It started twenty years ago this month
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Twenty years ago this month I began my IT career. I could not have imagined the journey and adventure that awaited me when I applied for that first job at Cousins Corporation. Though I’d been writing software personally for sixteen years at that point, I’d never been paid to do so. I had the skills, but no work experience. Thankfully, Guy Hoovler took a chance on me and launched my career.

For the next twenty years I’ve worked for about every kind of company imaginable. From family owned businesses with 100-150 employees, to startups with only two, all the way to companies like IBM and Intercontinental Hotels. I’ve done freelance, contract and full time. I’ve been through huge layoffs, and some extremely bad work situations. I’ve also worked on some exhilarating projects and met some incredible people. To this day I remain in contact with at least one person from every full time job I’ve had and all but one contract job (10 out of 11 overall).

I’ve had the wonderful blessing of being able to learn from so many mentors, the first of which, was my own father. When I was seven, he was a teacher for a private school in Clearwater. The TRS-80 Model 1 had just come out and the school bought him one so he could learn to use it, learn to program and start a class teaching the 7th and 8th graders how to code.

Every night when he came home from school and sat down to learn, I sat right beside him. Since that time, so long ago, I doubt I’ve ever gone more than one week without writing code.

I continued to meet mentors who shaped my thinking all through school, and then as the opportunities came in the professional world, mentors and peers helped push me to new levels I could never have anticipated.

It’s amazingly fitting, that on this day I start as a full time instructor for The Iron Yard. My job will be to not only teach Ruby on Rails syntax, but more importantly, teach how to think like a software engineer, and how to learn any language one chooses. My hope is that I can be a mentor to these students as so many were to me over the last twenty years. I also fully expect to learn from my students. I’ve found that I have learned so much from those juniors I’ve hired over the years. At first it surprised me, but now I look forward to it. Everyone you work with is an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Overlook no one.

I’d like to say thanks to everyone at The Iron Yard for my next adventure. I hope I can be as beneficial to those I work with and teach, as I know you will be to me.

To close out my post, I’d like to list as many people as I can think of who have contributed to my twenty years in this profession, but as I started to do so I realized it would be well over 100, and I’d be sure to leave someone out. So instead, let me just say thank you to everyone who has either mentored me, taught me, hired me, worked for me, or generally made the work day a more pleasant experience. You have helped make this a memorably journey I will always treasure.

Now…on to new challenges, with new amazing people.

Joining The Iron Yard
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After 16 years of developing Internet based software, I’m about to take a very new direction in my career. No, I won’t be MMA fighting nor am I becoming a nutritionist or an interior decorator, though all three I’ve considered at one point in time. Instead, I have an amazing opportunity to leverage all I’ve learned since I first entered the professional field of Software Engineering back in 1998. Starting in late July, I’ll be joining Iron Yard full time as a Ruby on Rails instructor here in Tampa Bay.

What led me to this

Few of the applications I have created over my career are still up and running. The many Miley Cyrus sites I built are long gone. The billing hub I helped architect and develop for IBM has since been replaced as has the encouraging support app for the New York and LA Marathon’s. Apps I created on my own (, and others) are also all since shutdown. All these apps effected people on a daily basis for the period of time they were in place. Most of the apps listed above resulted in thank you notes from it’s users (except the billing hub). But it’s inevitable in this fast paced industry that software will be replaced on a regular basis. We understand this as developers and we deal with it and move on. Yet still, it’s difficult to look back and see very few evidences of your life’s work still in place.

I grew up a teacher’s kid and then eventually a pastor’s kid. Both can be difficult labels to overcome as a child, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I had the blessing of seeing the lives my father touched on a daily basis. Even to this day, I bump into students of his from more than 25 years ago who still remember how my dad touched them and educated them.

Similarly, what remains to this day of my development past are the relationships and the people. I’m still in contact with at least one person from eleven of the twelve companies I’ve worked for. While at ValPak, I had the opportunity to hire several non-developers and mentor them toward becoming developers. Most are still in the industry full time. For me, it’s always been about effecting people and improving their lives. That’s why I write software and that’s why I’ve always enjoyed mentoring, teaching, and coaching.

