Five bucks. That was my reward for drawing a cartoon that made my dad laugh. As a kid, a few dollars was plenty of motivation — do you know how many packs of Big League Chew you could buy? But the true prize was earning a deep chuckle. To do so, I had to figure out how to use my visual storytelling skills, awareness of context and timing, and understanding of my dad’s sense of humor to snag that gum money.Read more…
I am happiest outside. Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, I loved spending time in nature. Some of my favorite childhood memories were hiking and backpacking in the woods. My dad was an educator and my mom was a research assistant at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, so summer camping trips were our family’s budget-friendly vacation of choice. I joined the Boy Scouts, where my mom was a troop leader, and eventually worked my way up to Eagle Scout.Read more…
Not many lawyers headbang. For me, music came first. I learned to play guitar in my early teens and honed my performance skills as a member of several heavy metal bands. As I evolved and grew as a person, I came to enjoy an eclectic mix of genres — everything from Killswitch Engage to Bon Jovi. My later journey through the legal profession was similarly diverse.Read more…
Did you ever read the children’s magazine 3-2-1 Contact? It was an extension of the educational science television show of the same name. As a 6-year-old subscriber, I spent hours poring over the BASIC problems in the back of the magazine trying to solve each one. Eventually, I hooked up a used Tandy Color Computer to my parents’ television. I enjoyed revising the initial program as I gained knowledge and insight into what the best solution might look like.
I mostly thought computers were for playing games. That is, until I realized I could use DOS’s batch programming language to automate tasks. For example, I wrote a program to make my modem dial my friends’ phone numbers for me. The code itself was simple, but the solution had a real impact. I no longer had to memorize or keep a phone directory around. I loved that I could use a computer to solve problems and make life easier.
I like to think that I have been a product manager my whole life. My dad brought home my first computer, a Macintosh SE, when I was 6 years old. I taught myself how to type really fast, then play games, and eventually code. By high school, I was creating simple online games. I wanted to apply my knowledge to make the experience more fulfilling for the players — my friends.
Was your calendar full of activities as a kid? Mine certainly was. Basketball, soccer, and hockey at the local YMCA — I found myself gravitating towards team sports. I also played trombone in my school’s ensemble and joined a garage band as a drummer, spending countless hours jamming with my friends. Whatever the activity was, I knew that I liked the dynamic of working with others.Read more…
How many 8-year-old kids read The Wall Street Journal? Well, I know of at least one. I discovered the paper at a local tea shop where I sometimes did homework. I liked sitting by the shop’s double-sided fireplace, reading about stocks and company news. So I convinced my mom to subscribe. Each morning I would walk to the end of our driveway, eager to pick up the latest issue. I even applied what I learned to my game of running a cafe — making food and serving customers (my family members) in our basement.
Could you imagine going to medical school in your late 30s with four young children? It is hard for me to fathom. But that is exactly what my grandfather did. Already a professor of chemical engineering at Georgia Tech, he decided to become an ear, nose, and throat physician. This was not a whim — he saw a real need in our small town. So he founded the area’s first otorhinolaryngology clinic. This is just one of the many reasons he is a major role model to me.
Say yes to what scares you. I realized a few years ago that if I wanted to grow, I would need to pursue experiences that might make me uncomfortable. For example, I always wanted to learn to scuba dive, but I was terrified of all the things that could go wrong. A planned trip to Hawaii was a good opportunity to confront my fear. I was initially incredibly nervous during the certification process and was not sure if I would ever dive again. But each time I went into the water, I grew more confident. And then I fell in love with the zen of diving.
Maps have always captured my imagination. It started when I was a kid — my parents and I went on a road trip every summer vacation. We would leave our home in Michigan and head west, typically to Colorado. My favorite part was sitting in the back of the car with a giant fold-out map, helping my parents navigate to our next rest area, hiking trail, or camping spot. To this day, whenever my wife mentions a new place to visit, the first thing I do is try to figure out where it is on the map.
I visited more than 20 countries before I turned 12. During breaks from school, my parents took me and my two younger brothers on educational trips. We explored Austria, Italy, Greece, Israel, Jordan, and more. This was before smartphones, so the whole family had to work together to navigate each new city. But my mom and dad were the guides. They spearheaded the planning and were sure to focus on the history of each place.
“Want to come to a cool computer class?” I asked this question constantly during recess in second grade. I handed out flyers, trying to convince kids to join the class I went to every weekend. But no one wanted to give up their Saturday morning TV time — which broke my 8-year-old heart. I loved computers and did not understand why my friends were not interested.
My dad introduced me to fly fishing when I was 12 years old. We spent a lot of weekends tying flies and casting into nearby rivers and streams. You have to do three things well to catch anything. You need to determine where the fish are in the water, learn how to position the imitation fly in a realistic way, and then have the skills needed to reel in a fish. Understanding, learning, and skill — I have applied this same methodology to my life, including my career.
It is amazing to watch someone connect the dots. There is no more satisfying feeling than seeing a person “get it” — especially if you are a teacher. This is one reason I chose to study education in college. After earning my degree, I taught high school students in a small town in the mountains of Georgia. I could see the impact I had on each child’s life and perhaps some small influence on who they would become as they found their own direction.