Frankly Speaking - Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships

Episode 03 – The Truth Behind “Potential Unlocked”

Episode 03 – The Truth Behind “Potential Unlocked”

The Truth Behind “Potential Unlocked” with Tim Fry, U.S. Air Force Veteran, Professional Success Coach

Tim Fry is a veteran of the United States Air Force who holds the distinction of being the first graduate in the country of the Professional Success Coach Registered Apprenticeship.

Tim talks about his transition from the military and why apprenticeships are a great path for transitioning service members. He also discusses his role in helping apprentices reach their potential as a Professional Success Coach and Veteran Outreach Manager for Franklin Apprenticeships.

“Unlocking your potential is easy to say,” says Fry. “But in reality, you have to challenge yourself and become vulnerable.”

About Tim

Tim Fry is a 17-year combat wounded veteran who served proudly in the United States Air Force. His time was served as a Weapons Loader on the F-15, F-16 and A-10 aircraft. He is now a Professional Success Coach for Franklin Apprenticeships and leads engagement activities with the military community. He also serves as the State of Tennessee Leader for Mission22.

Frankly Speaking – Adventures in Tech Apprenticeships was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles, such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBM Z, network engineering and software engineering.

Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. And don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.


Tim Fry: I was the first Success Coach apprentice graduate in the United States.

Moderator: Welcome to, Frankly Speaking, the podcast that explores how tech apprenticeships will really work. As a Franklin Apprenticeship Professional Success Coach, our host Cable Rose gives us an insider’s view from the real people and businesses who are using tech apprenticeship programs to develop the technical skills that the American economy so desperately needs.

Cable Rose: Welcome everybody to another episode of, Frankly Speaking, we’re here talking about apprenticeships in early tech career starts. We have with us today one of our very own, we have Tim Fry. Tim Fry is one of our Success Coaches here at Franklin. He is an OG. He’s been here forever. He’s been here the longest as one of our Success Coaches, and so we thought it was very fitting to bring him on and have a conversation with Tim and just see what brought Tim to us and how he brings you to the end of your journey. Tim, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming.

Tim Fry: Thank you, Cable. Thanks for having me.

Cable Rose: Yes, man, always. You and I go way back, Tim. Tim and I are old military veterans. We’re old Air Force buddies, so we’ve got quite a history of being in front of each other. This should be a good conversation just the same so always a good time. Tim, tell us, man, what was it that you were doing and how did you end up being a Success Coach at Franklin?

Tim Fry: Yes, so I did 17 years in the Air Force. We taught at the NCO Academy together. I grew a passion on teaching and developing there. Not a passion that I thought I would find. Transitioned out of the military, and some people struggle, some people don’t. I came out with a master’s degree certifications for days, and I couldn’t find my footing. In my background, I was a weapons loader, so not a huge civilian transfer there.

In East Tennessee here, tried my gig at like the Y12, everybody wants to land their good money, and didn’t happen, and that’s fine. It was hard for me to relate my skills and mentally see that transition and things that I could actually do. I dabbled in retail sales. I was a regional sales manager for a company for a year, and I felt I was doing good and they dissolved my position and then I found myself searching. I have my own entrepreneurial phase. I do some things outside of Franklin, but this Franklin opportunity presented itself and I tell people I mess around. I got a job.

I have a couple businesses that I’m involved with, but it was something that has been a deep desire of helping people. When I did the interview, it was probably the best interview I did in my life, honestly, because I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t need per se, but everything that was for the Success Coach position was something that I wanted to do. It was a very good feeling. The environment at Franklin, the idea of an apprenticeship, which I didn’t know at the time. I think it relates to an apprenticeship journey of whether you’re coming out of high school, your college transition, whether it’s a military transition.

My story is military, I’m a veteran. All the stories that get into apprenticeship is, I don’t know what I want to do, but there’s an opportunity. I don’t want to go into an extreme debt going through. Whether it’s a mother transitioning from being a mother back to the workforce or overcoming a medical pause whatever. My story is veteran-related, and today, if we can talk about that veteran transition and how an apprenticeship can tie into that, that’s my experience.

