The horse that brought me here.

I have a very diverse background, especially when it comes to my professional career. I get a lot of questions about it so I thought I would attempt to chronicle the events that led me to where I am.

As an undergrad I majored in Communications. I loved it. Loved the theory and all aspects from Interpersonal, Small Group, Mass Media, non-verbal, social theory, all of it. I still love it just as much today.  To me, everything boils down to communication. On some level everything we do communicates something about us.

For my senior thesis I did a phenomenological view of Internet chat rooms (it was the mid 90’s after all). Phenomenology is an anthropological type of research where the researcher is a complete participant. You only write about your findings in hindsight looking back on your experience as a participant.

So basically what I did was hang out in chat rooms all day and then wrote about afterwards.  The conclusion that I came to was that the exact same principles that govern our communication in real life govern our communication online. While that may seem obvious now, back then that wasn’t the commonly held belief. People believed that somehow the rules would be different.

I obviously believe that Internet has had a radical effect on our communication, or lives and even our behavior as human beings, but the foundational rules around communication are the same.

After I received my BA in Communications I was looking at going on to get my Masters. It was at this point that my wife, Jen became pregnant. I decided that maybe instead of going on in school I should get “a real job”.

I was hired by Albertsons to be apart of their management development program. I was moved to Phoenix, AZ and was trained in the store from the ground up. At the time Albertsons liked their corporate managers to have come up from the front lines. Real store operational experience was more important than a degree.

I was moved from store to store and was eventually moved into opening new stores. We’d come in to a store before it opened, make sure everything got set up, hire all the non-management employees that didn’t transfer over, train all new employees and then throw the doors open. Eventually I was moved to Las Vegas where I was a part of the transition team to role over the newly acquired Lucky’s stores to Albertsons.

Other than my personal interests and involvement in the Internet, this part of my professional life has nothing to do with marketing or social media. I bring it up because it’s where I learned how to manage people. I learned what it means to hire, motivate, disciple and fire the people you work with all day long. I learned how to resolve differences and work hard with people under the most stressful conditions.

After moving to Vegas I realized that it was time for me to move on. I have always been entrepreneurial and always wanted to own my own business. My mother was a secretary and my father was a lobbyist. I had no background, exposure or training on being a business owner. I figured the best way to learn was by doing.

I bought a little skateboard/snowboard in Vegas and ran it for three years.  There’s a lot I learned at the shop. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. For the purpose of focus I want to bring the thread of online communication and marketing back.

At this same time, this was 2003, I started hearing about this new site called MySpace.  Our shop catered to the real “core” skateboarders, the fringe, the early adopters. Everything you see in pop culture today (skin tight pants, 80’s retro) these kids were doing 5 years ago. When they came in and were talking so passionately about this new site I had to check it out.

I quickly realized that every kid in Vegas that I wanted to shop at my store was already on or would be on MySpace very quickly. CityBoardshop never had a Web site (they do now), we had a MySpace page (which they still have).

We did a lot of events in our parking lot. We’ve held skate, snowboard and even wakeboard competitions in our parking lot. We build ramps and troughs, filled them up with snow or water and went for it. The only marketing we did was to post it on our MySpace page and hand out in store fliers. They were huge successes and each one grew from the accelerated word of mouth that MySpace provided us.

After almost 3 years of running the shop I had built it to a point where I would either have to open another or take it online to continue to grow it. Either would take a huge capital investment. We had 3 children now and all of our family was back in Boise. We sold the house and the shop and moved back to Boise.

Now what do I want to be when I grow up?

After assessing my life, experiences and passions I decided that I loved Marketing Communications. It’s a lot of fun and I thought I was pretty good at it.  Because my degree was in Communications I reasoned that PR was the closest fit. I went back to Boise State and audited an undergraduate PR class. The instructor was also, at that time, the VP of a small PR firm. They offered me a paid internship and at 33 I started over as a PR intern.

It was here that I received a vision. I sat in on a webinar that featured Steve Rubel and the founder of the long since dead-pooled PubSub.

Steve made the statement that changed my life. He was talking about blogs and these new forms of communications and *theorized* that companies could use blogs and New Media to communicate directly with their customers. They didn’t have to rely on intermediators like advertising and journalism to get their story out there and communicate with their customers.

The fire was lit. All my undergraduate work, all that time using MySpace for a little skate shop in Vegas coalesced to show me a brief glimpse into the world we now live in.  The problem is that in 2005 I was now on the bleeding edge of what would take several years to even gain legitimacy and to make things worse, I was in Boise, ID. Boise, like many second tier markets is at least 2 years behind either coast.

The little PR firm didn’t share my passion and when my internship was over I went looking for someplace to shape the future. I came across a little marketing firm that wanted to be the “anti-ad agency”. BlueLine Marketing believed that advertising was no longer effective. Companies could do more using grassroots tactics than large ad campaigns. It was a perfect match in philosophies.

After 6 months I was made partner at this fledgling company and eventually left about a year later. The problem wasn’t our approach it was the fact that not a one of us had built an agency before. A few of us had owned our own businesses before but this was different. After I left BlueLine survived for about another 6-8 months before shutting down.

That year and a half was the perfect proving ground for my ideas. I had the chance to implement new media, blogs and other tactics for several small local companies. I continued on my own for another 6 months doing consulting while working on my MBA.

I was asked to speak at a luncheon for a local business group where an HP employee heard me present. We started talking about me helping them out with some consulting work but then they instead offered me a position to run their Web 2.0 activities for the LaserJet division (Boise is home to HP’s LaserJet business).

I would spend almost 2 years at HP. Starting with the LaserJet group and ultimately ending up in the Global Enterprise Business. It was a great opportunity. I was able to continue to apply and build on the theory and passion that I’ve always had for online communication. I was able to put into practice social media both internally and externally and worked with some of the greatest people in this space.

Right after the start of ‘09 I was content by a recruiter at Waggener Edstrom. The second largest, independently owned PR agency in the World. After a long four month interviewing process I joined WE Studio D. Studio D is a seperate group within WE that works across all of it’s businesses. They are responsible for all of the content and digital consulting WE does for their clients. I was specifically recruited to be the Digital Consulting Director. Basically I’m their Social Media guy.

So far it’s turning into a dream job. I get to to digital strategy and business consulting with a diverse group of companies and across multiple businesses groups at the larger companies like Microsoft.

My passion has only continued to grow and I’m more excited now than ever for this space and helping to shape its future.

  • I like your story, Tac. Lots of similarities with mine. I'll try to look you up next time I come to Seattle.
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