Over the last year I’ve been pulled more and more toward the idea of training even though I didn’t realize it was happening. In fact, I’ve been involved in teaching in one way or another all my life. I tutored in college. My wife and I made the decision to homeschool 11 years ago. I’ve taught Sunday School at my church. I founded Commendable Kids in 2010 and still work on it to this day. Last year after freelancing for years, I interviewed for two positions: a well known online code school and a position on the Training team as a developer at GitHub. I honestly didn’t even realize the similarity between the two positions until recently. I ended up joining GitHub to work on some training software and while there, I clung to the training team and loved to watch them teach. The teachers on that team made a huge impression on me that I now believe moved me even further in this direction. When that software project was canceled and I was no longer needed on the training team, I had little interest in joining another part of the company. At the time, I didn’t realize why all of this was happening and what effect it was having on me.

A few months ago, a company I’d never heard of, Iron Yard, was mentioned in conversation to me three times in the span of a week. Even then, my first thought was, “I’m a developer, why would I do that?” Thankfully, my family pushed me to reconsider and be open to something outside my immediate comfort zone. As I began reading about the Iron Yard and then talking with the founders, one after another, I felt such an instant connection. It was an opportunity to use all the experience I have to help others and impact them far longer than any application could.

Eventually I visited the Iron Yard in Atlanta and I was hooked. Even the short time I spent there with the students and staff was invigorating. Teaching students in 12 weeks is a challenge for sure, but to see them working hard, struggling, but persevering and becoming better people for it is so rewarding. It reminded me of the journey I began when I was 7 and am still on today.

In the end, I accepted a full time teaching position with the Iron Yard and I could not be more excited to help bring them to Tampa Bay. I’ll be teaching Ruby on Rails and also helping do all we can to support the tech community here in the area (another passion of mine as many of you know).

I won’t say it’s going to be easy, but I’ll do my best to help the students become the best developers they can be. If I can pass along some of my skills and experiences to them, and help them realize their dream of becoming software developers, it will be beyond amazing. I’ll continue to develop Commendable Kids and other apps on the side as well, because I’ll always love writing code.

The Iron Yard is doing some amazing work and it’s only the beginning. It’s such a blessing to be on board with them and I cannot wait to get started. If you aren’t familiar with them, check out their site and feel free to ask me any questions.

Once Bitten? Fight the urge to be shy.
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It hurts when you join a company and a team and while appearing to welcome you and accept you, they lie, scheme or gossip behind your back. We’ve all experienced this at some point either in our work or personal lives.

While it’s true there are many cases where we should practice the old adage, “once bitten, twice shy”, being afraid to emotionally commit and connect can hold us back from some very valuable experiences and relationships.

Opening ourselves up can certainly carry with it the risk of getting hurt or being let down, but it also has the potential to enrich us beyond measure and gives us the opportunity to enrich others and show a strong character even in situations where we are mistreated and wronged.

I’m thankful that despite being recently bitten myself, I was quickly presented with an opportunity to commit and trust again and I decided to go “all in” one more time. Giving in to my fear might protect me from potential heartache, but it would also cost me the chance to be part of something incredible. So deep breath, and here we go. Let’s do this.

The Rocking Chair Scenario: The Test That May Change Your Life
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This may be the most important test you’ll ever take. It’s one question, and failing it will effect you for the rest of your life. It’s a test I’ve been giving to friends and workmates for the last 15 years. Unlike most tests, you can fail it today, and still pass the test in time. For the sake of yourself, do whatever it takes to pass the test. Please.

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My Next Adventure

As I referenced yesterday in my previous post, I have, after much consideration, decided to leave my role as CTO at Tour Wrist and move on to other things. I won’t review the reasoning here in detail, but will summarize, that I put my best efforts into that position for 8 months, and believe I helped provide a more solid technology platform they can build on for years to come, as well as provided some valuable input into their business plan. But in the end, the company culture simply wasn’t a fit with the way I think and work and problem solve. And when you aren’t able to be yourself, everything just feels off. It’s exhausting. When that happens its time to move on for the good of everyone involved.

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