Cable Rose: I love it. Let’s inform our viewers or our audience, because they may not know this. You made the connection to Success Coach. You said you identified what the Success Coach does, all of those areas that we are delivering as Success Coach, you were like, those are the things I want to do. What our viewers or what our audience may not know is that not only are you a Success Coach, but like you said, you went through an apprenticeship as well.

You’ve understood what it looks like to be an apprentice and to do those things, so try to make that connection. You just said, Tim, you want to go that route, make a connection to veterans transitioning out and what an apprenticeship look like, and then make that correlation to how it was for you as a veteran going into your own success cost apprenticeship. Make that big picture for us.

Tim Fry: Yes, so through my military career I jumped into the Air Force for– everybody has a reason why go in the Air Force. Mine was totally different than most people’s, but I didn’t go in the Air force for myself I went in for my brother that wasn’t able to. It was more of an honor thing, and my whole intention was to do four years and get out. Because my brother passed away before he could even serve, and that’s what he wanted to do. I jumped, and I did that for him.

Through the process, I had a passion. I gained a passion for it is, hey, I was created something bigger than myself and I got to do something I enjoyed, and I got trained to do it. Going in, I didn’t know anything about explosives. I didn’t know anything about doing the same thing every day, building the routine. I think one of the hardest things for a veteran is you get trained on all these aspects. You get trained very well, at least the government spends a lot of money training you and developing you through the years, whether you’re in for four years or 20-plus years. An apprenticeship is exactly that.

If you served and you were a vehicle operator, or– I was a weapons loader. If you’re a security force or mp, a lot of people think, well, you can take those skills and transition and go into the next part of your life. Well, what if you don’t want to do that? What if you’re basically– and our capacity in the military was we were at war pretty much our whole entire careers. Whether you’re overseas or not, it still is a battle rhythm that will wear you out. We were in the generation to do more with less.

Cable Rose: Not only that, Tim, you’re absolutely right. Do more with less is one thing. Also, some of us who served, were proud to serve, but we might have filled a capacity that we didn’t want to be in, but the military needed us in. You may have been a weapons loader, and your desire was maybe a [unintelligible 00:06:40] and you weren’t in that realm, but your need for the country was to go fill a weapons loader. You’re absolutely right. Coming out of that, I don’t want to be a weapons loader on the outside world, which, whatever that would look like, so you’re right.

[cross talk]

Tim Fry: Sure, yes.

Cable Rose: You don’t want to transition those skills. Where do I get new skill sets and how do I jump into that, so great.

Tim Fry: Yes, and a lot of that is we were doing what we were asked of and what we were told and what we were ordered to do. We got very good at it. People that serve, they get really good at doing what they do and it’s almost autopilot for most parts. Then when you get out of that position and that focus, it’s not autopilot anymore until you get into that situation. That’s why an apprenticeship model, whether it’s IT or electrician or whatever apprentice, and the amount of apprenticeships out there is just mind-blowing.

Something on the transition part and the career development or coming out of high school, the guidance counselors, they’re not talking apprenticeships, they’re talking college, they’re talking trade schools, which are great. If that’s your path, my son just started college this year. He is enjoying it. It’s exactly what he needed. Well, not everybody is built for the model of trade school or college or just going out into the workforce. Then apprenticeship pathway is you get paid while you train, you get paid to learn a skill that can develop a career for you for a long time.

The same as military. Now I know what an apprenticeship is. I view the military as a full-blown apprenticeship. I mean, honestly, because you got your skill levels. You got your skill levels, you got your training, you got your skill levels. You can’t do anything until you get to the next one. It depends on which branch that you’re in. I think really there needs to be an avenue where an apprenticeships are talked about more, especially the transition from high school into that next choice into whatever that kid’s career is.

