Five Questions with Joshua Trimm | Education

Joshua Trimm has just completed graduate school at East Tennessee State University. A Kingsport native, Trimm shares some of the obstacles that he had to overcome in order to graduate with his degree in Computer Science. Trimm is now working for Eastman Chemical and his story is one of perseverance and determination to work toward a better future.

What was your college experience like?

My college experience was long. There were several phases: first, community college at Northeast, then both undergrad and grad school at ETSU. I never had the intent of earning a master’s degree or even a bachelor’s degree; it kind of just happened.

From the beginning, I had some financial difficulties to overcome. During my first semester, I wrecked my car. There was minor damage, but it was still enough to make the car undrivable.

It’s funny looking back now, but that moment defined the rest of my college career. I had two choices: spend what little money I had on a car that could break down the next day or save my money, continue to ride my bike to work at the Firehouse and drop out of college.

Now this was the winter of 2016 and I only had $900 to buy a car. I found a white Nissan Sentra that was so loud it would rattle your brains out driving down the road. When I got the car, it was leaking oil as fast as you could put it back in! Needless to say, I had to learn how to be a mechanic on a budget. And let me tell you, after many hours of trying to fix a car with the wrong tools, the only thing that gets you through is determination.

Now if I didn’t have a car to drive myself to Northeast, I would have missed class and lost my scholarships and grants before I even got started. I was lucky that the car held together until I was able to trade it in. Without the scholarships, grants and financial aid from the government, I wouldn’t have made it. I was still working as much as I could waiting tables and doing freelance web design, but it was all just enough to get by.

When I got to ETSU, the financial aid I received gave me more financial stability. This allowed me to focus my full attention on my studies, and boy did I need it! There’s a reason ETSU’s computer science program is one of the best in the state: it’s hard. But because of this academic rigor, companies know they can trust the caliber of students coming out of the program. The program takes dedication, and it’s not for the faint of heart. It was hard at the time, but man, I am so thankful for those handwritten coding tests that forced me to understand complex structures in computer science.

In my first semester of grad school, which was during the fall of 2020, I was dual-enrolled as an undergrad student with 16 credit hours. Six of those credit hours were with Dr. Phil Pfeiffer, one of my favorite professors. Dr. Pfeiffer is known for the high expectations he has for his students, but I’m grateful for that.

In both of his classes I was reading a book a week and completing a handwritten short answer response. This was another one of those moments that can make you or break you, but I was still determined to succeed. As a person with dyslexia, I had to push myself to succeed. And today I read many books a month because of those habits that I learned.

I have a lot of pride in ETSU. My experience there opened my mind and pushed me out of my comfort zone. Northeast gave me a firm foundation to start from, and I think one without the other would have made my journey very different. When I think of all the people in these schools that helped me along the way, I realize no amount of money or recognition could repay them for what they have done for me. I am forever grateful for the knowledge they imparted.

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There is no way around it, college is hard. But the statistics and my own personal experience tell us that poverty is harder.

What is the most valuable thing that you learned in college?

Momentum is your friend. It never seems like you are going anywhere at first, but you gain speed over time, just like a snowball rolling down a hill. The thing about momentum is that you have to start somewhere and often it’s hard to just get things moving in the right direction. But once you start, if you stay determined, you can change your life.

What was the hardest part about your college journey?

Hands down, the most stressful thing is being poor and trying to find a way to make things work. I’m really lucky I made it through. I saw many others not make it and it was really sad. It wasn’t for lack of drive, skill or knowledge on their part, they simply didn’t have the financial backing to succeed.

What do you plan to do with your degree?

I am already putting my degree to good use in several different endeavors. My biggest commitment is my day job with Eastman Chemical as a Software Engineer working on their Digital products team and helping to develop an application called Core. I am also working with a local startup called Blue Sky Cyber, which is a security specialist company that focuses on protecting home device networks. When I have free time, I also work on my personal project TrimYard, which is a blockchain automated payment solution for lawn care professionals.

Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

If I have learned anything from my beautiful partner, Dr. Mariam Alawoki, it is to take life one day at a time. I used to try and plan everything out, but that never really worked. So, I’m going to take her approach and work hard, be more empathetic, and see what doors open for me.

Read more about Joshua’s experience at ETSU atº

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