Charlie FelderNumber 17, April 28, 2015
Charlie Felder ’15 believes in second chances. When he graduates in December with his B.B.A., he will have the degree he came back to college to get so he could move ahead.
Felder hails from Lexington, South Carolina, and he attended Clemson University from 2003-2006 as a pre-engineering student. But life distracted him and he dropped out of school. “I wasn’t invested emotionally in my education,” he admitted. “It was a matter of maturity, I realize in hindsight. I wasn’t partying or anything like that; I just wasn’t inspired by what I was studying. I guess I lacked vision.”
He went into industrial sales with a global company, Fastenal, a supplier and distributer of fasteners such as nuts and bolts as well as safety supplies and other construction equipment with stores across the country and from Canada to Shanghai. He liked the customer interaction, the combination of freedom and responsibility, hitting and exceeding sales targets. There were opportunities for promotion from within which allowed for advancing to the management team.
But after seven years, he recognized some things he didn’t like, such as the lack of pay security because his salary was month-to-month commissions. Employee turnover was high, which impacted product quality and deliverability, and corporate directives were frequently changed. He also recognized a glass ceiling – one based on education rather than gender.
“I began to realize that without a degree, my vertical opportunities for advancement were extremely limited,” he said. “I had five years of management experience and a track record of successful sales, but there didn’t seem to be any choices beyond managing a new store in a new city.”
When his girlfriend relocated to the Golden Isles in 2014, he found no job opportunities in this area. “I couldn’t even get interviews,” he said, shaking his head. “I had experience – yes. But I didn’t have the expected credentials.”
So he went back to school, this time at the College of Coastal Georgia, to fast-track a baccalaureate degree. He was able to transfer about 80 credit hours from Clemson. Taking an average 18 credit hours per semester, 15 during the summer, he will complete his B.B.A. in four semesters.
He’s gaining more than a degree, he claimed. “The connections I have made through my professors and the work I’ve done as a student assistant in the College’s Human Resources Department is providing me with a new network of local contacts.”
He cited Dr. Bee Carlton, Professor of Systems Engineering and Operations Research, and his statistics professor, Dr. Victor Vega-Vazquez, Associate Professor of Mathematics, as inspirations for doing well.
“Doors are opening for me now. I have an internship with the Jekyll Island Authority this summer. The work I’ll be doing there also correlates with a special project I have been working on for the College. Both CCGA and JIA have an unutilized software program that I’ve been working with to create unique but parallel online professional development programs for the two institutions.”
The project has led to new career opportunities for him, which he finds exciting.
“I have experienced many ups and downs in both professional and educational endeavors. As I have matured, my realization of the true value of education has grown exponentially. Growth is an important factor in life and work, and sometimes in order to grow we must first move backward,” he concluded. “My desire to grow reinforced my desire to go back to school, increasing my opportunities for growth moving forward.”