Out of high school I worked at a gas station pumping gas. Yep, a full service station. Checked the oil, cleaned the windshield, checked the tire pressure. Even changed oil and tires in the garage. The place was old and run down. It had a bar that served coffee, soda and crackers, and all the old guys in the neighborhood would hang out there. Some for hours. They would play gin for money and crackers. It was great fun for a 17 year old.
When I was 18, I landed a job with a local print shop in the shipping department. Mainly because I had typing skills. I took 2 semesters of typing in high school because it was an easy class to pass. I didn’t think of it as a job skill at the time. Now it’s the most critical part of my job. I wasn’t expecting that!
For the next 7 years, I would work in almost every area of printing in the shop; quality control, artwork, plates, etc. I wound up running huge web presses and was quite good. I then went to work for a large commercial printer and became their top producer. Proudly, I was chosen to be the first press operator to run their brand new 1 million dollar printing press. It ran 6 rolls of paper at the same time and looked like it was built by NASA.
After about 6 more years, I grew tired of the monotony. And I didn’t see much future in printing. I was now 33, still in Pennsylvania and hating the winters with a passion. I had a traumatic breakup with a girlfriend and thought this would be a good time to make a change. I was playing a lot of guitar at this point and thought I’d pursue a recording engineering career. There was a great school in Winter Park, Florida. Moving south would also take care of my hatred of winter and snow. Sounds good to me!
The school also introduced me to computers for the first time and I got quite good with them. Especially with design and Photoshop version 2. It didn’t have editable text back then! LOL
Well, I now had a dual love. Music and computers. Lucky for me, next door to the recording studio I was interning at was a start-up .com company moving in. Actually, there were only 3 people at the time and they were friends with the studio owners. I had just finished designing a CD cover for a rap artist and showed it to them. They liked it and hired me a few weeks later.
Turns out, the executives at the holding company were robbing us blind. In the end, I wound up working for 2 weeks after the company ran out of money. They didn’t tell us until then! A few of them were convicted of felonies and sent to prison. So, I had to move on. But, I still cherish the experience and I met one of my dearest friends there and we’re still close today. We even recorded a CD together.
So, I moved in with my girlfriend who just so happened to own a large home and a blossoming business in weight loss. She convinced me to build her a website to sell weight loss products. I never did it before but I sure had the time to learn. It took me about 6 months and I had built a full blown e-commerce store for her.
We got married in January of 2001. We sold quite a bit online and started franchising the business. We had about five stores and 2 in Canada. Life was good, but the bills were barely being met. I needed to find a full time job.
Just before that, sometime in 2000, I got a job and began designing and maintaining websites for the Educational Institute which is a daughter company of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA). I began designing interfaces for their online hospitality training courses. In 2002, I became the webmaster for the parent company AH&LA. I spent the next 5 years designing, programming, and maintaining 14 web sites from a cushy corner office on the top floor of a high rise in downtown Orlando. I flew to the home office in Washington DC twice a year and spoke at their annual state association conferences.
My wife and I were not getting along by now. And, her health was deteriorating and could not work much. She had a drug and alcohol problem and was bi-polar. It was too much for me to handle. So, we divorced in 2005 and she died 2 weeks later of a drug overdose. Tragic.
The good news is, my girlfriend and I have been together over 8 years now and life is good.
We were on the 1st page of results on almost all the major search engines (still are) and our traffic and revenue grew exponentially because of my SEO efforts. I also directed the installation and integration of an ecommerce system that generated almost 1 million dollars in revenue in the first year. My time was forceably up and it was a perfect time for a change.
I started my company Embryo Design in 1997 as a part-time hobby to make some extra cash. Building on my success with AH&LA, I decided to give it a go full-time in 2007 and haven’t looked back. It was the best career decision I ever made.
From 2007 thru 2011, I built and managed an eCommerce site for a pet company where we saw a 300% growth rate two years in a row. Since then, I’ve designed, developed or consulted on hundreds of projects. I guess this would be a good time to put a link to my portfolio.
Oh, and last but certainly not least. I LOVE GOLF! I can’t stop thinking about that last great shot I hit. My scores are not what they should be. That’s because you guys keep me so busy that I’m lucky if I play twice a month.
I have a dream. I wake up each day and play golf for 3 hours. I eat lunch. Play another 18 for another 3 hours. Eat dinner, go to sleep, and do it all over again.