A career rarely goes where planned. It is the unanticipated turns and surprises that make life interesting. During my career I tried to be flexible and creative enough to be ready to go wherever I was needed and wherever my skills and interests took me.
While in high school and college I delivered telephone books, raked leaves, babysat, cooked and cleaned tables at the college grill, worked the Tin Lizzie ride at the Opryland amusement park one summer, cooked pizza at Pizza Inn, and worked in the Computer Lab at Middle Tennessee State University where I majored in Computer Science. Depending on your definition of a “computer”, back then there were only a few computers on campus — a Honeywell mainframe with maybe 30 timeshare terminals, two Apple computers in the lab to play with, and a physical assembly language computer. I wrote programs for all of them.
The summer before graduating from college I interned as a COBOL programmer with Computer Sciences Corporation. After I graduated from college I started work at JCPenney in their Systems & Programming Department in Atlanta, Georgia. I was quickly promoted to team lead and then project manager. I enjoyed working at JCPenney, but selling socks was their business, not programming. When JCPenney decided to move their Atlanta office to Texas, I left JCPenney to work at a software company named Dyer, Wells, & Associates. DW&A was later bought by the company Computations and then by New York Life.
While at DW&A I learned that, while I was an excellent programmer, my skills at communication were needed more in the Corporate World. I had a talent for communicating with both the technical personnel and management. Earning the trust and respect of both groups was key to effective working relationships. Soon I was promoted to a management position as Product Manager for the Flextrak product — one of the first software products in existence to administer flexible benefit plans and 401(k) administration. My department included 10 programmers and analysts plus an occasional contract programmer or two.
At DW&A I was elected President of the Employee Club. I thought it was important for employees to have good working relationships and one way to foster those relationships was through the opportunity to participate in fun activities outside working hours. With the same club budget as the year before, I instituted a free activity for employees every other month. In addition to the usual summer picnic and winter holiday party I organized a bowling night, a trip to watch the Atlanta Braves, a trip white water rafting, a trip to a comedy club, held a golf tournament, had a company day at a water theme park, and organized a team to participate in a corporate road race. Employee participation was outstanding and a good time was had by all.
When New York Life bought the company and planned to move the office to New York, I left the company and moved to San Francisco instead. I started work for Indus International, a software company that provided software to nuclear and electric power companies. Soon I was promoted to Director of Product Architecture, Portals, and Release Delivery with a team of more than 30 programmers, analysts, technical writers, quality assurance analysts, and administrative personnel. I directed the development and maintenance work of my department, created detailed plans using MS-Project, managed my department’s three million dollar budget, hired people as necessary, spoke at user conferences, created sales brochures, made sales presentations, did a little programming and, in general, had a great time exercising my creativity in a business setting.
The dot-com era was a very exciting period to be living in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was a modern-day gold rush with money and stock options everywhere. For one year Indus was the 25th largest software company in the world with more than $450 million in revenues and 1600 employees. But the good times never last and the dot-com era came to a crashing halt. Even though our company was not a dot.com, we had saturated our market and our growth slowed. The company began shrinking as our revenues dried up.
During this time I had become interested in writing a family history so I retired from the software industry to travel and visit my aging relatives. I wasn’t planning to work an 8-to-5 job ever again. I had plans to travel, write, and play a lot of golf. My wife and I moved to Tucson, Arizona for the sun and warmth and the low housing prices (when compared to the San Francisco Bay Area).
After finishing my family history I grew restless. I realized that I can only play so much golf and I felt socially isolated since all of my friends were still working. I missed the camaraderie of the office and the challenge of working towards a shared goal. I missed learning new things and meeting new people. I missed the Wow reaction.
One day I saw an advertisement for a part-time teaching assistant at the University of Arizona to teach MS-Excel and decided to try working part-time again. I was offered the position and taught at the U of A for a year. I loved teaching students and working with the instructor and our undergraduate teaching assistants. I was honored when my TAs gave me the ‘Bring it on!’ award in our end of semester luncheon for my ‘can do’ attitude when unexpected problems occurred. I also enjoyed volunteering as the Eller College of Management representative to the Appointed Personnel Advisory Council. Then, unfortunately, the U of A went through a series of budget reductions and the entire course was canceled.
After the class was canceled my Associate Dean suggested I look into becoming an Academic Advisor. I started researching academic advising and became excited by what I found. The combination of having to know a large body of knowledge about the university, having to use my communication skills to relate to college students, and the challenge of learning the conceptual basis for academic advising and counseling was very appealing to me. I love a challenge.
After some thought and consideration I surprised myself by deciding to become an academic advisor and return to the 8 to 5 world. It turns out that I wasn’t against a full-time job, I just wanted another job that I could be passionate about. I wanted a job where what I did made a difference in the life of someone else. I joined the National Academic Advising Association and enrolled in the masters program in Academic Advising at Kansas State University. I worked as an academic advisor at Pima Community College for more than a year and met with more than 4000 students. I graduated with a M.S. in Academic Advising from Kansas State University in 2010.
In 2009 Pima Community College merged advisors, admissions and financial aid staff into Student Services Specialists. The position of academic advisor was changed quite a bit so I started evaluating my options. When I saw a position in the IT department at Pima CC was open, I applied for it and accepted the position. The first phase of my advising career came to an end as returned to the computer software field as an IT Principal Analyst to learn more about higher education from a different perspective. From IT I am able to interact with various college departments and learn a great deal about the inner workings of a community college. I hope to be able to use my advising background, along with my campus experience, to help the college improve their IT projects.