’s worked at Blockbuster, Starbucks and had jobs in financial services in which he was successful — to a degree.
“It’s finding that thing that keeps me interested that’s been a struggle,” Halaczkiewicz says.
In 2007, he landed a temporary job in Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s tax department. He parlayed that into a full-time position.
After about a year in the department, Halaczkiewicz says he ran out of opportunities and decided he needed an additional degree to get into a more technical career. He chose to double major in computer science and computer information systems at Simpson College, taking evening classes while working full time.
He discovered a passion for computers and information technology (IT). IT offered an opportunity to challenge himself and learn something new, while providing diversity in the type of work he could do.
Having a good support system during this time was critical and included his wife, Natelle. He was lucky to have good managers at Wells Fargo who recognized his ability and potential, pushed him to excel and rewarded him with great opportunities, he says. He also took advantage of Wells Fargo’s tuition reimbursement program.
His professors set high expectations for their students but were also encouraging and sympathized with the demands of balancing work and family.
Halaczkiewicz’s work continued to improve as he used the new information he was learning, and he was eventually promoted to an analytics consultant role.
It took him about two years to finish school. He says walking the line at graduation was symbolic for him.
“To me, it was the beginning of me taking control of my future and finding something that I could build upon,” Halaczkiewicz says.
He talked to his manager about doing more IT-related work, but those jobs required experience he didn’t have.
Halaczkiewicz found the “perfect fit” as a senior production support analyst at De Lage Landen, which offers leasing, business and consumer finance solutions worldwide.
He likes the challenging environment and the variety of work, from building servers and installing monitors for users, to coding and programming.
He’s doubled his income from the time he began school in 2011. But one of the most rewarding things resulting from this new career path has been the ability for his wife to stay home full time with their three children, something she was passionate about doing, he says.
For years she had supported his career search, as she also worked part time and helped raise their kids.
“I think giving my wife the freedom to find herself is the best gift I can give her back for helping me find myself,” he says.
Juggling two jobs — physician and professor
As a kid, Allen Zagoren wanted to be an architect.
Instead, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native had a brief stint as a high school biology teacher, followed by medical school and career as a general surgeon. Today, he balances his patients with his students at Drake University.
Zagoren is an associate professor of public administration, teaching the health care track in the Master of Public Administration and Master of Business Administration programs.
He describes his career path as “circuitously focused.” The common thread, he says, has been education.
“Learn something new every day,” Zagoren says. “Leave the world a better place for when you’re gone.”
His first job out of college was as a high school biology teacher in Cherry Hill, N.J. But on the first day of his second year there, he had an epiphany. He enjoyed the job, Zagoren says, but he realized it wasn’t going to change.
It was the first time he had thought about where his life was headed. He decided to apply to medical school and attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Until going into medicine, Zagoren says, he had no passion.
“I excelled and I loved it. And to this day, I still love it,” he says.
Following his residency in general surgery, he joined the faculty of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where he was a member of the department of surgery.
He quickly advanced to a tenure tract position as an associate professor, Zagoren says. But he was the newest and youngest member in the department, and he wasn’t advancing his surgical skills.
He began looking for a new position, which brought him to Des Moines to work as a general surgeon with Rose Surgical Clinic. He chose Des Moines, he says, because no one here had the training he did in interventional nutrition.
Interventional nutrition is “the science and therapies involved in providing all the nutrients to patients who for one reason or another are not, or cannot eat in the normal way,” he explains. He worked with local hospitals to bring interventional nutrition to patients and also shared his knowledge with college students.
He went on to teach at Des Moines University (DMU) and Drake’s College of Pharmacy. In the early 1990s, he was appointed to the Iowa Board of Medicine, and in 1993 worked with administration and staff at Des Moines General Hospital to begin the first comprehensive wound care clinic, he says.
In the late 1990s, he became director of medical education at Des Moines General and then at DMU for the graduate education program. When he developed an abnormal heart rhythm in 1999, Zagoren stopped practicing as a general surgeon.
In 2001, he took a job as assistant dean for clinical affairs and research at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif. But his department was cut following 9/11.
As an assistant dean, he realized he had no experience in the daily goings on of an academic office. So he began in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Drake in 2002. He also joined the Wound Healing Center at Iowa Methodist Medical Center and was seeing patients part time.
In 2004, he was asked to teach a healthcare policy course while still a student. In January 2005, he became a full-time faculty member with the College of Business and Public Administration.
Today he teaches three nights a week, a weekend course and in the summer. He became medical director of the Wound Healing Center in 2007 and continues to sees patients.
He is involved with many other committees and groups, and has a number of hobbies.
Zagoren plans to stop practicing medicine in about three years, but he doesn’t intend to slow down. He takes a cue from his father, a man who was always painting, always creating.
“I’m a big believer in beginnings, in adventure,” he says. “You have to challenge yourself to stay vibrant and viable.”
Being his own boss
Alex Wick was burned out.
He was in the car business, putting in more than 60 hours a week, handling warranties and bank financing. He’d been doing it for 10 years, and he was ready for a change.
“I had a young son at the time and wanted to spend more time with him,” Wick says.
He considered becoming a real estate agent, where he could set his hours and be his own boss. Wick’s personal experience also played a part in wanting to go into real estate.
“I had some poor experiences trying to buy real estate, and I knew with my 10 years of experience in sales that I could do a better job for people,” he says.
So he quit his job. About two months later, he was a licensed Realtor. Wick has been a full-time Realtor with Re/Max Real Estate Concepts since 2005.
He likes working for the company because he can work out of any of its six locations, and broker Robb Spearman is a valuable resource for information with more than 20 years of experience, Wick says.
Wick specializes in the resale of homes, making sure sellers’ homes are staged properly and priced at market value. When working with buyers, he helps them find the home that’s the right fit, even if it means losing a sale.
“I’ll more than likely talk them out of a home that doesn’t fit their needs and wants,” Wick says. “I consider myself a consultant, not a salesperson.”
He takes great pride in ensuring that clients know everything about a house before buying it.
“I want to know that they’re walking into a home purchase with their eyes wide open and there’s no surprises,” he says.
The career change seems to be working out well for Wick, who says he has seen his sales increase every year. In 2013, he closed 42 transactions and made $8.2 million in sales.
The decision has been a good one for his family, too.
“I rarely miss a school or church function because I’m able to set my own hours and schedule,” Wick says. “Even though I do work a lot of nights and weekends, I’m able to take off good, quality time when I need to.”