Why am I here writing to you and sharing a portfolio of experiences, interests, and capabilities? I'm here because this is a turning point in my and my family's life and creating a rich online portfolio is a way for me to explore myself and my interests and share those things with the world. It's the beginnings of my next calling and is the first stage of finding how I can continue to serve and grow personally and professionally. I intend it to be a professional place I can share as I grow my businesses and hopefully you can find useful content along the way. I encourage you to contact me directly with feedback, comments, questions or inquiries.
Now, let's get on to my story and you can get to know me before we get into the much more interesting things I'm going to explore in this space!
I left Boeing after a fruitful 10 year career. In all ways, I was leaving on the highest notes possible. I was making a six figure salary, had achieved and grown more in those 10 years than many hope to achieve in their whole career, had great mentors, peers, friends, and had contributed a great deal to the success of the programs I worked on. I felt I had achieved all I had set out to and then some. This was due in no small part by the exceptional people I worked with, my management, and mentors. My amazing wife had always stood by my side through all the challenges, triumphs, and on through long stressful projects and assignments. She saw me through a Master's Degree and a long term Leadership Development program, all the while having given birth and becoming a stay at home mom to our wonderful daughter and later our energetic son. This was the happy path of a life we had designed, deliberately, shortly after we were married in 2009. By all measures, our major life milestones were coming together according to plan. We had both believed in the serendipitous effect of "knowing what you want has a profound way of finding its way to you and you creating the future you desire." There are plenty of books on such matters but needless to say things were going well. The tragic fact with a life lived by design is that you can never plan perfectly for the unforeseen events in life and we began to experience plenty of that later on. But first, let's take a look back to the seeds that grew into the life we know now.
I entered college at the University of Washington after obtaining my Associate of Arts Degree from a community college in Olympia at the same time I graduated from high-school. At the time (which my entry year was the last year this policy was in place) I was guaranteed entry into any state college and the UW was my choice of schools. I was sure I was heading to a career in an engineering field but hadn't quite selected the one I was most interested in (and could keep good grades in!) and so I began the two year pre-requisite accumulations. At the time, my father’s health was declining due to a rare neurodegenerative disease similar to Parkinson's, but worse. I was only 20 at the time and didn't have the wherewithal to truly grasp the gravity of such a thing nor its true effect on my mom. As I began to understand it the more I realized a couple things. One, I was ill equipped intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually to weather such a storm. Additionally, and more superficially, I had a tough two years ahead of me in engineering pre-requisites but I also had two years of a general liberal arts education behind me. How could I stay sane and enjoy my education experience to its fullest, leverage my AA degree, and obtain the background I knew I needed for the oncoming decline and tragedies of my father’s disease and its effect on my family? I decided pursuing two majors, one in engineering and the other in Philosophy was the perfect mix for me. I enjoyed variety in my educational pursuits, I knew it would set me above my peers with only an engineering degree, and would secure me a background of capabilities and awareness to live a thriving life in the midst of hardships like the one I was already experiencing.
As I progressed through school I found that I needed general life strategies to help me create simpler approaches to major decisions and events in my life. I came up with the following:
Optionality: With each major decision I make, maximize those that have the potential to create ever more options in life. This is why I eventually chose Industrial Engineering as my field of engineering studies. It's the science of business, management, and systems in general. It's essentially applicable anywhere and everywhere!
Force Multipliers: With each major decision, have multiple potentials of usefulness behind them such that the probability of getting high value returns is maximized. This is kind of a "force multiplier" effect I was looking for. Hence pursuing 2 degrees that had many layers of usefulness to them. Exploring these potential uses and taking action on them was key as well, not merely thinking them up and never executing on them.
Continuously Improve: this is central to Industrial Engineering but I had already been practicing this since I was a small child. What I needed to do what accelerate it and find bigger leaps of potential improvement all the time. There are many versions of this but for me, I decided to ceaselessly read and explore a wide variety of subject matter, explore health and culinary experiences, and also to embrace new experiences as often as possible. I knew that "I Don't Know What I Don't Know" and so unless I continuously expose myself to a variety of experiences and perspectives, I'd limit my growth potential and enjoyment of life. I also knew if I wasn't always growing and improving then I was in decline as the world continues on, subjects change and improve as do people, and my stagnation would create an inevitable downward trajectory.
Continuous Learning: similar but worth a distinction, I'll say, this was hardest to maintain and ensure was solid during my college years given the nature of intense studies in subjects/topics/authors that you may just find completely and utterly uninteresting and exciting. I made it through though!
When I neared graduation, I had the fortunate experience to have an internship at the Boeing company here in Seattle. It was a great experience, paid extremely well for being a college student, and I met a really great group of people. After I went back to school for my final year, I had my eyes set on either consulting in a company like Accenture or returning to Boeing. After doing a deep look at the optionality of each pursuit (and others) I decided Boeing was the best path for me. I had in front of me a variety of potential experiences, a guaranteed stock award, and Boeing would pay for all of a graduate degree which I knew was in my future. I also intended to architect my career trajectory and pursue opportunities that created a basis of experiences and knowledge as a consultant. I was able to get a full time job there and thus started my accelerated growth in the Industrial Engineering field. Two of the single most critical events occurred early on in my career. I had two great managers that invested a great deal of political capital in me and what I wanted to do, as well as starting a long and rewarding mentor/mentee relationship. These proved to be central elements to a virtuous cycle of growth, professional challenges, and rewarding relationships.
