From Systems Analyst to Data Processing Manager to VP of Information Technology to President of a Credit Union, John Teng Became a Successful Massage Therapist and a Massage Business Owner

john-teng1. Tell us a bit more about you and your practice as it is today? i.e. are you a solo practitioner or a business owner? If solo, what kind of an establishment do you work for, how large is it, what is the clientele like, what is the specialty offered? If it is a business that you own, kindly include the same time of relevant information that will give the reader a good idea about your establishment/practice. Please also include where you live and work?

I spend about 60 to 70 hours a week as the director of European Massage Therapy School (EMTS) in Las Vegas, NV. I graduated from EMTS in Skokie, IL in 2003 where I fell in love with massage therapy.

The owners are amazing people and I can see that they really care about their students. So I became very good friends with them. Knowing I have business experience, when they decided to expand and open another campus in Las Vegas, they asked me to open and run the school for them.

We opened the Las Vegas campus in June of 2006 with one class of 10 students. 8.5 years later, we have graduated 55 classes and over 400 hundred students. We continue the EMTS tradition of running the massage school like a school and not a business. We truly care about our students and we make every effort to help them succeed not only in school but also in their personal lives.

2. Tell us why you chose to go into massage and at what point in your life did you decide to do so? What were you doing at the time? Where did you first hear about the massage career? What factors influenced your decision? What were you looking to get out of this decision?

Believe it or not, I did not plan on being a massage therapist when I enrolled in EMTS. For 13 years, I have worked my way up from systems analyst to data processing manager to VP of information technology to president of a credit union in Skokie, IL.

I had been the president for 3 years and it was an extremely stressful job for me. I am a perfectionist and I want to know everything but in the banking industry, just when you think you learned all the rules and regulations, they come up with new ones so I feel like I am always catching up.

One of my staff at the time was also a cosmetologist and she wanted to add massage therapy to her skills. So she suggested that I go to massage school with her to de-stress and get my mind off the job. So I enrolled in massage school purely just for fun. But while in massage school, I was surprised at the level of technical knowledge you need to have about human anatomy and physiology.

My background is science so I was really enjoying the science classes but this also legitimize massage therapy in my mind as a real professional career. And the massages seem so natural to me. It’s like this is what I am supposed to do. Looking back, going to massage school really is one of the most important decision I made that changed my whole life.

3. What were some of your questions and concerns before further pursuing your massage therapy goals? Talk about concerns with school and the profession itself.

My main concern at the time was being able to support myself working as a massage therapist. Also, I was concerned about getting hired because massage therapy was and still is a female dominated field. My third concern was longevity.

I enrolled in massage school when I was 37 years old. How long can I work as a massage therapist before my body breaks down? But since my initial intention was not to become a massage therapist, I wasn’t too worried about these concerns. My only concern about massage school at that time really was about distance from home and work. I worked full time so I want to find a school that’s close to home and school and I was lucky to find one.

4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?

I would like to think my specialty is in de-stressing. My massage has a therapeutic yet calming effect on clients. This may sound corny but in my experience, success comes from working hard, being responsible for your own actions (or inactions), be sincere and respectful to everyone, keep an open mind in learning and doing all these while having fun (OK, so I named 5, but they are all important!).

5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?

I always feel I have the best jobs in the world. As a massage therapist, I am able to help my clients feel better immediately. As a school director, nothing satisfies me more than seeing graduates come back to school time and time again to tell me how they were able to change their lives for the better because they decided to come to massage school and how much they miss school.

6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?

I love everything I do. I believe that you create your own reality. So if there is something you don’t like about what you do, you have the power to change it. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your mindset or your perspective.

Does it seem like every time you are running late, the car in front of you always drives like a lost tourist? You are about to lose your cool and blow up. Before you do that, think about the time when you were a lost tourist and driving slowly to read every street name. Remember how annoying it is when the driver behind you start honking and gives you dirty looks? Do you want to be that person? Of course not.

Every time you start to get mad, step back and look at the situation in a different perspective (most of the time, it will be the perspective of the person you are about to explode on). This will be more effective than taking 5 deep breaths because not only will this calms you down and takes you away from an explosive situation, it will also make you think of the other person involved. Practice this and soon, nothing much in the world could bother you.

7. If there were three things you could change about your work or the industry as a whole what would they be? Why would you change them? What would you change them to?

I would like to see more massage therapy ads in the media educating the public about the benefits of massage. I would like massage therapy treatments to be widely accepted by insurance companies. I would like massage therapy to be taught to kids so families can spend time bonding using caring and healing touch. I truly believe the world will be a much happier and healthier place to live in if these things happen.

