Veterans know that if you ask the question “Are you Prior Service” and the response is “What’s that?” then the answer is “No.” I was asked by a fellow vet and I responded “Yes. U.S. Army Engineer.”
My new lifelong friend asked, “Were you a build [stuff] Engineer, or a blow [stuff] up Engineer?” I was in fact, technically, a build [stuff] Engineer, but I did learn how to blow [stuff] up.
I think the Army was the single most influential part of my life. I met my closest friend, Jeff, while we were stationed at the same post. While discipline, fortitude and a sense of pride in accomplishing the mission, there were lots of smaller, equally influential experiences, explosive ordinance among them.
Among them was how you could take a small charge, combine it with sawdust, flour or similar material and create an explosion many magnitudes greater. We learned to move armored vehicles mired in mud with just muscle, ropes and levers. Leveraging small things to effect great things
I have always been fascinated by science-y things. As a kid, I marvelled at the displays at the St. Louis Science Museum – then the Museum of Science and Natural History. I loved how the artists and engineers created displays that moved, lit up and demonstrated how things worked. I enjoyed making dioramas and models. I revelled in science fairs, coming up with ways to explain to strangers what I was demonstrating.
My mom was a typesetter (before there was such a thing as desktop publishing) and layout artist. I picked up the skill and worked at a local newspaper before enlisting in the Army.
While in the Army, along with learning how to build stuff and blow it up, I was tasked with re-writing the student handouts used to train soldiers on my particular specialty – creating aggregate products in a quarry. I sketched, I wrote, I revised. It was a big deal, since about half of the training was learning how to use dangerous things safely, things like rock drills, rock crushers and dynamite. Mistakes with such things can end a life. The handouts I made were still in use over 10 years after I left the service, and may still be in use today.
In the field as an Engineer, you do not always have all the things you wish you had, so you have to improvise. I have always been fairly adept at thinking my way out of problems and finding a winning pathway through a dilemma.
After leaving the service, I worked in construction, running my own business, and apparently inspiring Jeff on his own entrepreneurial path (ask him to blog about it – it makes me seem wise.) I had to promote my own business, working home and garden shows, creating my own ads and so on and so forth. I found I liked promoting my business more than doing the construction part, so I took my self-taught graphic art and desktop publishing skills to the marketplace.
When the Internet took off, Jeff suggested to me that I get in on it, and he helped me build my first few websites. I taught myself HTML and other web-related technologies, which lead to jobs in marketing, because websites are fantastic marketing tools if they are built well. Over the years I have worked as webmaster, software engineer, mostly in the marketing arm of large companies.
While I find the technical aspects of technology interesting, what I find most interesting is using the web (and related technology) to communicate, to inform, explain and persuade.
In my role now as Chief Technical Officer, it is my job to make sure marketing technology serves the needs of our clients. Our team at TCU work to make big improvements for clients by leveraging small things.