Salt Lake Community College alumni Scott Whitehead is, in a traditional sense, every bit the personification of success.
Now pursuing undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom while continuing work as an investment banker for one of the largest consulting firms in the world, Whitehead is also self-publishing his own novel.
Though Whitehead’s life may appear to be without obstacle, the inspiration for the novel, entitled “The Light Beyond the Garden Wall,” came to him in a time of immense emotional turmoil.
“The company I was working for wanted me to help launch in New York, and I decided it was a good opportunity,” says Whitehead.
But, soon enough, the stressors began piling up.
“Finding a place to live, establishing new offices, traveling for work Monday through Thursday, all while tending to a pregnant wife, a young child, and a dog, began to weigh on me,” says Whitehead.
In addition, personal health issues alongside surmounting anxiety over his inadequacy at work, despite evidence of the contrary, gnawed at Whitehead’s confidence.
“I felt stuck under the weight of it all,” says Whitehead.
Realizing that, one day, his children will likely experience hardships they won’t be able to prepare for, Whitehead decided to act. Through the art of storytelling, Whitehead recognized that he could equip his own children with perspective he gained in times of personal hardship.
Writing late at night or in a sea of commuters on his crowded 45-minute bus ride to and from work, Whitehead began to meticulously weave a remarkable story with parallels to his own life.
“Sometimes I would work on a single paragraph for two weeks,” says Whitehead.
While details of the book remain under lock and key, the story follows a young boy in the Middle East, around the year 700 B.C. and draws from the magic realism Whitehead grew to love in Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist.”
Despite devastating hurdles, the boy ultimately succeeds in turning a new chapter in his life, says Whitehead, something he hopes those who read the book can draw inspiration from.
In attempt to make the project his own, Whitehead established a Kickstarter campaign for publishing funds and reached his goal of $5,400 in under 24 hours, exceeding it shortly thereafter.
In lieu of his current triumphs, though, Whitehead looks back at his time at SLCC fondly.
“Going to SLCC never held me back,” says Whitehead.
Receiving his associate degree from SLCC before attending Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business, Whitehead recalls a time when a guest-speaker visited his finance class.
“He was a SLCC graduate who went to Wharton [School of the University of Pennsylvania] and worked as an investment banker. I remember him asking us if we felt ‘embarrassed’ to be at SLCC, and I was,” notes Whitehead, “but don’t be.”
Not long after, when Whitehead began breaking into the world of consulting and finance, an industry rife with judgment over academic pedigree, he felt empowered by the education he received at SLCC.
“When my Ivy League colleagues ask me where I went to school, I start with SLCC. Their response is usually just, ‘Oh, really?’” says Whitehead.
Recalling all the guidance and support he has received, Whitehead ultimately hopes to help others in a similar manner through his book.
“The Light Beyond the Garden Wall” is set to release in June. Follow Whitehead’s Kickstarter for more information on the book and future projects.