It’s not that everybody needs to jump into an apprenticeship. Some people need to go on the journey and figure it out and learning all this stuff– doing what we do as Success Coaches for apprenticeships. A lot of people we see are in their 30s, in their 40s, maybe their late 20s. Looking back at an 18-year-old or 19-year-old making a decision what they want to do the rest of life it’s difficult to see now.

Cable Rose: I always tell the story, Tim, and you’ve probably heard me say it, but if my car broke down in front of the Air Force recruiter’s office in 1995, which is exactly what happened. my car broke down, it was in front of the recruiters and that’s how I joined the military. It wasn’t like I had a calling, you did it for a higher purpose.

I just did it because my car broke down, but 25 years ago, if my car had broke down and I had both the military and an apprenticeship program next to it, I would’ve gone into an apprenticeship. Had we had more talk about it, more understanding of it and where we were in the world. If it was the need, I could have done it.

I think an apprenticeship would’ve been great for me. Now, like you said, I got a 25-year apprenticeship in the military. I get that, but if it was the other option in my day, I would’ve done an apprenticeship back then. I’m grateful that we do have apprentices and apprenticeships today. I think it’s a huge part of the equation, and like you said, you want to do more of that talk. You talked about veteran connection here. You talked about getting in front of maybe someone in that conversation at 18, but you’re right, we’ve got late 20s, 30s, 40s. The oldest apprentice I have I think is 57 on my program right now. I absolutely know at any point in your career if it’s a pivot, pivot, we have options for you. I love that. Do me a favor. I think we might have missed one key point. Our audience may not know what a Success Coach does or what you do Tim Fry..

Tim Fry: Oh, yes.

Cable Rose: Yes. We probably missed that one. Let’s go back, let’s Tarantino, we’re going to Tarantino this and we’re going to go back and we’re going to plug in. What does a Success Coach do? What do you do, Tim Fry.

Tim Fry: I’m Leo with the flamethrower. With Success Coach, so I work for Franklin Apprenticeships, which provides apprenticeship pathways for primarily IT right now, and looking at some different areas. My role as a Success Coach is I get assigned to an apprentice when they start day one, and I’m their battle buddy, I’m their big brother. I’m their person that is going to guide them through that 12-month apprenticeship and make sure they’re successful.

They understand the material they have to do the training. They’re showing up day one on work, whether it’s remotely or a hybrid, or in-person. They know who to report to. They know all the HR stuff. Interact with us on a weekly basis. We’ll do a weekly check-in call with the apprentice, making sure they’re adjusting to the new environments and to that workload. Maybe they were — historically have had someone that worked in a Panera and then transition into a banking institution. This is a first big-person job to graduate a college into a big-person job.

Those transitions can be difficult, especially going from one arena to another professional environment. Success Coach, we also talk to the mentors or managers to coordinate and schedule training to make sure that their view on their transition is good. Basically, just make sure that apprentice is successful, and they have an outlet to address concerns or frustrations, or doubts. This workload isn’t a walk in the park, it’s not a participation trophy. They have to do the work.

Sometimes any kind of career change when you first get at it, it’s, “Am I doing the right thing? I’m nervous, am I cut out for this?” Especially in some of the career fields we get involved with is– a lot of these require two to seven years of work experience, and you’re coming into these with no experience, and you’re getting paid to play.

Cable Rose: I like it, man. [unintelligible 00:12:47] you learn, but it’s a big step.

Tim Fry: Yes. A lot of responsibility so that it can create some doubt inside of that apprentice’s mind. I always relate, a lot of people understand apprenticeships being like electricians or masons or masonry.

Cable Rose: Sure.

Tim Fry: Not always related to going in and doing bricklaying. You don’t get to build the fancy mailbox for first month or two. You have to learn and do the work, and you have to clean the tools up and learn how to mix mortar and all that stuff. Then your first time at it, you’re going to have someone hold your hand, you’re going to have someone showing you to do it. Then the second time, little less help, and then the third and fourth, you’re building those fancy mailboxes outside of houses, and then one day you could build the house.

