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James - West Virginia Parkersburg

James - West Virginia Parkersburg

James Walker, a Driver/Technician for Guardian Barrier Services, started on his path forged in metal by studying at West Virginia University Parkersburg.

Choosing the school because of its locality, reputation, and tuition, James said, “I entered an AS program for IT. I wanted to have a professional understanding of how IT networks operate, how applications and software interact, and how security functions. These were things I was having trouble wrapping my head around as a computer hobbyist. I'm glad I did because I gained an understanding of the big picture—from hardware to frontend and backend operations, and how computer science builds languages and protocols that make the virtual experience possible.”

Diving into his studies, James accredits a few excellent professors for taking the time to help him when he struggled—Bill Minear, Doug Rhodes, and Gary Thompson.

“There were a lot of great challenges for me. Bill really made me feel like I could accomplish things in network engineering. Things that, for him, were easy. He understood how to simplify teaching and make it approachable for anyone with a dedication to learn. The same with Doug in operating systems and Gary with computer science. Gary just shared his love of knowledge and made me eager to understand things of greater complexity and inspired me to continue to study the CS side and pursue my bachelor's, eventually.”

Doug Rhodes tells us, “When he first came to me to talk about an interest in the WVU Parkersburg associate degree in computer & information technology, he talked about how he was just ready for a change in his life. He was ready to be done dealing with the classic ‘dead end’ job and was hoping to find something more stable and fulfilling.”

When James first began his schooling, he was unaware of All Within My Hands’ Metallica Scholars Initiative but learned about it halfway through his second year. It was the icing on the cake to further his education as he was chosen for the program, along with three other students, due to his application and his GPA. As a huge Metallica fan, he was pleasantly surprised and grateful for the opportunity.

In 2022, James met Guardian Barrier Services’ Business Development and Employee Recruitment Manager, Brian Dolphin, through AWMH while backstage before a Metallica show. They hit it off, and the two began discussing possible employment with the barricade company.

Guardian Barrier Services is a nationwide company with a home base in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. Formed in 2017, the business takes its show on the road, supplying crowd control barricade, cable ramps, decking, spotlights, VIP platforms, and field technicians for music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Welcome to Rockville, and over 60 more annually. In addition, Guardian Barrier Services provides its expertise and gear to several touring acts, including Metallica.

“It was through a presentation about Guardian to Metallica Scholars before the band’s Pittsburgh concert that I met James Walker, a Metallica Scholar who set himself apart by making articulate inquiries about the day-to-day operations of the live event business. He obviously knew his worth thanks to the Foundation as I was pitching working for Guardian to him, not the other way around.” Brian said.

Doug told us, “On the drive home after that Metallica concert, he kept talking about how ‘the guy with Guardian Barriers really made that seem like something I could get into’ and was seriously thinking about looking into it. He emailed me a few days later to see if I could get him some contact info, and the rest is history, I guess. I call that a success! And that couldn't have happened without the opportunities afforded to him and the rest of the students at WVUP through the Metallica Scholars Initiative.”

After going back and forth for about four months, James drove to Pennsylvania to meet Brian’s brother and President of the company, JB Dolphin. He took the team up on their opportunity and now drives and operates trucks and equipment for Guardian, hauling equipment and gear to different venues and festivals in the music industry. James often works in the warehouse where he hopes to get even more involved and learn new things.

When asked what his favorite part of the job is, James stated, “I would say probably the people I work with. I enjoy the catering and travel experiences, too, but it's nice to work among people who are trying to be successful—but not to the point it's unenjoyable. I think we all try to remember to have a good time and be open-minded about things.”

Not to say there aren’t challenges.

“The biggest challenge is time. The job is a bit of a lifestyle and requires a lot of dedication. There are always little obstacles popping up. The overall job experience is worth it, though, and it's nice to see fans really enjoying themselves.”

Brian chimes in, “James has become an invaluable asset to the Guardian Barrier Services team, thanks to his skill set acquired through the Metallica Scholars program and more than a year of direct, on-site training with our team.”

In the future, James hopes to continue his career in the field and would love to further his education.

“I have yet to experience the off-season, and I'm really enjoying this. I do have plans to return to school as I would like to further study computer science and possibly gain my bachelor's degree. I use free time to do further research and keep up on things in the IT world. My feelings about Guardian are solid, and I enjoy the work—I like the industry and community and plan to keep a symbiotic and friendly relationship with this company. So, if I do pursue further study or other work, hopefully, they would love to have me back.”

Within the past year, James has traveled the country and caught more than a few concerts. At the time of the interview, he was en route to deliver Guardian’s gear to the Metallica show in Saint Louis, Missouri, with the next stop being Detroit, Michigan.