My experience at Boeing was composed of a variety of challenges, rewarding risks, learning and growth, and everything and more that I could have wanted. I was able to practice Industrial Engineering as many others in the company could not. I had a group of managers and leaders around myself and the team I worked with that enabled us to stretch ourselves and apply new and advanced techniques that could benefit our highly volatile manufacturing environment of Developmental Aircraft production, on large commercial platforms like the 737, 747, and 767. We were able to achieve a great deal and create lasting, sustainable solutions for the company that saved Boeing on the order of millions of dollars. We grew to be internal consultants and traveled all over the country applying our tools, methods, systems, and training others in what we had developed. We were in high demand and enjoyed a broad exposure to the company.
Eventually, I needed to take the next step of growth and so I pursued the companies Leadership Development program available to me. This experience was another critical step in my path and was without a doubt in the top five of my career. I ended up meeting and working with a wide array of people around our business over the next 3.5 years, and got the opportunity to apply ourselves to tactical and strategic level projects and problems, and cultivate a long-term skillset to potentially grow into the future leaders of the company. I also ensured that I exposed myself as much as possible to the high level leadership in the company to get a deeper understanding of that level of leadership, mostly to understand if I felt it could be a part of my future. All in all, it was an exceptionally rewarding experience but I found that long term, management and leadership in the company were not complementary to my life's goals and pursuits.
I coupled that experience with a 7-month stint as a Program Operations Manager on a rapid prototyping aircraft development program. While that experience was rewarding in many ways, it also was a glimpse in to the potential future if I were to stay in management or even stay at the company longer term. I knew that being a manager was a critical experience and aligned with many of my life strategies but I decided that compared to a future as a consultant it would have less options. Ultimately, I grew to a rather high point in the company as an internal consultant, at least in the product development and manufacturing realm. I knew I needed more before I was to leave the company in pursuit of my “life by design.”
About midway through my work I had pursued a job in a group that was an internal consultancy that specialized in market/industry analysis, strategy, technology, and more. The fit wasn't right for that time but I maintained a mentoring relationship with the manager with the potential to eventually work in his group in the future. Never pass up an opportunity for an exceptional mentoring relationship let alone a potential future employment experience! At my 9th year in the company, that opportunity emerged, and it was the perfect chance to step far and away from my work as an IE, grow a new skillset, and meet new people and have experiences well outside of what I had worked on for the past 9 years.
In the midst of all that, I was continuing my personal growth and improvement and a book that had a big influence on that was 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. Here was a book that expounded some of the fundamental tenants of Industrial Engineering which also blended elements of Philosophy as well. What really spoke to me was the message to engineer your life, a life by design, from the ground up vs. pursuing what felt like the norm of "increasing salary growth, increasing expenses, a home, kids, big purchases, and on and on". That fundamental challenge, to really create the life you want and engineer it, was what I really needed to architect the rest of my career, ultimately to leave Boeing and pursue serving the world in new and exciting ways using the skill base I had cultivated at one of the best aerospace companies in the world. So my wife and I did just that.
Over many years, we revisited our life’s pursuits, what excited us, and created an ever evolving vision for us. What eventually happened was what we had always wanted but was dramatically and tragically transformed into something we could never have expected. In 2013 my mom passed away, rather suddenly, and left us in a storm of epic proportions. We were listless and reeling about in this tragedy. It forced me into a role as family patriarch of sorts, mustering the will and fortitude to keep myself, my wife and two kids as healthy as possible, organize a funeral with my brother, provide a eulogy in front of an audience of more than 300 people, and proceed through several years of a complicated estate, all the while maintaining our life as me going to work and Michelle working hard as a stay at home mom.
Being an executor of a complicated estate and similarly complicated circumstances, of your mothers estate no less, is traumatic at best and is more than a part time job and that was on top of my full time work I already had. Through all that tragedy and sorrow we thought, “hey, let’s celebrate the next stage after this loss with a life on the open road traveling the country and meeting up with friends and family along the way!” So we decided to pursue that future and downsized as much as possible in our home, put the rest into storage, bought a big truck and a 5th wheel, and moved out of our rather large home into the trailer until we sold the house. That whole lead up and transition is many posts in themselves but needless to say, it was a tremendous growth experience having a family for 9 months in the space provided by a 5th wheel.
Well…in another lesson in life's indeterminate and all too often tragic nature, Michelle’s mother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer and she passed away within 5 months of diagnosis. How's that for life handing you a tremendous pile of steaming misery on top of what was already one of the worst seasons of our lives!? I mean, two moms in the span of two years? WHAT?
And so you can venture guessing at what all these events could do to our family and our perspective in life and how it could galvanize our desire to change our life stream and keep changing as our family saw fit? This portfolio is intended to launch from here and explore many of my experiences, background, tools/methods/systems/strategies, and hopefully provide my readers with excitement, entertaining stories, and useful information they can apply in their own lives.
Thank you once again for joining me, I hope it's a beneficial experience for us all!