It’s a progress. Going through that is the first time they get their hands on their bricks, and they’re stacking them, and it starts on leaning, the Success Coaches help pushing that wall back up, and encouraging and a realistic approach to this. It’s not all unicorns and butterflies. It’s, “Hey, what have you done to better yourself? What have you done to better the situation?” Like I said, kind of that big brother, big sister role into their journey in that transition to a new career.

Cable Rose: I love the connection there you made because I want to try to connect it to if our listeners happen to be veterans because we’re going to probably package this as both a Success Coach and veteran discussion as we put it out on socials. The way I always saw this now, Tim, is I’ve been here about a year and a half. I always saw this as I’m an Air Force training manager, right?

Tim Fry: Yes.

Cable Rose: I’m a trading manager. I have a training plan, I have a training roadmap, I know where the resources are, I know how to get you what you need to be in the learning journey. You also got your mentors, your managers, they’re at your company, they’re the ones who are going to be on over your shoulder. They’re the ones who are going to show you through that. We’re going to support you in that connection to all of that.

The other part that we do as Success Coaches, this is what I like to say, and I’m sure making, everybody’s going to give me a hard time about this, but I’m a hype man. I am in your corner. I’m the one that’s cheering for you.

I’m psyching you up. Like you just said, if there happened to be doubt in your mind, I’m there to try to paint a picture of what it looks like for the realities of what you are. You’re absolutely right. You’re green, you’re coming in, you don’t know what’s going on. This is a new role for you. Let’s make those day those weekly talks. Let’s make those weekly connections.

Let’s get ahead of things that might be in your roadmap that you aren’t prepared for that we can prepare you for. At the very same time, imagine hiring somebody, even someone with a four-year degree. Let’s say you go to computer science, you do a four-year degree, and you show up on day one. It’s just you, you got to show up and do the work and be ready to perform. Guess what, when you come on, you might be green, but you’re going to get the 10 fries of the world, or the cables, or the Brits, or the errands, and you’re going to get that support that know you’ve got someone in your corner cheering you on and showing you the way.

Tim Fry: I think that’s why an apprenticeship is so great because this is real-world experience into your daily job. College degree is great, I got one, I got many of them, but relating it to military experiences, all the training that you do, training suck. Training was not fun. We train and train and train, and you have the sergeants and the commanders and everybody, training for the real world. Then it all makes sense when you’re in it. I’ve deployed a couple of times and then when you’re getting attacked, or you’re facing the enemy, or you have to make those split decisions, you rely on your training and it just kicks in. It’s no different than our role as Success Coaches, we do a lot of IT stuff.

I’m not relating war to sitting behind a computer, I’m not doing that, but the decision, when you’re practicing and training in the real-world simulation, when it actually happens, you’re ready. If you’re a computer programmer or if you have to fix some problem because in the IT world, someone’s network crashing, to them, that customer that their network going down could cost them millions of dollars. However, sometimes billions in some of our clients. Their ability to train and practice real-world hands-on is going to trump any kind of college degree and no practical experience.

That’s where you take that transition into an apprenticeship and you get out to that training, and then you go through and you just hit the battle drum, hit the beat. We’ve all done it. We’ve both been there of, “Well, we got to do that again.” It’s a skill that you may never use, but when it happens you’re ready. I think that’s when an apprenticeship pathway provides is your ability to get the training you need to get that repetition once real world actually happens.

Cable Rose: Tim, you’ve led and are leading the way of a Success Coach role here at Franklin. You’ve been here forever, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. You’ve been here forever, you’ve been here and you are, when somebody on boards, we say, “Hey, go get with Tim. Tim, he’s our resident experience.” You’ve got stories and you’ve got roles and you’ve got moments in time. What’s the greatest thing as a Success Coach? Why do you keep coming back?

Tim Fry: It’s not necessarily when they complete, I’ve had some rockstars just get through the program they complete and it’s a good feeling that they completed. It’s the times when the people that struggle, whatever arena that they’re struggling in, they question themselves or they almost give up. This isn’t for me, or whatever it is, whatever struggle they’re going through, and then they do the work, and they buckle down and they’re doing things that they don’t necessarily prefer to do, but they know they have to do to get through it. You’re helping them along the way, but you’re not doing the work for them.

