My dad worked his entire career at the same company. For 40-plus years, he labored away, and during his retirement party, he was subsequently rewarded with a gold-plated watch and a modest pension. He never thought of changing jobs, let alone striking out on an alternative career path. Stability was the order of the day.

Today, we live in a different world. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker stays at each job for 4.4 years, and according to a 2010 survey by Deloitte, 80% of current workers are dissatisfied in their current position.

While some stay in unfulfilling jobs, many are taking a leap of faith and following their passions – realizing they want something different – something more – for themselves and their vocations. Meet a few brave locals who decided, mid-career, to embrace change and pursue an entirely new direction.

From scientist to nurse

Formerly a bioinformatic scientist, Stephanie Podewils recently made the career jump to become a registered nurse. Originally planning to become a physician, Stephanie attended Baylor University but soon discovered she didn’t want to continue her education for the next 12 years. “I happened upon a flyer describing a bioinformatics degree, which was a new, cutting-edge field marrying the computer science and biology fields, and after taking the initial class, I decided to pursue it,” she explains.

Stephanie Podewils went from bioinformatic scientist to the field of nursing.

Stephanie Podewils went from bioinformatic scientist to the field of nursing.

Graduating in 2002, Podewils began working with the Department of Defense in Maryland. “While I enjoyed some of the data mining and number crunching of the position, I yearned to get back to my health care roots. In the meantime, my mother became quite ill, and my priorities changed.” Stephanie completed her commitment for the job and returned to Texas to be closer to her family.

While caring for her mother, Podewils became exposed to nursing and all of its related duties. “Through my various interactions, I realized that the nurses were the caregivers seeing the patients – much more than the doctors. Through a position I found in the medical education field for a year, I began interacting regularly with nurse practitioners, better understanding all of the requirements. Then I took a leap of faith and enrolled in nursing school. It’s been very exciting.”

After graduating with a nursing degree, Podewils worked at the bedside in Labor and Delivery for two years and then returned to school for her master’s degree. Now with a husband and two kids in tow, Stephanie graduated in May with her Masters of Science and subsequently acquired her Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner’s license. She plans to teach part time at Collin College and use her skills in the Labor and Delivery field.

“Nursing has been the best decision I have made for myself and for my family. I am always educating everyone on the huge number of opportunities in the field, and it encompasses two of my loves and passions: teaching and helping people,” adds Podewils. “For those wondering about making a career change, it may seem scary, but it’s worth the hard work. Life’s too short to stay where you are.”


From the military to health care

For Dodd Day, a change of careers came easily after a full stint in and retirement from the United States Army. After serving as a helicopter pilot and aviation safety officer for 21 years, Day was ready to try something new. He relocated to Tampa, Fla., and assembled a resume for the first time in his life, talking to various individuals for employment. Securing a position in hospital safety and security, Day readily admits that good luck and happenstance as well as hard work and a positive attitude had a great deal to do with his new vocation. “In hindsight, I realize I probably wasn’t qualified as a manager of health care safety, but my manager believed I had the potential to be successful based on his knowledge of military aviation officers. He took me under his wing and created a professional development plan that prepared me for my next career.”

Dodd Day went from Army helicopter pilot to a position in hospital safety and security.

Dodd Day went from Army helicopter pilot to a position in hospital safety and security.

After familiarizing himself with hospital compliance and safety regulations, Day was employed in several hospitals throughout Florida and Texas and most recently joined Medical Center of McKinney. Over the past 10 years, his successful transition from the military to healthcare can be attributed to several factors. He explains, “Health care and aviation possess huge similarities. Both are high risk and leave little room for error. Both require diligence, an attention to detail and strict requirements. As an aviation expert, I somewhat stumbled into health care, but I’ve learned a lot along the way. Many individuals limit themselves and underestimate their abilities, but I tell them to not hold back. Go for your dreams and make it happen.”

From production manager to chef

Mathias Martinez wholeheartedly agrees. After a prestigious career as a production manager for a reputable national audio/ visual technology company, Martinez found his work wasn’t fulfilling. “I decided to follow my passion of cooking because some of my most memorable times growing up were in the kitchen with my mom – cooking and creating dishes for dinner. Throughout my life, my happiest times have been around a stove cooking with her,” he explains.

Deciding to enter culinary arts school in Texas, Martinez relocated from Florida to Texas and settled in McKinney. While pursuing his degree along with a minor in pastry arts, Martinez works part time at a local chain restaurant, learning every position in the kitchen. “Working in a restaurant has been a wonderful foundational tool for me. I’m taking every opportunity to learn as much as I can, and everyone here in the business is so knowledgeable and kind. It’s like a family here – everyone knows everyone and they all take really good care of you. McKinney’s been good to me.”

Martinez continues, “Shifting gears and changing careers has been the best decision I’ve made. I’m much more fulfilled and doing what I’m supposed to in life. I mean, why not take the risk? There’s nothing holding me back now.”

Kathy White, owner of McKinney’s Sweet Spot, has also felt the support of the community through her endeavor of changing careers and opening her business. “For years, I wanted to own a business that served the community while making others happy, and a freshly baked item or some ice cream is just the trick. Everyone needs a little “happy” every now and then, and today, I am thrilled to be able to provide this in my business. It’s my dream and passion.”


About the author: Carolyn Cameron is a freelance writer, business marketing and social media professional. She’s currently on her fourth career. She can be reached at