“Whoa, Now I’m a Truck Driver!” Leveraging Relationships to Fuel Career Pivots

Introduction from Alana:

Don HeadshotToday, it’s my pleasure to welcome back my friend, Don Gallagher.  As I’ve shared previously, Don is a thought leader in the areas of communications, personal effectiveness and the power of meaningful conversations.  An engineer by education, Don spent 25 years in engineering, marketing, recruiting, sales and training roles with John Deere; today, he’s a virtual trainer, author, STEM supporter and, now, a truck driver (yes, that’s right, not a misprint) based in Olathe, Kansas.   

Sometimes referred to as “that engineering soft skills guy,” in July, 2014, he launched ENGINEERINGCAREERLAUNCHER.com as an online resource site that’s dedicated to being the “#1 source for straight talk, soft skills and support for aspiring engineers.”  As a non-engineer myself, I can promise it’s an amazing resource for you, too – engineer, STEM professional, or otherwise! 

And now, sit back and enjoy a little straight talk about career pivots with engineer and trucker, Don Gallagher…Enjoy!


Guest Post from Don Gallagher, That Engineering Soft Skills Guy and Trucker

In the good ol’ working world of my dad’s generation (he’s an 89 year-young retired engineer), spending your career at a single company was very much the norm. But how many of us have careers like his today?

Relationships Were Key

As I look back through all of my major career shifts, or pivots, a common theme regularly appears. That common theme is the fact that relationships were often the catalyst that in some way fueled my career changes.  Perhaps it would be easiest to explain this with a few personal pivot stories:


Mentored By My Dad

I left John Deere in the early 90’s to earn my MBA full-time. After graduation, I took a consulting position that didn’t work out as planned. In fact, I quit after six months of ridiculous travel and far too much time away from my wife and three little boys.

During this same time, my dad had been building a post-retirement business as a technical recruiter in Iowa.  Having been exposed to entrepreneurship in MBA school, I elected to start a similar recruiting business of my own in Wisconsin.

Luckily for me, it was my dad’s guidance and mentoring that opened my eyes to the recruiting idea and allowed me to build a successful business around it.


Impacted By a Trainer

In 1997, I attended a personal effectiveness workshop at a John Deere plant where I worked. The instructor was an engineer-turned-trainer who shared some ideas related to conversation and relationships that touched me in a way that’s hard to explain. Almost immediately, they changed how I interacted with our boys, with my wife and with the world.

In the years following the workshop, the instructor, Paul Axtell, became my friend and mentor, and in 2010, I quit John Deere so I could pivot again to build a training business similar to his.


Don TruckReconnecting With a Client… and Trucking Friend

Most people think I’m nutty, but driving a semi-truck has been on my bucket list for 40+ years. Just recently, I was able to check this one off of the list. Can you guess how?

In 2011, I delivered some leadership training for the Harvesters’ (the major food bank in the Kansas City metro) CEO and her management team, which included the Transportation Manager. When he learned of my love for big trucks, he encouraged me to get my CDL (that’s a truck driving license) and to consider working for them sometime in the future.

Well, recently some “stars aligned” in my life, I attended a local truck driving school to earn my CDL, and his suggestion to work for Harvesters came to fruition. I joined their team just a few weeks ago.


Always Be Building Relationships

Of course, relationships bring much more to us than simply connections to job openings or support for our career. But as my stories reveal, and as Alana reveals so beautifully in her book, Coffee Lunch Coffee, it’s relationships that are at the core of allowing us to help others, and for them to help us.

With that in mind, I encourage you to think about who’s career pivot could you fuel today – you could be the catalyst that helps him/her to realize a dream.


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