One man’s story about going back to school and finding immediate success

By Jennifer Ferrero, APR

Liang (Lan) Chen was in his 30’s and operating a sushi restaurant when he decided to go back to school. He wanted to make a better living for his family and had heard that he could make more with a 2-year degree than with many 4-year degrees. He went down to Wenatchee Valley College to see what was available.

But Lan was smart and wasn’t swayed by just any program. He sat down with an instructor and asked what kinds of jobs were available, and what salary and growth options he would have.

He started in classes that would lead to a base job of Maintenance Technician. But then was introduced to Programmable Logic Controls (PLC) programming. He found that he had an aptitude for this type of work; but noted that many in his class didn’t. Out of 20 students that started the program only four finished.

Chen said that students in these classes need to have initiative to do the work and go above and beyond, “To sign up for lab time, I became a lab instructor to have an employees status, so that I could use the lab outside of PLC lab time.”

He also took on tutoring so that he could continue to learn from others. Chen said, “The resources under the community colleges are great, and really affordable; but you have to make it happen.”

Following graduation, Chen applied to Amazon and was immediately called for an interview. He passed their entrance exams and was offered the position of Control Systems Technician in about two-weeks. He feels great about his new job, that he’s held for about 3-months. Although Chen is still commuting between Seattle and Wenatchee each week, he loves the 4-day work week and doesn’t mind the commute.

Chen said, “There are many PLC companies. PLC are specialized computers designed to control a machine or process of production.” In his job with PLC systems, it is used for the packaging from making labels to tracking systems. These roles all have a computer that is running a function; someone must ensure that the machines keep working.

Learn more about the program that Chen took at Wenatchee Valley College.