Graduating 20 years ago, Brian Oakley (’03) has experienced many changes since his Calgary Academy days. The school has changed, and so has he—Brian is used to it, he always embraces the future.
Recent years have led to several milestones in Brian’s life, including fatherhood and a career change after 15 years in construction. He now spends his days in the trucking industry, working on his passion: engines.
Finding the Career for You
The words “you’re going to be okay” still live in Brian’s memory years later. He heard them from his teacher, Mr. McLean, in his final years of school. The world can be intimidating to enter after graduating, and Brian remembers how much the reassurance meant to him.
“He pulled me aside and said Brian, ‘you’re going to be okay.’ I think it’s important for kids and people to know that if you don’t fit the mould, you still have a path to be successful.” – Brian
Brian’s favourite memories of CA are the time he spent with friends, sometimes almost inseparable from them. Many lessons he learned in class are a blur when he looks back to his school days—Brian always knew he wanted to work with his hands, preferably on cars.
Describing himself as someone who didn’t pay enough attention in school, he remembers that he didn’t understand the point of school as a teenager—he wanted nothing more than to work on cars. Now, he laughs at how much he uses math in daily life.
“I’d say, ‘when will I ever use fractions?’ And I’ve used them every day for work for the past 15 years.”
After many years working in carpentry, Brain made a decision many adults can struggle with—changing his career.
Sometimes, the Grass Is Greener
Brian wanted to be a mechanic right after graduation, but working in a car dealership was tough. While he loved working on his and his friends’ cars and engines, working on a client’s car wasn’t as satisfying.
Brian found a fulfilling career in carpentry for 15 years after, framing houses and helping run a home-building business. After achieving what he describes as the “pinnacle of what he could do in carpentry,” economic troubles made Brian consider a new career.
He had a friend working in a dealership who offered Brian a job, and he accepted. For the past seven years, Brian has been a parts technician for a heavy-duty truck dealership in Calgary—sourcing parts and keeping trucks working on the road.
While Brian did have his worries about a career change (like fitting in at a new company), he felt confident in his abilities. He had always felt drawn to cars, loved the smell of a mechanic’s shop, and knew engines well.
Switching careers can be a significant decision, but Brian sees the similarities between his jobs. While he’s not out working in the cold anymore, he’s still using the same skills he learned building homes.
“There’s lots of thinking on the fly because decisions must be made. They’re the same job—it’s just a different way of doing them… The skills stay the same. It’s problem-solving and working with others.” – Brian
Brian has no regrets when looking back on his decision. He’s still solving problems and working with the things he loves, but he has more time for his family. Whether someone is contemplating a mid-career change or pursuing their passion right after graduation, he thinks they shouldn’t be afraid to take the first step forward.
“It’s never too late. I’ve done it twice now… Just do it. You never know what can happen. Sometimes, the grass is greener.”