How I got to where I am is as important as where I have been

Back Down
Memory Lane

My life has taken me through many interesting places over the years. Throughout my career, I have acquired a myriad of professionals skills through on-the-job training, progressive learning, and good ‘ol fashioned blood, sweat, and tears. At first glance, it looks like a hodgepodge of unrelated jobs, but each step in my career has given me new insight into my role as a web designer and entrepreneur.

In any professional relationship or business venture, we tend to focus more on where people have been as opposed to how they got there — placing emphasis on the companies work for while ignoring the reasons that brought them there. But what I have come to find out is that the journey truly is more important than the destination. The following to be an expedition of sorts — a roadmap chronicling where I’ve been, and more importantly, how I got there.

The Roadmap

Every step on the journey leads to a better understanding of my capabilities

ACTIVISION

Before Call of Duty and the 800 lb. behemoth known as Activison/Blizzard, there was simply Activision. As a QA Tester, this was the first job that I actively pursued because I wanted to do it. At a time where others laughed or thought me crazy to purse such an endeavor, I sought to make my dream of working in the gaming industry a reality. Before I landed this job, I sent out countless resumes and was rejected many times over for various reasons. But Activision was the one that called back and said, “You’re hired.” I would find out later that their reason for hiring me had nothing to do with my cover letter or format of my resume, but the one thing that cannot be quantified on paper — passion.

What made me stand out against all other candidates was my genuine passion for the industry. It is that passion that allowed me to enter into a field, ignorant of its inner workings, and compelled me to learn all I could about the software development process. My commitment to learning helped me to gain expertise in quality assurance practices, testing protocols, analytical thinking, and has given me a practical understanding of the technology that powers the video game industry. Each day was an adventure and every conversation was an opportunity to learn from someone smarter than myself.

SQUARE ENIX

If Activision is the foundation of my professional wheelhouse then Square Enix (SQEX) would be the structure upon which that house is built. Working for the company that gave us classics such as Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger was a dream within a dream. The time I spent at Square Enix were formative years, where I had the rare opportunity to develop core business principles married from the best of Western and Eastern disciplines.

These new business principles, coupled with what I had learned at Activision, allowed me to rapidly ascend from a mere QA Analyst to the Assistant Manager of the entire QA department and excel well beyond my own expectations. Working for SQEX offered me opportunities to build my management skills, learn about process documentation, travel internationally, and work with a global community of like-minded individuals who shared a vision of true excellence in their work. It was here where I turned a job into a career and forged relationships that continue to this day.

Oftentimes we are asked, what our dream job would be if we could do anything in the world. And as expected, that question can be difficult to answer. For me, it has always been easy, because I don’t have to think about what my dream job would be — I already lived it.

NECTAR DESIGN

Leaving SQEX was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. But after years of working in the video game industry, I reached a point where I craved new challenges and had a desire to move beyond my professional boundaries. Part of that desire was the chance to work at a much smaller company where my voice could be heard and my influence could be turned into action — Enter Nectar Design.

At Nectar, I went from video game development to industrial design, and from a company of hundreds with international support to a company of ten and support that extended no further than the front door. To say it was different would be an understatement.

As their Project Coordinator, Nectar tested my ability to adapt in ways I could not imagine. While I had sufficient project management experience, I was unaccustomed to the smaller infrastructure and lack of “protections” that corporations provided. If a problem arose or changes were needed, it immediately demanded my attention. It was here that I learned to incorporate a “scaling skillset,” which allows me to provide a flexible management structure based on the size and scope of a project. My mantra was simple: Think big. Work small. Be flexible.

LONG BEACH CITY COLLEGE

Whenever people would ask what I did for a living, they would be fascinated by my work in the video game industry and ask all kinds of questions: How did I get started? What classes did I take in college? How could they get into the industry? This genuine fascination of the industry I loved, stirred a desire in me to “pay it forward” and help others achieve the professional goals they had set for themselves. To do so, I would step even further outside my wheelhouse and work for Long Beach City College and the Small Business Development Center as a Program Assistant

At the college, I worked with the Small Business Administration to provide education and career training for a variety of industries in need of skilled labor. More importantly, it was my chance to pass on the knowledge and experience I had acquired over the years and give others the help and assistance they needed to pursue their dreams. While I managed to achieve my own dreams, there were no clear educational roads to success in the industry I had worked in. Having spent much time and frustration navigating alone through the system, I promised myself if I ever had the chance, I would be there to mentor others and help direct them on the right path to achieving success in whatever profession they chose.

WEBSITE WRANGLER

Now you’re probably wondering, “What the hell is a “website wrangler?” Well, a website wrangler is what you do when your job lays you off unexpectedly due to budget cuts during one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. With the economy in disarray and few job prospects, I decided to return to school to get my Business degree and found a new interest in website design.

Starting with my wife’s personal site, I found myself building small websites for various clients ranging from bloggers to small businesses. I learned what I could about HTML, CSS, Javascript, and WordPress, then used that knowledge to make ends meet while I was in school. This period of time was not easy for me — I went from having a great career and financial security to working odd jobs and barely scraping by in a matter of a few years. For the first time, I questioned myself and every decision I made up until that point, wondering where I went wrong and what I could have done differently — essentially I was lost. But in that uncertainty is where I rediscovered my drive for excellence and renewed purpose in life. I forged a new path with new dreams and was determined to accomplish my educational goals and reenter the workforce better, stronger, and more capable than I ever was before.

VDS LA

Coming out of the Great Recession, I had a B.S. in Business Information Systems, a renewed sense of purpose, and found myself working in digital advertising as a Project Coordinator for Vision Design Studio (now called VDS LA). I had never worked in advertising, but had significant experience with project management, information gathering, marketing analysis, and strategic planning, as a part of my roles in my previous professions. The only difference here was, instead of applying these skills to the multifaceted world of video game development, I would be applying these skills to  the dynamic world of web development and digital advertising.

My experience working with companies such as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo was one of the main aspects that helped me stand out among other candidates. More specifically, it was my technical background and skills in project management that was highly needed. Using these skills allowed me to communicate my ideas effectively and formulate a plan of action to achieve whatever goals were set before myself and the development team. Working at VDS was a refreshingly, new experience where I felt I could make a difference and improve the quality of work produced by the company.