8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?

I plan to keep my practice as long as I still have the passion and love for massage therapy. I can’t see myself not wanting to do massage or not wanting to help students reach their dreams but if that day comes, I will probably find some other way to help people be happy, healthy and self sufficient.

9. Do you currently have another job or business whether full time or part time? Tell us a bit more about it and how you are able to juggle that with your massage career?

My full time job is being a school director for European Massage Therapy School in Las Vegas, NV. I practice massage therapy on the side. One of the benefits of being a massage therapist is you can have a flexible work schedule. So if I need to spend more time at school, I just lighten my work load as a massage therapist.

10. What are some mistakes you made in your career pursuit that you’d like to warn other students about so they can learn from your experience and avoid it?

I believe the biggest mistake I have made is not getting work done regularly myself. Getting massages not only help you recover from simple massage strains and pains but is also a great way to learn from your colleagues.

11. What would you advice someone who is looking at massage therapy schools? What do you recommend they look for and how? How do you recommend they determine whether the school is the right one for them?

I think the Massage Therapy Schools Information Institute (MTSI) has a great checklist for someone who is looking at massage therapy schools. This comprehensive checklist contains the most important questions to ask massage schools. I would recommend them to start with this checklist and make sure they checkout the schools in person to get a feel of the school and the surrounding area.

12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?

My first suggestion would be to apply for federal student aid. Pell grant and Stafford loans are still your best option for financial aid. Then students should research any grants/scholarships available to them. Again, MTSI has a great tool for students to start their search.

13. What are your three biggest points of advice for an aspiring massage therapist today? What should they do/not do? What should they think about and consider?

1. Research. Talk to massage therapists. Ask them what they like most as a massage therapist and what they like least. Ask them questions that are important to you. Get a professional massage yourself and see how you like the whole experience. Know what the job options are and where you plan on working after graduation. Then use the MTSI checklist and visit schools in your area.

Compare curriculum, tuition, class sizes, accreditation. Speak with students, massage instructors, and staff.  For example, ask the teachers why they became massage instructors.  Sit in a class if the school allows you to. The school counselor should be able to answer all your questions clearly and honestly. Then research ways to pay for the tuition or ask the school counselor to help you with financing. I don’t recommend doing a private loan. They tend to have high interest rates and more restrictive terms.

2. Massage therapy is a physically demanding job. Make sure you are healthy enough to do massage. You need to take care of yourself first before you can effectively take care of other people. Are you healthy enough physically, mentally and emotionally to start your career in massage therapy?

3. A typical massage therapy curriculum contains considerable amount of science classes including but not limited to anatomy and physiology, kinesiology and pathology. You will need to plan and schedule study time at home to at least review what you learned in class. Make sure you plan your work (if you are working) and personal (taking care of yourself, family, friends, etc) schedule around your school schedule. The number one reason we have to drop students is excessive absence that leads to the student falling behind in school work. Support of family and friends are also important.

14. Any open thoughts / comments – anything else that you’d like to share about yourself, the massage industry, profession, future, etc? If nothing, make one prediction for the future of massage?

I think massage therapy is the ultimate American Dream job. Your success in this field really depends on how hard you work and how much you are willing to sacrifice. Massage therapy is a flexible career. You can work in the spa and leisure industry or the medical industry or in sports/health/fitness industry; you can be on call, part time, full time or you can be your own boss. This is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. How high you want to go really depends on you.

15. What is your passion outside of massage? What are your hobbies and interests which you pursue when you are not working? Tell us why you enjoy what you enjoy.

I call myself an amateur photographer. I love to be in nature and capture the nature’s beauty with my camera. Being in nature recharges my battery and brings me back in perspective with life and reminds myself to not sweat but enjoy the small stuff. The current society has made us work like robots. When was the last time you stop and observe your surroundings?

With my camera, I want to capture the little things we miss everyday when we are too busy working and/or worrying: the little bee that is busy flying from flower to flower, the humming bird taking a break on a tree, the rays of sunshine shooting out from behind a cloud, the dew drops forming on a flower in early morning, the beautiful colors seen in the horizon during the sunset. I want to share these with everyone. My hope is that once they seen it, they will start looking for the little treasures themselves.

John Teng is a MS, a BS, a LMT, a NCTMB, an ACMT and Director at the European Massage Therapy School. You can connect with him on his Facebook page.

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Interviews with Professionals

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