I started using computers back in the days of the TRS-80. I was in fifth grade at the time, and for some reason the ability to make characters dance on the screen was reason enough to get involved with computers.
TRS-80, Apple ][+, TI/994A, Apple ][e, Commodore 64 & 128, early 8086 kit boxes, 286s, then the color Mac II.
I think it was the Mac II that finally convinced me computers were more than expensive toys. Up to that point, any productive task had to be programmed by the user from raw code, whether it was Applesoft Basic, Commodore Basic, or Turbo Pascal. For the most part, companies employed legions of programmers to create this stuff, all customized and tweaked for their internal organizations.
Sure, there was the odd productivity tool — Lotus 1-2-3 on the PC, word processors, etc. Even in the 1990s there were plenty of professional writers keeping old wheezing TRS-80s going for the privilege of using SCRIPSIT. But the rule was, if you wanted something done, you did it yourself.
But the Mac II really was the beginning and the end of the home programmer. Suddenly, dedicated hobbyists were producing real applications, rich, well-designed, useful. People could get useful work done without programming skills. And programming went from a largely linear exercise (and it still is essentially linear in key areas, like scientific analysis) to an interrupt & process driven activity that was a lot harder for the average Joe to understand.
Of course, color Macs were multi-kilodollar boxes, an it would be a few more years before Windows 3.1 brought the same level of application richness to the PC. But the cat was out of the box, as they say.
But wait, this was supposed to be about About Me, not About Computers!
I attended St. Mark’s School of Texas in Dallas, TX, then completed a BA in Physics at Rice University in Houston, TX in 1992.
In 1989 I started working for the IT department at Rice University (or ICSA as they called it then) as a student consultant. I continued until graduation, went off to grad school, and decided that maybe the life of a scientific researcher was not for me. Back to Rice, I joined the full-time staff in 1995, and worked all over the IT organization for the next 12 years. Desktop support, problem dispatching, special projects of all stripes, and finally I built a professional help desk for the organization in late 2003. I supervised the help desk until I left in Jan. 2007. At that time, I supervised 3 full-time staff and about 30 students.
It was a great experience, because university work is all about doing more with less. Budgets are eternally constrained, there’s no such thing as an outside contractor, and putting together a great solution with duct tape and clothespins can be very rewarding.
Simultaneous with my university job, I joined The Mining Company (later known as About.com) in 1998 to write about computer peripherals and hardware. That was a great gig, actually. My writing skills improved tremendously during that period. After my son was born in 2002, I just didn’t have time to keep it up, and parted company amiably with them in early 2004.
The Next Chapter
Looking for better educational opportunities for my son, my family and I pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles in Jan. 2007. I now work in IT customer service at the Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research & development corporation in El Segundo, CA. For those who don’t know, Los Angeles consists of four major counties that are segmented into dozens, perhaps hundreds, of independent small cities. So there is a pretty wide array of educational options.
The Aerospace Corp. is a lot like a university, actually. It’s full of PhDs that run research groups, and provides much-needed objectivity to the Air Force and other customers when dealing with contractors. Of course, my role is strictly internal IT, helping the department publicize and communicate key changes, initiatives and projects. I also support those projects with customer service, communications and technical assistance when needed.
The Next Next Chapter
I recently completed my MBA at Webster University. Webster is a curious duck. It’s a fairly exclusive and regionally recognized university in St. Louis, MO. But they maintain extensive satellite campuses all over the world, on or in military bases, and they support them well. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some really top notch teachers at Webster, with extensive professional backgrounds that allow them to mix real-world experience with their theory. The Webster campus is right across the street from The Aerospace Corporation.
What happens after the MBA? I’m not sure. I’d love to pursue more advanced career options here at The Aerospace Corporation, but I don’t know if supervisory positions will be available. Alternately, I would love to get an analysis position in venture capital that would allow me to leverage my new business & finance skills, my IT background, and my physics & engineering knowledge.