In my views, I’m not motivating them, I’m getting them to the point where they want to be in. We talk about self-sabotage or your inner voice and all that stuff, but outside of those concepts, when those people overcome that struggle, and then they shine, it’s just like they had to go through the struggle to become better and come out on top. Then those are the people that keep driving me back.

Cable Rose: I like it.

Tim Fry: It’s the struggle. It’s the work, you got to put in the reps. I’m super proud of all the apprentices that get through that I have the honor to interact with. There’s just some that just go through a struggle, and then when you see happen on the other side, it makes everything worth it.

Cable Rose: I like it. There’s two words, there overcome. I see one of those words is overcome, and then two a phrase is on the other side. Man, what a powerful perspective to sit back as a Success Coach and know that you’ve helped or laid a foundation or you’ve supported, and we talked about silences. Comfortable silences where maybe you don’t need to give them the answer. Maybe you need to just let them figure out on their own and what does that look like? When they do and they come back the next day and they stand a little bit taller. They’re a little bit taller. That’s huge, man. That’s a great feeling. You’re right as a Success Coach to know that you’ve been a part of that journey. I think that’s fantastic, man.

Tim Fry: Yes, and especially in our culture today we’re an opportunity where we have all this information at our fingertips. To gain information is one thing these days, but then to apply it and understand it and able to reproduce it, that’s when it is golden. That’s when the golden. Everyone is as smart as the next person with the smartphone in their hand or has the ability to look it up online. Taking that information okay, I’m going to look up a recipe to make chocolate chip cookies, if I don’t understand the makeup of all of that ingredients coming together and producing it at what temperature and how long and that little special extra that your grandma taught you back in the day. Your mom or whoever or a mentor manager throughout the process. It’s putting in the reps.

How many times did you have to make those cookies to perfect them? It’s not about, oh, I know how to make them. Well, have you made them? Well, no, but I got the recipe online. Everyone has the same information available to them today. That’s now about how many times are we going to do it. How many times are we’re going to challenge ourselves to make a better product or deliver a better message or hone in the skills that we gain through that information? I think that’s what separates people today. I think that’s what an apprenticeship challenges you to do because you have to be able to prove what you learned.

Cable Rose: Let’s do it. You obviously know this, our tagline here at Franklin Apprenticeships is potential unlocked. What does potential unlocked mean to you in the realm of being a Success Coach and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

Tim Fry: I think this relates back into my military career of– so I’ve always been an achiever. I’ve always challenged myself into a world that I never thought I would get into. I always like to be the best person, and that’s cliché, but if I’m going to go to work, I learned a long time ago from my dad is, if you’re going to do something, do it. Do it good. I’ve always taken that motto and do it good. There’s times that I didn’t want to do it, but I had to do it good.

I got to a point in my career where I’d already done everything that everybody around me had done or my max capacity. My next step was to do a special duty, and I could do the recruiting. Everyone was, “Oh, you could be a great recruiter, you could be a great TI.” One thing that always scared me was being a teacher. Being an instructor, especially professional military education. I applied to be a PME instructor, and I wasn’t the model citizen.

I didn’t get hired the first time and everybody was, “Oh, you’re too big. You’re overweight. You’re not a good public speaker, you’re et cetera. You’re not what they need.” I kept at it and I finally got hired in [unintelligible 00:23:09] because I was the only one applied or whatever, but I got selected. Ever since the first day in the classroom that I was teaching, I felt at home in a position where I never felt before. It was a motivation and internal drive that was unlocked at that point.

I’m not the best public speaker, I’m not the best motivator, but I was able to teach people in a perspective where they got it, and they already knew the information. They had to unlock their potential of understanding it. I think challenging yourself into this is something that in leadership is, I think when you become an effective leader, is when you realize your potential to become vulnerable. When you put yourself into a vulnerable position, is when you’re going to unlock your potential.

