I love discovering new things and teaching them to people.
When I was a child, I wanted to be an ichthyologist (someone who discovers fish in the ocean). I saw myself finding new species and showing them to my friends and family.
When I discovered software, I wanted to learn every language, process, and technology I could get my hands on. I helped teams whenever I could to build the best products and use the latest practices.
And so when software projects started to go bad - I wanted to discover why so I could help show people how to fix it.
I made a playlist on YouTube to share my career journey with you over 3 videos. In the videos, I explain about how it wasn't until 10 years into my career that I discovered the key skills I was missing. Once I developed these skills, I gained a lot of experience helping people break through challenges over the years that followed.
This page has a written summary of some of what is covered in the YouTube videos, as well as some expanded information.
I started out by attending a local technical college to pursue an associates degree as a "Microcomputer Specialist". In essence this was a combination of programming, hardware, system analysis, and communications.
Towards the end of my degree my Mother met someone at church who knew a Software Development Manager at a Rockwell Automation (at the time called Rockwell Software). I interviewed and accepted a position as a software tester.
During my early time at Rockwell I sought out older mentors and learned quite a bit about manufacturing software. One particular man showed me quite a bit about system programming and how to do things to a computer's operating system. Another showed me a lot about how to test software.
My biggest influence at the time however, was my boss. He wore a wallet chain, biker boots, and kept his hair back in a ponytail. He was a risk taker and an innovator, and he inspired me almost immediately with his energy and enthusiasm. He saw something in me early and encouraged me with almost everything I did.
Over the years Rockwell had acquired several other companies. Unfortunately, this caused our customers to have to learn and use five or so different complicated programs to do their work.
While I was at home learning, I had been noticing at the time how web sites and "windowed applications" looked completely different. For fun, I began creating a "web app" that looked somewhat like Rockwell's existing windowed applications, but it was built using early versions of the web technologies we know and love today.
The other thing I did with this side project was come up with a user interface that brought elements of the other products together. This was in an attempt to make it easier to use and simpler.
Somehow I ended up telling my boss about it and he asked me to give him a runnable demo on a CD. Soon afterwards I found out he met with the then VP of Rockwell who called it "the most strategically important project in our portfolio". We were given permission to pick 12 of the best software people across the company, and within a few months we had a team.
Everyone was excited to work with Java. I was asked by Microsoft to be an MVP for Java and COM integration. We patented an XML-RPC protocol that was essentially the precursor to SOAP. I contributed Sun Microsystem's "Netbeans" Java IDE's first plugin, on that ran the ant build system. I got several promotions, eventually to "Application Architect" by the time I was 23. I thought my career was off to a great start.
But half of my team didn't like me because they had been at the company longer, and were much older. They were distrustful of me, and it didn't help that I had no idea how to build relationships with them or help calm things down when they disagreed.
Within a short period, things came to a boiling point between I and another man on my team and he complained about me being unfit to lead the project to HR. When others on my team were asked to confirm his complaints, they disagreed and he was fired. However during the time he was there, he had sewn seeds of discontent. The CTO out of another big city in the country at the time began to feel threatened that this "team in West Allis, Wisconsin" was doing so much to push the envelope of technology and teamwork outside of his influence.
I was asked to take a trip to Vancouver to meet with a company that might partner with us on Java technology. When I arrived at the airport with my boss, we met someone who he shortly told me privately to "look out for". I signed a non-disclosure agreement at our first meeting with this potential partner. Within hours my new friend we met at the airport had pissed our client off so bad the partnership didn't have a prayer of happening. It almost felt like he wanted to sabotage the relationship.
When I arrived back home, the Director who was above my boss called us into his office. He told us he realized the non-compete we signed was drafted by Rockwell, and barred us from working on any project with Java technology for 5 years. Somehow the CTO had maneuvered us out of innovating. This was my first exposure to higher level politics in a company, and it disgusted me!
Shortly thereafter the company asked us to build a new portal product using the then-emerging Microsoft .NET framework. Our customers felt like it was too hard to keep up with our products since they all were updated at different times. Because of this our company mandated that all products needed to ship a new version and release on the same day.
Unfortunately due to more politics, the release was delayed and my boss was let go.
My boss ended up at a new company that sold watering products to the animal industry. He started building a new team and in short order hired me and the rest of the people from Rockwell who liked working together.
We were brought in to build a web application that would run on touch screen computers, mounted on the walls of research facilities. This was several years prior to the iPhone and most of the touch screen devices we have today. It was an exciting opportunity to try and figure out how to design the user interface, as the Product Manager for the product would fly to Japan and try and observe how they were using touch screens. At the time Japan was significantly ahead of the United States with touch screen adoption.
We were reading about agile methodologies like scrum, which were still very new at the time. To use them on our projects, we created a small portal site that we used to manage our work. It was crude but it gave us experience with trying to write user stories, estimate tasks, many of the other typical things scrum teams do. We really didn't know what we were doing though.
Soon there was even more political drama, and my boss was let go again. This time due to being blamed for a mistake by someone else at the company who was going though a personal challenge. I again saw corporate politics put my boss in the crosshairs, due in no part to his actions.
Next my boss ended up at a company that was struggling to ship a .NET product to market. He was able to hire me and a few other people from the prior debacle to help.
The main product of this company was a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). It allowed factory floor workers to operate the software with a touch screen.
My boss and I first identified issues with the software development process. We then built some SOAP Web Services that used the OAGIS standard. This standard was useful at the time, because it allowed our MES product to then connect to many Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software packages that our customers used.
I also prototyped a new application for them in ruby on rails. I left the company before this project moved forward to move to Austin, Texas.
I was born in the Detroit, Michigan area and lived there until I was 10.
I moved to Genessee, Wisconsin and lived around the Milwaukee area until I was 31. During that time I played guitar and sang in a few bands, attended college, met and married my wife, and had three children.
I now live in Austin, Texas with my wife and kids. When I’m not working or spending time with my family; I like to ride road bicycles (recreationally). I also still play various instruments and write songs from time to time. I'm currently helping my wife with starting up her fitness and wellness business - as she gives me advice on my coaching program :).