Robert Steinkamp (‘09) first heard about Trinity Western University while working at a summer camp south-east of Seattle. After checking it out online, and seeing positive reviews, he decided to apply.
“I was looking to be more ‘on my own’ so moving away from my home town of Portland and exploring a new place—while studying at one of the premier private universities on Canada’s west coast—seemed like an excellent choice,” says Steinkamp.
It didn’t take long to receive the acceptance letter and, with that, the whole trajectory of Steinkamp’s life changed.
THE INFLUENCE OF TWU
As is the case with many who attend Trinity Western, Steinkamp says his years there not only defined his career path, but also helped define him as a person:
“I was able to break out of my shell a bit, find my confidence, learn what I was passionate about, redefine as well as solidify my beliefs,” says Steinkamp. “Everything about my life during my days at TWU played an intrinsic role in the development of who I am.”
Steinkamp credits much of his growth and development to his professors, three in particular: Loranne Brown, Kevin Schut and Ruth Anaya.
“Kevin helped me understand the value in a communications degree, and what I learned in his courses directly prepared me for my career,” says Steinkamp. “Lorrane’s creative writing course helped me find confidence in my writing abilities, which I now use in my side job as a freelance writer. Furthermore, Ruth Anaya helped me understand multi-cultural communication, leadership communication, and overall an ability to interact and communicate effectively with a diverse audience.”
Friends also played a key role in cultivating his passion for the outdoors and his spiritual development.
“All these experiences—from exploring the wild space of British Columbia, to conversations regarding relationship with Christ, to pulling harmless pranks on friends—it all led to a singular, transformative time frame for me,” says Steinkamp.
UNCERTAIN NEXT STEPS
But after graduating, Steinkamp was faced with the all-too-familiar dilemma of trying to figure out what to do next with his life. He moved to Hawaii that first summer, where he continued his third consecutive summer doing snorkel tours.
After this, he decided to move back to his hometown of Portland, Oregon, where he spent the next two years as a merchandiser at Home Depot. Although many good things came from his time there, like earning some leadership experience, the best by far was the relationship he developed with Heather, a woman who would become his wife.
Steinkamp felt things were going okay at Home Depot, but it wasn’t until he took a job with Skout Organic in Portland (a company that made and sold organic/gluten-free trail bars) that he really started to use the skills he learned while a communications student at Trinity Western.
“Being at a small business that was reaching a nationwide customer base, I got to really hone selling skills, leadership communication, marketing, warehouse management skills, inventory, etc,” says Steinkamp. “In that role, though, I found the greatest joy in my writing. From product spotlights we would submit to newspapers, to press releases, and even packaging design/wording, I loved the writing aspect of the job.”
Although this was a great spot for several years, Steinkamp missed the outdoor life and longed for a change.
“Heather and I got the bug to have our own adventure, and moved to Bend Oregon, which is basically a West Coast mecca for the outdoor life,” says Steinkamp. He couldn’t be happier with this new location, but struggled to find a job that suited him. Soon after taking a job as a supervisor at a retail outlet, Steinkamp realized that it was not the industry for him.
“The job gave me a good resume title, but also taught me the valuable lesson that I needed something I was passionate about and did well to be happy in my work,” says Steinkamp. “While I wasn’t fired or let go, I certainly didn’t thrive, and being in the wrong industry for my skills, I became highly anxious.”
Steinkamp could feel himself struggling to have the impact he wanted, and began to question his worth, abilities, skills, and usefulness. But in all of this, it was clear to Steinkamp that God wasn’t just leaving him out to dry.
“Sure, I knew I was struggling and had a lot of pressure; newly married, new town, no friends or support group in town yet,” Steinkamp reflects, “but at the same time it helped redirect my focus away from my circumstances and more toward my faith.”
“What I didn’t understand at the time,” he adds, “was that this period of ‘personal failure’ helped me identify all my opportunities, so that when I was in the right role, I was able to manage and adjust to be successful,” explains Steinkamp. “It also built something in me that has helped influence my leadership—compassion and direct honesty with those that reported to me.”
After deciding to look for a new role, he found work as a supervisor at Consumer Cellular. There, he saw incredible growth.
“My skills learned in leadership communication, understanding the human behind the employee, why people communicate in various ways, understanding motivations, as well as many other skills learned over the years, helped me to become highly successful in this role,” says Steinkamp.
Steinkamp was recognized for his skill and was rapidly promoted. He now trains new supervisors and helps them be successful at their jobs.
THE RISKS IN LIFE
“I’m not so naive as to say ‘I wouldn’t have made it without God’. I would have. I would’ve struggled and fought and battled my way through on my own,” says Steinkamp. “But instead I chose to walk with God through it all, and I continue to do so; there’s a relationship that’s built, rather than me just going solo. So God played the center piece to my success, in that I took in a long-term mindset: earthly trials are kind of brutal at times, but they pass.”
Although this journey hasn’t always been easy, Steinkamp says one of the greatest lessons he’s learned is that sometimes, you just have to make a move and do something, even if there’s uncertainty.
“Don’t worry so much about failing,” says Steinkamp. “In the act of doing, you learn about yourself, your strengths, and your ability to achieve something great. The choice to play it safe or ‘stay in your lane’ ends in missed opportunity, lack of growth, and the inability to change your perspective. You don’t climb a mountain by leaping to the top; it’s one step at time.”
Steinkamp encourages those who are struggling on their career path to learn from their failures, to not give up, and to take action, especially if it’s risky.
“Take risks! Cliché, I know, but there’s so much truth to it!” Steinkamp says. “The further you put yourself out there, the further ahead of the pack you’ll be.”
No matter what comes next, Steinkamp feels confident knowing that God has a plan for him and that He is working through every failure and success to bring about good in the world.
“My joy is in the Lord, so weather I’m stocking shelves at Home Depot, or training the next generation of leaders, it’s more about who I get to interact with and show Christ to than it is about the grind and making money,” says Steinkamp.