There’s many a circuitous path to a career at Lawrence Livermore. Jorge Escobar, for instance, began as a custodian with Johnson Controls; today, he’s a member of the Livermore Information Technology (LivIT) institutional Mac services team in Computing's Information Technology Solutions division.

Escobar discovered an interest in computing as a young teen, and after graduating high school enrolled in Delta Junior College, then Cal State Stanislaus, aiming for a B.S. in computer science. While checking off his classes, however, life intervened: His daughter, Ellie, was born in 2003, instantly flipping his priorities. Escobar quit full-time study in favor of a steady job—with good potential. The Lab was ideal, and custodial work became Escobar’s foot in the door. Hiring on with Johnson Controls in 2004, he advanced to administrator and IT support for the New Employee Work Center, a small group for employees awaiting clearances and summer interns, and then to the National Ignition Facility (NIF) desktop-support team.

With his coursework reduced to a trickle, it took Escobar 17 years to complete his degree. He explains, “I stayed enrolled and did my best to fit in night classes, but I had long breaks when home and work life didn't leave enough room for school. I always expected that I would complete a degree, but it was difficult to see the path to achieving that goal.”

Escobar came aboard as a regular Lab employee in 2010. That was the break he needed to pursue his education in earnest. He finished his B.S. in 2017. “Being salaried allowed some flexibility in my work schedule," he says. "That’s when I refocused on completing the degree. With the support of my supervisor at the time, Lisa Belk, I began the process of enrolling in the Lab's educational program.”

Around that time, Escobar took a new position with the group he’s now in. “My new supervisor, Neal Mackanic, was very supportive and willing to work with my school schedule. Some quarters I would go to school in the morning, then work late; others I'd work in the morning, leave early for school, then finish up working from home," notes Escobar.

Escobar is now a member of Computing's professional scientific and technical staff. His advice for others? “For anyone thinking of pursuing a degree while working full time, I would say start now. It's probably going to take longer than you plan, so the sooner you start, the sooner it's done. I also encourage people to speak to their supervisors about their educational goals. All my management over the years was supportive and willing to work with my school schedule to help me reach my goal,” he states.

Backing at home is also critical. “Having the support of my wife made all the difference. It would have been much more difficult without her,” says Escobar.

—Margaret Davis