Steve is a singular fellow. He has traveled the universe, cured a myriad of diseases, and achieved world peace. All of this was accomplished while watching endless Seinfeld reruns.
Actually, he hasn’t done any of that…well, maybe the Seinfeld part. What he has done is the following:
He began his career in finance, specifically, selling shares of stock to whomever would pick up the phone. After finding this really had nothing to do with finance, he took a job in the next best thing; accounting! Debits equaled credits most days, but what he determined he had a particular affinity for was programming computers. He found this while writing VBA code to access DB2 tables and format the data in Excel (before the “data visualization” days). At this point, he had sold investments, counted other people’s money, and programmed computers. With me so far? He was so good at programming computers, that he decided to get an MBA in technology management. The program, while beneficial, really had very little to do with technology. However, it presented him with the unique opportunity to develop a relational database system from scratch. He programmed this in the C language, which in the mid 1990’s meant people stamped smart on your forehead. It actually was a pretty nice little system; it had triggers and referential integrity, although it didn’t support nested joins. The SQL parser, oddly enough, was the hardest part about writing it. That was his capstone project, and is probably the single best thing he had ever done in his life as it relates to his career. He learned the nuances of memory management, thread management, network programming, and general futzing with what was then a heretical piece of software called Linux. Side point of interest, it is pronounced lee-noox, if you have ever wondered, similar to Linus Torvalds, it’s creator. He spent a fair amount of time confirming this in the late 90’s.
He then spent a four-year stint in what was then called “Big Five” consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers. He started with Coopers & Lybrand, and was absorbed by the bigger entity, which became PwC. This was great experience, and was where he first worked with a technology called “Oracle”. This changed his career trajectory, as he thought he was moving in the direction of a business analyst given his undergraduate degree in finance. However, he found he was pretty good at managing someone else’s software. He began to call it OPS (other people’s stuff). Regardless, it’s a great database, and put food on the family table for many years. Like all things, he tore it apart as much as he could do given the fact it was, is, and always will be closed source. His Linuxery from the MBA project described earlier came in handy. In that, he had extended the Linux kernel to add something knows as “system calls”. You can google this, but that knowledge allowed him to understand Oracle software by using a then arcane utility called strace (this was before systemtap). To this day, he often uses it to understand software behavior.
The largest PwC project on which he worked was building a payables system for the Department of Defense that promptly became shelfware. It was actually pretty good software based on the Oracle E Business suite, it was just poorly timed; namely, when the US invaded Iraq in 2002 and funding dried up.
He then spent the next three years truly enjoying his time with a company called Exel. This third party logistics provider gave him the opportunity to do a couple of things that changed his path yet again. He developed an appreciation for statistical analysis in this role (before the “data scientist” title came into vogue), and actually purchased used college statistics textbooks teaching himself things like correlation, Z-score, ANOVA, and kurtosis (google it). He used this knowledge to build a model which correlated system utilization with business application metrics, which was used in capacity planning (this was before virtualization was commonplace in organizations). To this day, he has a solid understanding that allows him to easily have conversations with analytics professionals.
After this, he spent six years with a little known not for profit company known as OCLC. The brain power that emanated from this building could power a small city. They had individuals that wrote distributed software systems as a search engine that were faster than the “Oracle Text” product. He truly enjoyed his time here. It was here that he perfected his devops skills, before it was called that. Although he didn’t write application code, he regularly read what the developers wrote and helped them to tune it. This, in conjunction with his rapidly growing fondness for the python language allowed him to write tools for automated deployments, monitors, and making his coffee in the morning…well, everything but the last one…but he was close!
In 2012, he was offered a greenfield role with a specialty apparel manufacturer called EXPRESS. He had involvement in the design and implementation of multiple projects, including the PeopleSoft ERP system, several industry specific applications, and perhaps most notably, the ecommerce and Hadoop implementations.
He was fairly successful in each of these roles, and as a result had a title change in 2015 to Principal Architect, which is a director level role. He was happy here until 2018, as a newly hired CIO was an unbearable human being.
His only career regret is not going into pre sales earlier; highly recommended if you have technical acumen and enjoy helping customers with strategy.
He is driven by a few things:
- Sharing knowledge in a consumable way
- Ensuring everyone understands how things were designed and how they work
- Using data to drive not only results, but also choose organizational priorities from a resource and investment perspective
He loves to talk about these things, so if you share the same outlook, or have a need for someone who does, please feel free to connect with a quick explanation of how it relates!