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Why a Drake University Coach Took a Chance on DSM

Drake Coach in DSM

December 13, 2021

In July 2021 my family and I moved to Greater Des Moines (DSM) so that I could take a football coaching opportunity at Drake University, As a husband and a father of two young kids, moving across the country from San Diego, California to Des Moines, Iowa wasn’t something that could be made without careful consideration. Before packing up the house and setting off on this big adventure, there were a few big-ticket items that needed to be addressed.

The RiskGajo Family

We’ll start by talking about what was at stake. First and foremost, MOVING TO IOWA (where I had never been) and what that would look like for me and my family. To be completely honest, at that point I couldn’t confidently point to it on a map. Second, we would be leaving behind my hometown where I had my family and community of very close friends (many of whom I’ve known since middle school) and whose kids were friends with my kids. Lastly, I would have to quit my cozy sports business analyst job at S&P Global where I had worked for eight years and become recognized as a thought leader and industry expert.

All this being sacrificed, especially on behalf of my family, to pursue my passion that meant stepping into a career path with less-than-ideal job security.

That said, my love and passion for college football and the opportunity to mentor young men — combined with the support and love of my wife Caitlyn and kids Reagan (7) and Caden (5) — motivated us to at least carefully consider what it might look like (and if it was even remotely possible) to take this dream job.

That’s where DSM comes in. As a professional business analyst for the past several years, I’ve become proficient at breaking down complex problems, assessing the risks, fleshing out the upside and calculating it all down to the optimal path forward. I approached this potential life-changing personal decision with my professional analyst goggles. Upon reviewing the opportunity my family and I had in front of us, there were a couple of key components that had to be in place in order for it to 1) make sense for us as a family and 2) even be remotely possible. For the sake of this blog, we’ll focus on the things that DSM needed to check off the box in order for us to seriously consider the move.

  1. Cost of Living: Coming from San Diego where the cost of living is roughly 61% higher, the first question we needed to address was whether we could afford to take the coaching job with me starting a brand-new career at the bottom floor. In California, my family had grown accustom to a certain standard of living, and I didn’t feel comfortable making them divert too much away from that. DSM allowed us to maintain a similar lifestyle even as I transitioned into a new career, while still offering the energy and activity of a big city, like San Diego.
  2. Great Family City: DSM needed to offer certain characteristics that would foster and cater to the things that my family values, such as: community, diversity, strong education system, safety and a robust culture or identity. Coming from San Diego, which is a melting pot of people from all walks of life, all in community with each other, we desired a similar dynamic. Upon researching DSM, we were pleased to find that this place is a gem in that respect. There is a lot of character and diversity in DSM that I had no idea about until I started actively looking for it. And we love that, not only for us as adults, but mainly as parents and the opportunity it gives our kids to grow up and learn from people that look different than them and have different experiences and learn to love and appreciate those differences. This was a non-negotiable for us, and we were very pleased to find that the diversity piece was available here.
  3. Proximity to Other Big Cities: With us moving so far away from our family and friends in California and not having many connections here in DSM yet, the proximity to other big cities where we have family and friends was important. Caitlyn grew up in Elkhart, Indiana and graduated from Indiana University, so her having the option to hop in the car and take the kids to visit friends in Chicago, Kansas City and Indianapolis for a long weekend was a built-in protection for when they feel homesick and I’m busy during football season.

Adam Gajo FamilyWe walked away from the deep dive feeling excited about the opportunity to pursue a dream job that allowed us to maintain a similar lifestyle, but also in a city that we felt could be a good fit for us long-term and checked all the boxes on major areas of importance for our family.

After four quick months as Iowans, DSM has not disappointed. We came to the region for the coaching opportunity, but this place has quickly become home, and the people here are truly special to us. DSM has a welcoming, vibrant and “homey” feel, and really, the people that we’ve met make it a special home.

Are you interested in moving to Greater Des Moines (DSM)? Relocation Packets offer information on everything from neighborhoods and shopping to parks and local attractions. Or, kick start your career by checking out the DSM USA Career Center. It has over 10,000 jobs listed!

Adam Gajo

Adam Gajo is a wide receivers coach for Drake Bulldogs football at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.