Q: Take four minutes and tell your life story in as much detail as possible.
I was born and raised in Randolph, MA, U.S.A., a suburb of Boston with a lot of the issues of urban life. While many areas around Boston experienced flights of people as others moved in, Randolph was an odd duck in that it did not become monolithic. People claim that America is a melting pot, but it is not; it is mostly homogeneous pockets sitting next to each other. Randolph was different in that it was a true melding of different cultures and ethnicities. Growing up, I did not think it was weird that my friends and classmates were named Aparna, Aman, Lindell, Fabiola, etcetera... this was all normal to me! I had to learn in later life that this experience was atypical and that in no other point in my life would I have the great diversity that I experienced as routine. Basically, I had to learn about the “other”; it was not apparent to me.
Unfortunately, Randolph was not the best place for budding young minds with any talent. I can go through my yearbook and point out a large swath of people that are in jail, dead, or both. If you have seen the movie SLC Punk, I would say that defined my attitude: I wanted to be the ska/punk/grunge kid and tried to fit the role. I reveled in being the outsider, and while I was more actualized than most, I was not aware of who I really was and it would take years and years more to figure that out. Meanwhile, I got myself into unnecessary trouble until I finally had my comeuppance and started to change. It was not an immediate thing, it still took time, but I started to develop into a complete and better human being, one that truly thought of others and tried to be the example he expected from everyone.
As proof that I was not the complete anti-authoritarian I portended to be, I sent myself to Babson College, the #1 rated school for Entrepreneurship. I was and still am enamored with business, and the experience at Babson was critical in forming who I became. I still go back there for volunteer work coaching and guiding first year students, an important part of giving back to a school that gave me so much. I had very little money and had been working since I was 11 years old, so I was always grateful to the people who paid full price so that I could have the scholarships to cover most of the costs.
Despite those scholarships, I still walked out of school $40,000 in debt (including interest). Though I loved the school, I chose to graduate early for practical reasons, using my AP Credits, summer courses, and an overload to finish school a semester ahead of time. Actually, I could have graduated an entire year in advance and was on the cusp of having the maximum allowed credits, but stuck in there for just a little while longer. Immediately after school, I was actually still around for a bit because I was editing a CFA book for a professor and had started a company developing databases for small companies and non-profits.
I had always had a technical streak and it came to life when we got our first personal computer in the early 1990’s. During the lifetime of that old Packard Bell, I taught myself how to upgrade the modem from 2,400 bps to 14,400 bps, put in a second hard-drive, add RAM, and all sorts of other odds and ends. In high school, I used my graphic design class to create paper receipts for my illegal software resale company. Really, I had always been starting businesses of various kinds to supplement all of the other work I did, so it was no surprise when I joined a startup and moved to Connecticut.
Though I had my debt, I took a low paying job being employee number eight at a consulting company. During my years in business school, the idea of being a consultant appealed to me because it was as close as you could get to working for yourself while still having health insurance. I was young, full of energy, and ready for any adventure! I got my wish as the company decided they wanted to open up an office in central Pennsylvania, so off I went! The work was very different than you would imagine—we were doing analysis of custodial, grounds, and maintenance work at Colleges and Universities. I learned a tremendous amount about all of those areas while also getting to travel around the country. While I was lonely in a place where I knew no one, at first the voyage seemed grand.
Sadly, the company was not run by benevolent people and I realized over my three years there how trapped I was (physically cut off from every escape mechanism I might have). Fortunately, a friend from college had an opportunity available where he worked, and I jumped at the chance. I jumped so hard that I ended up fired on my second to last day after I gave notice! While I was at my former employer, I did pick up a number of other technical skills and actually left the company in charge of their entire IT infrastructure. I was still young and hungry when I left, and I had a whole other opportunity in front of me.
I found myself at a very different type of organization, starting over at the bottom as an associate despite my years of experience. Still, I was an associate with a 50% pay raise, so that was a good start. The company wanted me in the Boston office, thus I planned a relocation to New England. After spending a good deal of time looking around, I felt it was silly to pay Boston prices as I only needed to go into the office on Fridays (I would be on the road every week Monday through Thursday), so I ended up in Providence, RI, which for those geographically disinclined in an hour’s train ride away.
Here, I entered the world of Business Performance Management, a type of technical solution for Finance and Accounting divisions of companies to have a software solution that makes their budgeting, forecasting, and actual reconciliation processes much easier. I ended up only staying at that company for a couple of years as I had the opportunity to join another organization in the same field and make a lot more money, have significantly more opportunity, gain more flexibility with my schedule, and expand my skillset even further. I signed my contract and the next day the 45-person organization I joined was bought out by a 300-person public company. It was not what I expected, but it was where I spent the next 11 years of my career.
Over that time, I grew from a no-nothing associate to an Architect of Systems, Project Manager, regular manager, and mentor. I am not blowing smoke when I say I was one of the best in the world at what we did; I absolutely was. Growing up, I thought everyone had equal ability to do anything, and it took me a long time to realize that was not true. No matter how much I practice, I will never be a great basketball player, and no matter how technical some people are they will never have the ability to see a system in totality the way I do. While I am not a genius, I am gifted and no longer feel ashamed saying such a thing. There is nothing to be modest about, it is just a part of who I am.
During all of those years, too, I got to travel a great deal both professionally and personally. To this day, that has amounted to 38 States and Territories and 12 countries, and I do intend to get many more. That said, being on the road took a toll on me. As the years went on, clients did want to see us less and it actually became difficult to convince them to let us come and work as partners. As a senior person, I also had complete control of my schedule so I had a lot of freedom. I never went to any office and mostly worked from home. When my future partner Caroline and I met, I was in one of the worst travel tears of my career, barely home for a day every couple of weeks. And then I was back for weeks at a time. As she saw both extremes in a very short time and still stuck with me, I knew she was perfect.
When my company was bought out by an even larger firm, I saw it as a good opportunity to leave and pursue the other passions in my life. Professionally, I had reached the pinnacle of that career. Unlike when I was leaving college, this was the complete opposite as I had no debt, fully paid off everything (I can never be homeless!), and a nest egg to the point where I could take calculated risks. And that brings us to this risk, returning to a writing career I had given up years before. While I was moving and traveling all over the world and having the more-than-full-time job of a consultant, I also took on a writing gig for a pop-culture website for nearly 6 years, rising to a senior columnist. Looking back, I do not know how I managed the 30-40 hours required for the research and the writing on top the 50 hours I was typically doing for my regular employment (including travel), but I did with rarely any ball dropped.
Yet even that was hardly my first foray into writing. I have books I made back in grade school (including several series with multiple sequels). Beyond all of that, I spent my professional career writing 250 to 500 page design and administrative guides, as well as training manuals, user guides, and many other related material. While some may consider this less "creative" than writing novels, I could not disagree more. I considered what I did an art, and it was proven time and again as I tried to transfer the skills to others. Some had the ability and other did not no matter their experience, or never saw the value to writing out such details.
That is not to say that in the past I had not attempted to write novels. However the time and dedication it takes to write like that was impossible in a life full of work and family. Thus, I have dedicated myself full-time-plus to this dream and am looking forward to seeing where it takes me. As you can surmise on the UPCOMING page, I hardly lack for projects. Now it is time to find out if there is an audience and a career to be made here, and it is an adventure I am excited about and am fully committed to!