QA With Johnathan McClure, SCC Alumnus and CSX Engineering Management Team Member
Johnathon McClure, formerly of London, is a Somerset Community College graduate who is doing big things. McClure works in engineering management for Erie West - CSX, an international transportation company offering a variety of rail, container-shipping, intermodal, trucking and contract logistics services, out of Erie, Pennsylvania. We had a chance to chat with McClure about his start at SCC and heres what he had to say:
Tell us a little about yourself and your background:
JM: My parents are Johnny McClure Jr. and Donna Sue Baker McClure, both of London, KY. I graduated from South Laurel High School in 2010 where I was in all honors courses. I was fortunate to be part of the Rogers Explorers Program before my freshman year, the Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute before my sophomore year, Rogers Scholars before my junior year and went to the University of North Carolinas Elite America Soccer Camp before my senior year. I played four years of varsity soccer at South Laurel, and was a captain my junior and senior year. I have two siblings, Donavon McClure and Martina Faith McClure.
Why did you choose SCC for your Associates Degree and what was your program of study?
JM: When I graduated from South Laurel High School, I initially had intentions of attending a small college to play college soccer, but after several injuries, soccer was no longer an option. I knew that SCC offered a full tuition scholarship for two years for Rogers Scholars students, and as expensive as college is that made a huge difference in my decision, as well as the options SCC offered for associates degrees. After speaking with Dr. Marshall and several advisors and guidance counselors at the SCC London Campus, I knew SCC was the school for me. I majored in Electrical/Electronic Engineering and graduated in 2014 from the program. As most college students can relate, I worked two full-time jobs and a part-time job while in college. My advisor, David Coffey, was very helpful in making sure I was on the right path and that I could be successful.
Do you have any specific memories or experiences that helped shape your career or education?
JM: I have two very distinct memories that assured me I had made the correct decision in choosing both Somerset Community College and the Electrical Engineering program. My first memory was from a full-time job I was working. The third quarter was coming to an end for the business year and the company was offering a bonus to employees that had exceeded goals and had been promoted within the company. I was eighteen years old and was a team leader at a customer service call center. A hard-working married couple I worked with did not apply for the bonus because they were just under the wages limit to receive benefits for their children and a one-time bonus would do more harm than good for their family. While I understand their circumstances, I knew that I never wanted to be in their position and have to make a similar decision for myself or my family. I started taking the maximum amount of hours I could and even spent money out of pocket to take more hours in order to graduate sooner.
The second memory happened just before I graduated. I applied for a job at CSX at the Corbin Locomotive Shop as a Locomotive Electrician and was in the top three for a position making a salary I couldn't even comprehend at twenty-two years old. I was among candidates with decades of electrical experience, but my education and work ethic pushed me to the top of every interviewing process I attended. As my college career was coming to an end, I was in excellent academic standing in my program, so I would travel and interview on some week days to try to get ahead of the competition and get my name out there among the big companies. Little did I know where I would end up in the long run, but at the time, I was interviewing with any companies that were offering a reasonable salary with quality benefits.
What do you think the most important aspect of college education is for you? Why?
JM: A gentleman that I had the utmost respect for named Jim Tomaw once told me that education is one of the few things no one can ever take away from you. He pushed me to continue my education and finish my bachelors degree, which Im currently pursuing at the University of the Cumberlands in business and management. While I thought college was not for me when I was 18, and I still struggle with it now, the advisors and professors at Somerset Community College taught me so much more than just what a college textbook had to offer. They helped me realize that an education is half the battle, learning to sell yourself as a business professional was the key to a successful career. I was influenced and pushed to promote myself in the ever-so competitive corporate realm. Without these influences and advice I am not sure I would be where I am today.
What have you been doing since graduation?
JM: In October 2014, I was offered a job at a Tier 1 Toyota Manufacturer in Somerset, KY, in engineering management where I was a facility specialist. I was fortunate to work with several professionals that helped mold my career and even myself as a person. Richard Deck of Somerset and Aaron Cox of London both guided me and provided me with skills I will cherish and hold onto for a lifetime. In April 2015, I was contacted by a recruiter from CSX who remembered me from a hiring session she attended and kept a business card I had attached to my resume. I was flown to Jacksonville the following Monday where I was interviewed among eighty other applicants who all had prestigious engineering degrees from some of the best schools in the country: University of Massachusetts, University of Kentucky, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Naval Academy, West Point and others. Even with degrees such as these, I was confident with my past work experience and degree, I would be among the top candidates for the position. The following Monday I was offered a job in engineering management starting in Atlanta, GA. I am currently in a very cold and snowy Erie, Pennsylvania, where I work on projects under other managers and help layout projects and design railroad track panels. I have been fortunate since graduation to work under people that have taken me under their wing and provided me with a mentorship and guidance one could only dream of. In my time at Somerset Community College, I learned to communicate with others as a professional and to prove myself in everything I do to give myself the best opportunity to become successful.
What advice do you have to give to others who may be looking to pursue a college education?
JM: The advice I give everyone I talk to is never quit educating yourself, whether it be in the classroom, in the field, in an office or anywhere that you go in life. We can never cease to crave more knowledge and education. As a professional, we have to constantly position ourselves to continue our success, and your decisions as an individual must be both methodical and calculated in everything that you do. It may seem silly or crazy to some, but I wore a suit and tie to every interview I attended whether it be at a small local factory, or with a Fortune Five Hundred Company. So many individuals limit themselves by saying their education is only worth a set value. I was told on so many occasions I was nothing more than a glorified electrician, or that I would be lucky to ever get a decent job. Since graduating from Somerset Community College, I have been blessed with two amazing jobs with unbelievable salaries and benefits. The best advice I was given after arriving at CSX was to build a brand around yourself just like big companies do, but build a brand you would want others to buy stock in and learn to sell yourself in a corporate environment. So many times we become concerned with our futures within a company, or when our next promotion may come, but if we focus on where we are now and become the best we possibly can in the job were currently in, our actions will speak for themselves and promotions and opportunities will come. Also, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an open mind and to continue venturing to find new and innovative ways to do things. While we cannot reinvent the wheel, we can continue making it better.
Any last thoughts?
JM: The only point I cannot reiterate enough is always be at your best. We all have bad days, things don't always go our way, but you never know who is watching you and what intentions they have for you. So many times I watch other managers act in a negative manner, or don't conduct themselves in a professional manner, and the second they leave, their boss will mention they had considered them for a promotion or another opportunity and based on how they acted in that situation, they were immediately eliminated from a promotion for which they didn't even know they were being considered.
While my company environment may be different than some in Eastern Kentucky, I have so many friends that contact me on a regular basis to ask how I have ended up where I am today, and I am always able to give credit to Somerset Community College and the relationships I have built along the way as a young professional in a growing corporate world.