Cable Rose: One, I don’t even want to touch that story because it’s literally gold. I’m just going to leave it right there. I’m going to give you some feedback as to a moment in time that you may or may not know. You’ve been here for the longest. They used to call it the Tim Show because you were the front end of the house. You are a pre-apprenticeship. You helped mold and build and designed that. Now there’s an entire department running pre-apprenticeship, and you’ve transitioned into the veteran role and into back into the heart of Success Coaching.

What you may not know is a story that I just learned yesterday on a podcast episode where I asked this question about potential unlocked. She said that her journey started when she came to one of those early webinars where Tim was on, and Tim did exactly what you just said. You just said it, you just learned how to get people to say, I’m ready for the journey and give them that perspective. She literally clicked the button, committed, did her pre-apprenticeship. She’s now working at a Fortune One Company and the largest IT company on the planet.

She’s in that company and she’s working for IBM and she’s literally thriving because of a moment in time that you help somebody unlock their potential. Tim Fry, as a Success Coach, Tim Fry as our OG for you being here, this with this timeframe, you are literally unlocking the potential of that American workforce. If you don’t know that, you know that now.

Tim Fry: That’s good to know. That’s a great story. I know exactly who you’re talking about.

Cable Rose: Good.

Tim Fry: Yes, that’s good. That’s good to hear. Stuff like that. It’s good to hear. Yes, it’s been a great talk with you today, Cable. Hopefully, if anybody’s hearing this listening, it’s unlock your potential. It is easy to say, but you have to challenge yourself. Become vulnerable. That’s what I have to say.

Cable Rose: Man. Good words from Tim Fry as one of our professional Success Coaches here. He’s done it. He went through the apprenticeship journey himself.

Tim Fry: Oh yes.

Cable Rose: You’re a Department of Labor. No, you’re good, man. You’re right on point. You’re a Department of Labor certified Success Coach and you absolutely-

Tim Fry: I was the first Success Coach, apprentice, and graduate in the United States.

Cable Rose: That’s it, man. I told you, you’re the OG. This is it, Tim, this is you. Think about it. You are literally paving the way for us we come on as Success Coaches, to know what it’s like ourselves. I’ve gone through it. I’m a Certified Department of Labor Success Coach because I’ve gone through the same process. I had a mentor, I went through it, I submitted my evidence, I put in my hours. I’ve done it just like you, Tim so that when we sit down with those apprentices, we know what it means to go through their process.

Tim Fry: Let me touch on this real quick and then highlight the wrap-up. Especially when we talk adults and we got trained on adult learning styles versus chilling wing styles. An apprenticeship is great for an adult learning style because adults have to learn based off their past experiences. The most difficult part is learning new concepts.

If at an adult you can take them and you can relate them to things they’ve already done in their professional career, whether you used to be X, Y, and Z and now you’re going into A, B, and C. There’s always things you can relate and you’re going to learn your technical foundation, but if you can relate it to your past experiences, you can just grow and be better and be able to grasp those concepts and move on.

For those that are in the transition period, whether you’re a veteran or a stay-at-home mom, going back to a workforce or military spouse or whatever, challenge yourself. It’s not a difficult transition in the sense of everything’s going to be paid for you, everything’s going to be laid out and planned for you. The only thing you have to do is show up and have the capability of learning and unlocking a new potential like we’ve been saying.

Cable Rose: Tim, it was great having you on the show today. I just wanted to thank you for your time and thank you for your input as a professional Success Coach here at Franklin Apprenticeships. As always, man, thanks for joining the Speaking podcast.

Moderator: Thank you for listening to, Franklin Speaking, adventures in tech apprenticeships. This podcast was produced by Franklin Apprenticeships, a woman-owned tech apprenticeship company on a mission to unlock the potential of the American workforce. Franklin offers apprenticeships for a range of tech roles such as cybersecurity, help desk, IBMZ, network engineering, and software engineering. Help us spread the word about tech apprenticeships by leaving a review and telling a friend about our show. Don’t forget to subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

[00:28:36] [END OF AUDIO]

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