Dwight Grupp reimagined his career path through education, personal growth, and pushing beyond his comfort zone
By Deb Olson, University College Writer
After nearly 14 years working in the field of construction, Dwight Grupp had had enough. He was hurting physically—and, in turn, mentally.
“I hit a wall,” Grupp says. “I literally was falling apart … I needed knee and shoulder surgeries and was starting to feel a little helpless about the direction of my career and life in general.”
While he had worked briefly in other fields, including as ski and mountain guides and in ranching and trucking, construction was what Grupp knew best. Besides, those other fields were also physically gruelling.
“I was at a loss,” he says. “I didn’t know what to do.”
A lover of the outdoors, Grupp had moved to Colorado in 2001 from his home state of Maryland to pursue a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation. Over the years, he pondered the idea of going back to school to study technology. However, as a resident of rural Gunnison, Grupp found that his options were limited due to the lack of adequate internet speeds in the area. Finally, in 2016 fiber optic cable was installed and Grupp’s world opened up.
“I began learning online how to build websites,” he says. “In general, I began learning about a variety of different topics … I noticed that on YouTube you could pretty much learn anything that is of interest.”
During the day, Grupp struggled to continue working his construction job, but after work he “read for hours.”
“The more I read the more I realized that I might be able to pursue a new career in information technology (IT),” Grupp says.
He soon began searching for universities that offered IT degrees, but a major concern, he says, was taking the GRE. So, he narrowed his search to schools that didn’t require the admissions test.
That’s when he came across the graduate program in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at University College. Although he had just spent two years immersing himself in the IT field online, including learning some coding and how to build websites and servers, Grupp was nervous about applying.
“It was a huge step for me,” he admits. “I thought I would be lucky to be accepted,”
But, of course, Grupp was accepted and, he says, “It was a life-changing moment. It gave me the courage and hope to push forward.”
Grupp not only scheduled his surgeries, he also worked to improve in other ways, such as watching online videos on self-improvement.
“I realized that my life and struggles were no different than most,” Grupp says. “Having a mindset of learning, growing, and being out of my comfort zone would be hard but [would] lead to a better future.”
Indeed, Grupp’s outlook has vastly improved over the last couple of years. Instead of dreading each labor-intensive day, he now looks forward to the future: first, completing his Information Security degree in November, then securing a full-time job as a security analyst/penetration tester.
As a further testament to his hard work, Grupp was able to beef up his resume in May after landing a part-time position with Framework Security—a milestone that he couldn’t wait to share with ICT staff via an email:
“I can’t express how thankful I am,” Grupp wrote. “I wanted you to know I could not have done it without all your support and suggestions and listening to me. Thank You so much!!”
“I have worked with Dwight as his academic advisor for about the last year and a half. I know it hasn’t always been easy for Dwight, especially making a career shift to the Information System Security field. He was persistent with his efforts and took advantage of every resource that was available to him. It was a very exciting time when we heard that he had received a job and the career change was happening for him. Dwight works very hard and does not give up until he reaches his goals.” -Jessica Rayman, Academic Advisor
To be sure, Grupp wouldn’t be where he is now without his ability to persevere in the face of adversity. His parents divorced when he was in ninth grade, leading him to “venture down the wrong path” for a few years. Then, when he was 21 his mother passed away at the age of 38.
“[That was] the biggest challenge of my life,” Grupp says, adding that she, his grandmother, and his aunt were his biggest supporters (and that his aunt continues to be to this day).
Reflecting on where he was when he applied to the University College program, Grupp can’t help but be proud.
“I asked myself many times, ‘Am I smart enough to make it through this degree? Can I do it and get surgeries at the same time?’ And the answer was, ‘Yes, I am going to do it, I have no other choice.’ I told myself I will do whatever it takes.”