I went to college to become a Physical Therapist, graduated with a degree in English, and 20 years later I am a Chief Technology Officer. When I was 18 years old and thinking about what I would be doing for my life, I could have never predicted the path I would take to get here. At this point in my career, I find myself sharing my journey with others, be it a new college graduate or an experienced professional pondering a new opportunity. As I share my story, I may leave them more confused than before we started because there was no clear path to how I got to where I am today. I genuinely believe that is ok, and an individual’s mindset may be more important than any degree or career planning.
Even though I am now a CTO, my experience with computers started at a young age when my Dad brought home an Apple IIe. After a few months messing around with the computer, I found myself volunteering at the local library to help others learn how to use a computer. My parents also found a programming class through a local university that a friend and I took together. We learned about punch card programming and a language called Turtle. I also learned about the most valuable analogy to use with my business partners to teach them what it really means to be a computer programmer, the Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. Ask me, and I will gladly tell you more.
As I grew from pre-teen to full-on teenager, my interests shifted, and I was way more into my friends and sports than computers. It wasn’t until I was halfway through college that computers came back into my life through photography of all things. My desire to be a Physical Therapist was abruptly halted when I hit organic chemistry and physics. I drifted from major to major. Yet, somehow, I found a passion for photography and became the Photo Editor of The Badger Herald and took a job as an assistant at the University Press office. However, it was a professor, Kurt Foss, that got me involved in digital photography. The next thing I knew, I was flying down to San Antonio, Texas, to teach professional photographers how to use the Kodak Digital camera, film scanners, and the very first versions of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator at the National Press Photographers Association conference.
I created one of the first searchable databases of photographs for the University Press office…