Beneath Titan Gilroy’s brawny, tattooed exterior, the ex-boxer, sought-after machinist and reality TV star is a man who’s incredibly shy.

Whether he’s standing in front of a camera, teaching career skills to prison inmates, or showing young machinists the ropes of manufacturing, Gilroy said his Christian faith and commitment to excellence have continuously pushed him beyond barriers in his path — shyness included.

“I believe in the importance of the vision that I have,” he said. “And because of my faith—and I believe this is why I was created—I step past that shyness to step onto the platform and do what I need to do, to be the best I can be.”

Gilroy, 48, said that he’s used that approach in all of his endeavors, including his latest company, Titans of CNC. The “CNC” stands for “Computer Numerical Control,” referring to the high-tech machines that Gilory uses at his Rocklin machine shop to carve components from heavy-duty materials like titanium, steel and aluminum.

There’s no room for error in making those parts, which are used in sophisticated machines that operate in extreme conditions, including deep-sea exploratory robots and satellites that orbit the Earth. That level of performance has attracted high-profile aerospace customers, like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

Gilroy’s latest venture entails using his machine shop to teach online classes to thousands of students. In November last year he launched Titans of CNC Academy, an online machinist school that today serves more than 28,000 students and 1,500 teachers in 130 countries, and many companies use the curriculum for in-house training.

Academy classes are free to all students; the company brings in revenue from toolmakers, companies and corporate sponsors whose products are shown in online academy videos and other aspects of the training. Some of Gilroy’s sponsors include Haas Automation Inc. and Autodesk Inc.

Gilroy sees his academy as a vehicle to solve a manufacturing skills gap, and he wants to help put the U.S. back in the manufacturing game as serious a competitor.

He said that many companies have a hard time finding the skilled labor that’s necessary to do challenging jobs in industries like aerospace and robotics. Plus, most machinist schools lack the curriculum to train workers properly, he said.

But Gilroy said his curriculum can provide students with a master’s level experience. “By building this massive community, not only am I changing the game and making it where Americans can actually do all those jobs in a fraction of the time that they think it’s going to take, but I’ve also set my company up to be a million times more successful than I could just machining parts,” he said.

Gilroy’s academy teaches students a variety of skills, from creating code to program the CNC machines to engineering and making sophisticated parts. “And they (students) do it over and over,” said Gilroy. “You teach through repetition so you become an expert and you rise in the technical skill over time.”

Kymberly McCarty, national key account manager with global parts manufacturer Kennametal, one of Titans of CNC’s sponsors, said Gilroy’s online academy is bringing renewed interest to the field of CNC manufacturing. “Titan’s curriculum is simple, it’s free, it’s accessed from all over the world,” McCarty said. “It’s a great way for you to get certified in order for you to get confident and structure a career.”

Gilroy has an unlikely background for someone who has achieved so much. His early years were marked by homelessness after his mother escaped an abusive relationship. He found success in the boxing ring as a young adult, but that came to an abrupt end after a nightclub brawl resulted in a 16-year prison sentence in Hawaii. Gilroy maintains he tried to break up the fight, but ended up throwing a punch that landed him in prison.

After serving three years he got a machinist job at Zinola Manufacturing in Sunnyvale, where he excelled and went from making $9 an hour to $28 an hour within two years.

At age 35 he opened his own machine shop in Grass Valley in 2005, Titan Engineering. In a few years his company was making millions in revenue and employed more than 40 people.

While Gilroy had overcome a tough background and prison, he never expected a new challenge would emerge in 2009 that would test his confidence like never before.

That year a manufacturer that had been Gilroy’s primary customer was hit by the Great Recession, which struck a near fatal blow to Gilroy’s business. “We were cranking out a ton of work, and in a single day I got a call basically saying all the orders that we had, which was 80 percent of my company, it’s getting put on hold,” Gilroy said. “I said ‘hold? What does hold mean?’”

The loss of business forced Gilroy to lay off most of his staff and file for bankruptcy. He lost nearly everything. “I literally came to a place where I was out on my knees out on the floor,” he said. “I hit the bottom.”

Gilroy said he prayed about his situation, and wondered if and how he’d ever bounce back.

In 2010, things did turn around — and in a big way.

Figuring he had nothing to lose, Gilroy began writing letters to SpaceX about how his experience making titanium parts for undersea robots made him a perfect choice to craft parts for SpaceX. Finally, after about six months, SpaceX responded and soon the Hawthorne, California-based company placed some orders with Titans of CNC.

“My company started thriving again,” Gilroy said. “When (SpaceX’s) Dragon capsule is getting ready to dock at the space station and those thrusters are going off, I love the fact that the whole assembly for those thrusters, we built,” he said.

Since then, he’s done more than 2,000 part numbers for SpaceX. Later, a friend of Gilroy’s who used to work at SpaceX was able to connect him with Bezos’ company Blue Origin, which led to additional business.

The boost helped Gilroy’s company gain traction and financial stability, but he didn’t forget the challenges he had overcome. “In 2010 I was humbled,” he said. “And I truly believe I had to go through all of that. I was just a speck in a beach of sand of people who were losing their companies. It broke my heart. It changed the way that I thought.”

In addition to launching an online academy, starring in his own reality show, and running his machine shop, Gilroy is determined to help others who, like him, have encountered serious setbacks in life.

Two years ago he spearheaded a total revamp of the machine shop at San Quentin State Prison, which was recently completed, a journey captured on his reality show, which airs on MAVTV. He also visits prisons around the country to speak with inmates in hopes to inspire them.

Jeff Weaver, a retired manual machinist and the investor who funded Gilroy’s first business in 2005, said he’s witnessed Gilroy’s trials, and believes his latest journey will be a success. Weaver refinanced his house to invest $120,000 in Gilroy’s first business — an investment Weaver said Gilroy returned above and beyond. “I knew the journey he had been on, and he had been on a pretty dark path and pulled himself out of it, turned himself around,” he said. “I knew it was very risky, but Titan is the kind of person who earned my trust … he has tremendous passion and sincerity and it comes across.”

In the meantime, Gilroy said he expects to triple the number of students participating in his academy next year. He credits his success to the power of faith and, relying on his own life experiences, hopes to continue to help others overcome challenges. “I was barefoot scrapping in the streets. I was in prison. And now, without any college education, we are making parts for the most elite companies in the world, who are changing how space flight is done.”

Name: Titan Gilroy

Position: Owner, Titans of CNC

Age: 48

Full-time employees: 18

Founded: First business in 2005

Location: Rocklin

Personal: Married to Gina Gilroy, with five children

This article was written by Victor A. Patton for Sacramento Business Journal.