I grew up in a construction family. My Dad and my uncles were founders of one of Silicon Valley’s great general contractors. Truck lumber racks were my jungle gym. Since my Dad was a civil engineer, naturally I thought that would be my path as well. My SAT scores were strong in both verbal and math, but skewed toward verbal such that my Dad asked ,”Are you sure you don’t want to study history or English?” Not even such a strong hint could dissuade me, so away I went to SJSU as a CE major. I lived in the dorms and met a lot of people on a lot of paths, and so my major changed a few times. Aviation, Civil Engineering again, Business Management, and finally Business Management Information Systems. My friend Darin had talked me in to talking my Dad in to funding the build of a custom Pentium 90 PC and I was hooked on computers. No more summer and winter jobs in the construction yard – I wanted in on Tech.
I got so in to Tech that my time shifted more and more towards work and less toward school. Then in 2003 all the jobs had gone away and I had to put school down before completing my BS. I moved to Tahoe for a summer to build houses (you know, with wood and nails), then came back home, back to construction. I talked my way in to a project management position at a large and growing commercial glass and curtain-wall firm. It was here that I realized my mixed experience could be put to use. I saw a paper-intensive project data system prone to errors and data loss, and I saw man-years of knowledge stored in boxes on a shelf in a warehouse. I knew there was a better way to (1) manage this data and (2) extract knowledge and actionable information from it. During that first year back I tried to talk management in to moving toward a paperless project information system, and they listened. Over the next two years at that glass company I designed and deployed a project information system that eventually (after I had left) replaced nearly all of the paper processes and records for project management, and laid the foundation for a paperless estimating system. Our new system tied project accounting (job-costing) with purchasing data, fabrication and installation metrics, and Project Manager knowledge together in to a tool that helps forecast budget and schedule issues weeks and even months before they occur.
At this point I didn’t yet have a family, so the lure of Tech adventure called me back again. I spent a short time at another startup before management infighting destroyed that company and I found myself in need of work. Of course I went back to construction. Once again I was hired as a project manager, but this time with a side responsibility to assist with IT support. This company was growing fast – adding satellite offices, tens of IT end-users every quarter, field job offices, and a fast growing need for some full time IT management. I talked to management, I was reassigned, and eventually all IT planning, maintenance, and implementation were my responsibility. I oversaw everything from desktop and CAD support to new office provisioning and disaster recovery and continuity planning. I tried to talk management in to a new project information system but I couldn’t get approval so I built one anyway in my spare time. I called it Magic, inspired by Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s assertion that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This time I included a nod to a need for paper in some situations and included printable forms that project managers could use to check and add to their cost projections, and the struggle to get project managers to project their costs was lessened.
I’m no longer at that company, but I continue to apply lessons learned in project management to systems engineering, and lessons learned in systems engineering to project management. I just completed my BS (in Business Administration), graduating Summa Cum Laude. I have a young family now and my focus has shifted from the present to the future, and I see great things.