Mark, a manufacturing engineer, overcame a life-threatening injury and re-entered the workforce through our Chapter Next Returnship program.
Mark’s passion for motorcycles and riding began at a young age, and he started racing competitively in 2016. That all changed in September 2018.
On his way home from work, a car pulled in front of the motorcycle he was riding. Mark suffered numerous injuries in the crash, most notably a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the stomach down. An arduous and long rehabilitation period began immediately. Mark had to get used to a new way of life – one he thought meant a life without motorcycles.
Mark found The Bike Experience USA (TBEXUSA) on social media, and others within the racing community encouraged him to check it out. A nonprofit organization, TBEXUSA teaches and advises motorcyclists who have been disabled how they can ride again through bike adaption and modification.
In August 2019, one year after his accident, Mark attended a TBEXUSA training event and got back on a bike for the first time. “I was very nervous when I started the program, but once I was riding again I thought, ‘Hey, I can do this.’ As the saying goes, ‘It’s just like riding a bike.’”
Mark uses adaptive hand-control equipment with the rear brake and shifter. Each rider works on their bikes to make adaptations as necessary, and TBEXUSA provides resources to help.
TBEXUSA’s growth has allowed it to field its own race team, of which Mark joined in 2021. His racing team, made up of others with lower-body paralysis, competes in the N2/WERA National Endurance Series in a lightweight bike class where speeds can hit 130-140 miles per hour. The main event is a four-hour endurance relay with up to four team members switching off to ride the course with points awarded for laps completed by individual riders as well as where you finish. At first, Mark thought he had no business sharing the track with professionals he’s seen on TV and admires, but he learned to manage his own race and says being on the track with better riders makes him a better rider.
Another benefit of racing for Mark is that it introduced him to Lockheed Martin. A director at Sikorsky rides in some of the same events as Mark, and they even ride the same model of motorcycle. Mark mentioned he was looking for employment, and the director mentioned Chapter Next, a program for individuals who’ve been away from the workforce for a while.
As Mark began to look into Lockheed Martin, he was encouraged by the available flexibility and work-life balance offered. He applied and was accepted into our Chapter Next program, and like his return to the racetrack, he had some butterflies. “I certainly had some nervousness, not knowing what to expect, but Chapter Next is well structured and run by great people who always have your back for any kind of question or challenge I came across. They made the transition back into the workforce very smooth.”
Mark’s team assists several rotary wing programs with simulations to help optimize manufacturing processes. He completed his 13-week Chapter Next program tenure and as of last month, Mark accepted an offer and is now working with us part-time.