Finding the Path to a Successful Second Act

Adam Brehm

Adam Brehm found an exit strategy, just not one that he would recommend to anyone else.

After working in construction for almost 20 years, he and his body were starting to feel the effects. A seemingly inconsequential fall on a job site ended up leading to five knee surgeries and a surgeon who confirmed what he already knew: he had the body of a 50-year-old and wasn’t fit to go back to the only job he’d known.

Brehm hadn’t been a star student in high school, but he graduated from a vocational technical school, becoming a certified Motorcycle, Marine, and Power Equipment Tech at 16. He knew if he wanted a fulfilling and secure second career, he would have to return to school. After considering his options, he decided software development would be a good choice and that Bellevue College (BC) offered the degree he would need to meet this new goal.

With the help and support of his orthopedist, Brehm was able to work with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to secure the funding and support necessary to enroll at BC to complete his associate degree.

“I was a much better student the second time around because I wanted it,” said Brehm, adding that his ADHD diagnosis also helped explain some of his earlier academic struggles.

As he rounded the corner on his associate degree and began looking to his bachelor’s degree, Brehm was hit with a trifecta of stressors: his father’s health began to rapidly decline, requiring Brehm to move in with him to become his full-time caretaker; he suddenly found himself in custody of his young nephew in addition to his two young daughters from his first marriage and a newborn son from his second marriage; and in order to secure funding for his bachelor’s degree, Brehm had to reopen his case with Labor and Industries.

Most state programs do not offer financial assistance beyond an associate degree, but with the help of his vocational rehabilitation counselor’s tireless support, Brehm was able to get the last bit of funding necessary to finish his bachelor’s.

With tremendous support from his wife, Brehm pushed through, sleeping an average of three hours a night. He began interning for his neighbor at Agiliant in his final year in place of a traditional capstone course, working on back-end engineering. By March of ‘17, Brehm had offer letters. One from Agiliant and another from T-Mobile to on-ramp with their Tech-X Associates program.

Brehm accepted the offer with T-Mobile, seeing the opportunities afforded to him with a large company. The program, a full-time, 18-month rotational experience, allowed him to work with teams across their technology organization in three six-month rotations. Early on in his tenure with T-Mobile, Brehm set himself apart, developing proof of concepts and networking across teams to develop innovative tools for unmet business needs. His work caught people’s attention. Most new associates focus on the work directly ahead of them, but Brehm, used to multitasking to the extreme, kept finding ways to fill his time beyond the requirements.

“If an employer wants my best work, all they have to do is give me space because I hate being idle,” he said. “The thing I like the most is finding creative solutions for problems–potential or existing–as I see fit.”

Brehm was quickly hired on permanently as a Systems Reliability Engineer, working on SlackBot development to automate processes based on metric criteria.

Since graduating BC in Spring 2017 with his bachelor’s degree in Information Systems and Technology, he has also come on as an adjunct faculty member with the Institute for Business and Information Technology, and has been invited to serve on the program’s advisory board.

“Adam has a passion for software development technology. He thinks outside the box and promotes his ideas at his job at T-Mobile, and with me, and that is why I decided to have Adam teach the summer special project and our introduction to web development,” said Sylvia Unwin,
Program Chair, Information Systems & Network Technologies. “His style of teaching appeals to the students and he is very understanding and helpful with them.”

“I think the biggest enrichment (at BC) comes from some of the inspirational instructors and other staff,” said Brehm. “My life was not as simple as coming to class and doing my homework. I had a lot happening, and I feel most would have given up on me because of it.”

Last Updated November 6, 2019