"Lucky" to have had parents that taught me that I can do anything I want as long as I put the effort, blood and sweat, into it. They also taught me that failure is just a stepping stone to achievement. As a young person, I mostly grew up in the midwest and sailed on Lake Erie with my family. We also lived in Venezuela for three years when my dad was transferred there for a job. It is important to see the world and experience other cultures and people. Although I was very young at the time, that experience changed the way I think, even today.
With the work ethic my parents instilled in me, I managed to keep jobs all my life. I started out like many of us - with a big failure... expelled from a university for low grades. Society is not helpful when driving people into something they are not ready for. I was not ready for more education! I needed to learn how to work and provide for myself. I had some little jobs before; newpaper delivery, grocery donut maker, snow shoveler, manure shoveler, and UPS unloader (seriously hard labor). Since I was not a student, the expectation was I had to move out and work to support myself. I started where many start, on a factory line, at a Hunts Ketchup factory. First, on the line in quality control and then promoted to spice guy. I then got a job with the USDA working at the top of those grain silos in Toledo, Ohio. Oh the stories, I could tell about what is in your food; It was a good job, learned a lot, enjoyed working solo way up in the sky 160 feet above the deck of a cargo ship. During this time, I also took a few courses at Owens Technical college. I really needed to retake some courses I had previously flunked at university. I passed with A's.
Eventually, I realized that a blue collar life wasn't for me. And, it isn't the type of work that bothered me, but rather the disconnect between management, the employee, and the union at the Hunts factory. To this day, I despise unions. That is not to say they have not done good things for the worker, but they also abuse their captured audience and often times are found to be corrupt. This meant that I would need to be in a career that was in control of their own future for the most part.
First, I finished out an Associate of Arts at the Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado, the highest city in the nation. Then I worked in Boulder, Colorado as a Stake Out Officer for a police station. That was a fun job, we got to dress up like ninjas, sit atop buildings around town with our night scopes and watch for crimes to happen. Mostly, it was car thefts and drunks climbing into their cars; both which police would "magically" show up to in a timely fashion.
The summers I spent in Alaska working at a fish processing plant, in many different jobs, such as icebox, quality control, and as the messy "spooner". Both summers, I jumped into my hardy but beat-up Trooper and drove from Leadville to Kenai, Alaska via the vast open country of Canada. This fed my need for adventure. Sleeping in the truck, talking on the CB with fellow travelers, visiting remote hot springs, driving while planes were landing on the same stretch of road, crossing mile-long single-lane bridges, 400-mile long gravel roads, and knowing that gas is only available every 60 miles minimum. Most of the summer, I lived in a tent on the Kenai South Beach watching the volcano across the Cook Inlet erupt, spewing ash everywhere.
Eventually, I decided to finish out a Bachelor of Arts. I decided to get a degree in Outdoor Education from Prescott College in Arizona. And I also took a minor in Photography. It is a very experiential college, very "hands on". I learn best by doing, always have, book learning is not for me. What can I do with a degree in Outdoor Education? For my graduation project and thesis, I spent my last summer working at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School STEP Program out of Yulee, Florida. They brought me in as a Solo Instructor, which essentially means I was the instructor on the course, brought in during the students 72-hour solos. This gave the other instructors time to refresh, take showers, go into town, live it up, etc. It was a good job, I enjoyed it. I was able to spend time every day visiting the students for a check in to make sure they were safe. Our students (teenagers) were all adjudicated which meant they got a choice... this 30-day course or go to prison. Our trips were by canoe on the Suwannee River (Florida) or in the Okeefenokkee Swamp (Georgia). Tons of wildlife, and surprisingly, lots of students scared of the dark. The downside to Outward Bound was that it only paid $28/day plus room and board. You just can't live on that for very long. Even after graduating, I returned for a few months of service, but ultimately had to get a job that could pay the bills.
Back to Toledo as I had family there. I chose to live in Bowling Green, Ohio, a small town about 20 miles south of Toledo. I found a nice apartment near the highschool that was for low-income folks and it was only a few miles from my first "real potential" career job at the Juvenile Residential Center of Northwest Ohio. It was like a kiddie prison but more structure on conseling and therapy. Kids (12-18) that committed more serious crimes usually sexual in manor were sent here. It was a very comfortable prison, nothing like what we see on media. I was there several years as both 3rd & 2nd shift staff. Security and Management of the "client" was our duty. It was a good job, but very stressful. This was probably the first I started to realize a childs ability to manipulate and it was not a rarity. We had keep certain kids separated from the rest as to not "feed" their urges, and we had to do long term suicide watches. I also taught a class on programming computer games when I was there, it was a big hit. But, the only resources I had was a program called "Doom" and some of the higher-ups were uncomfortable that it was a shooting game. Class was ended. Back to suicide watches and stress.
After my game creation class was ended, I decided to make a plan to move on to something a little different. I landed a job with BancTec, a check sorting machine servicer and laptop repair company. This was an interesting job as I got to meet with many big company employees. I remember being sent in to service one of the partners' Dell Laptops at the Ernst & Young law firm in Toledo. I got to chat with one of the big wigs while doing my job. I thought that was the coolest thing; he even said that if I was ever looking to change jobs, I should look him up. Wow! He thought I was talented! Fooled him... nah, I know my computers and after three more years, I was finally tired of working in tech for subpar wages. Off to Redmond, Washington I went.
I like computers, I like video games... So there was a place called DigiPen in Redmond. Since I already had a Bachelors I didnt need another one of those, but I figured I'd get a bunch of learning hands on - fast, so I signed up for a year - Fall of '99. It was INTENSIVE and even a bit above my league. I got decent grades, but not what the grades a future game developer wants to see. Most can do the work, but only a few have the natural talent supa-enhanced; and I realized in tech, I was just gonna be a worker bee. And that was just fine! I started off in games, got to work with really talented developers and artists, bigtime VIPs, and even got to game with famous rock stars and actors. My buddy and I "kicked ass" against the Linkin Park band members on a alpha build of Halo2 multiplayer! Later, our boss reminded us that we are supposed to let the VIPs win. From 2001 to 2012, I worked various contracts as a vendor for Microsoft. The Microsoft life was great fun, parties were awesome, free food, 60-100 hours of work every week and got paid overtime. Largest paychecks I have ever received to this day. These are the products that I worked on during that time.
"Game of the Year" MechAssault
MechAssault DLC for Xbox
SMS (pre-SCCM name)
Sometime in this period I managed to get a MBA in IT Management, which taught me I don't want to be in management. But, I guess it still looks good on a resume.
There is a time when you realize your body just can't handle 100 hour weeks anymore. I met a wonderful woman that worked for the state of Washington that turned me on to a job opportunity as DSHS's very first software tester. Once, I landed the job, I easily convinced her to marry me. Best match ever!
Now, we move on to the second part of our lives. Sailing the world.
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