Chad Tingen

Horry-Georgetown Technical College

“Don't be afraid to pivot and do something different. Life is about utilizing your passion.”

After a 17-year run in retail management, it was time for a change. I was ready for something that offered better work-life balance, as well as a return on my investment. I had always wanted to work in the medical field, but knew I didn’t want to be in a hospital setting working endless nights, weekends and holiday shifts. This is the story of how pivoting helped me find a new passion and purpose.


How did your technical education story begin? 

I spent almost two semesters at a four-year college in Pennsylvania before deciding that just wasn’t for me. When I decided to go back to school many years later, I was 38 years old and looked at life a little bit differently than I had the first time around. I chose to go to Horry Georgetown because it was a direct path to the career path I really wanted to pursue at a cost that worked for me.


Were you intimidated at all by the idea of going back to school?

Intimidated is an understatement. I was terrified.  I felt comfortable in my retail role and I was making a comfortable living. It was a huge undertaking for me to step away from a career path I had known for 17 years and commit to something new. In addition, while I was a good student in high school, prior to that I had struggled a bit. Those old fears were living in the back of my mind. Can I do this? Am I capable of performing well in college? That was terrifying. Getting over those hurdles was monumental. I had to decide that I could do this and I was going to do it.


What have you defied in your life and how has technical education been a catalyst for you in overcoming those obstacles?

I’m the youngest of nine, so defying the legacy of a family that was not heavily educated was both important and scary for me. Ultimately, I decided it was something I wanted to make happen — and I did. I will be the first person in our family to graduate with a higher education degree, and it’s very special for me to step out and be the leading man for education within my family. 


How has the affordability of technical education impacted things and what will that allow you to do moving forward?

ROI was very important to me. HGTC has provided me with a 2.5-year college degree for a very minimal investment. Job prospects in my industry are great, which puts me in a position to repay student loans quickly so I’m not still digging out from debt a decade down the road. I will be in a much better financial position without all the debt I would have incurred had I opted to go back to a four-year college. 


What do you want for your life five or ten years down the road? How has this experience shaped how you will get there? 

Dental hygiene is extremely important to overall health. I want to make a positive impact in the lives of people in my community, whether that means helping reduce patient anxiety or getting involved with industry studies. We are working to make strides in implementing dental hygiene in hospitals and in assisted living facilities where many people are not getting the care they need. I also see myself utilizing what I have learned through HGTC to educate people on oral healthcare, whether that is young children in elementary schools or individuals living with disabilities. 


What’s the biggest thing you have learned about yourself along the way? 

If I put my head down and focus, I can do anything I want to do. There is nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing I’ve been able to achieve something that I didn’t necessarily think I could do. 


What advice would you give people as they’re considering their next steps when it comes to education?

Don’t give up. Don’t let age or fear define you. Don’t be afraid to take some time and to experience life whether it is good, bad or indifferent. That time and experience allows you to better decide where you want to go in your future. If you choose a career path that’s not for you, make a pivot and do something that you are passionate about. When you utilize your passion, it shines through to your patients, your customers — to everyone.