My Career

I am a BYU professor (Associate Teaching Professor, technically) and teach in the Information Systems program.

As a kid, I liked playing video games and hacked my Commodore 64 games so that it was easier to beat the role playing games.  In high school, I took a programming course but found it too dry for my tastes and so I never thought I’d work in that area.

In college I took an HTML class (1997?) just as the web was getting traction and found myself employable.  One of my first jobs was working for which was just starting at the time.  I received invitations to give guest lectures in classes and even tried to start a club devoted to web development in the school of business (Marriott School at BYU). I got absorbed into their existing Information Systems club that had about 400 members and got accepted into the Master’s Program in Information Systems Management.  Simultaneously, I was completing a degree in Communications.

In 1999 and 2000, all you had to do was have a domain name and millions of dollars could be thrown at you.  Enticed by the Internet Startup world, I simultaneously created a consulting firm with some friends from college and went to work for a startup that would ultimately receive about $7 million in funding.  I was nearly done with my Master’s program but since there were not more IS classes to take, just accounting and other stuff that I didn’t care about, I dropped out.

The promising startup I worked for actually fired me eventually, although the merit of that decision is a subject of debate.  The team I worked on considered me their best developer, I was well liked in the company, and my direct boss told me I was doing fantastic.  Then a few weeks later I discovered he was secretly doing something shifty and I asked if I could talk about it via email.  A couple days later he called me into his office and said he was firing me with cause and didn’t care whether the items he was telling me were true or not.

The next several years were a bumpy ride.  The dot com era had been followed by the dot bomb era.  Whenever a job opened up, I was one of at least 300 people applying for a given job opening.  With a wife to support and new babies, I was constantly paranoid, worried, and living off of credit cards.

I did a lot of consulting gigs and studied everything about the craft of software development that I could, reading management books, getting multiple certifications, etc. Over time, I became quite formidable, but still super nice.  After a ridiculously long list of projects and consulting gigs over the years, and a stint in real estate, I finally took over as CTO of a company that had recently been near the top of the Inc. 500 list for fastest growing private companies. This proved a defining moment for me as I grew into the role and found that I was really good at it.

That being said, there was still drama.  After several years of creating new products that dramatically increased the revenues of the company, our parent company hired a CIO and quickly took away my CTO title so that he wouldn’t feel challenged.  He came from a large/slow organization that took years to develop products, and he was managing us who might have to change course several times a day in a very dynamic business environment. Suffice to say the difference in paradigms created challenges in communication and it was both the best of times and worst of times for me. One the bright side, I had in him a senior level IT Director from a Fortune 500 firm who trained me each week on how to manage at that level, but on the other hand he never once spent 5 minutes listening to what was going on in the business itself–and I was managing over 20 Business IT product lines.

All that said, I had options at that point.  I had long heard the call to be a professor in an academic environment because doing guest lectures and later adjuncting entire classes had been some of the best experiences in my life.  In 2006 I applied to PhD schools and was sold on Arizona State. The experience of getting a PhD can be great for some and soul crushing for others.  I experienced both things.  Things started off well but then there were challenges.  I didn’t want to go back to the private sector, and so I determined I would finish things out if it killed me.  It felt like that sometimes, that it was killing me.  I guess that is why not everyone makes it.

When I started my PhD program, the job market was hot.  Shortly before I graduated, the market dropped out and there was a cloud of doom and gloom above many graduating students.  Things were slightly better when I graduated.

I had several promising interviews, one with Butler University which had recently made it to the NCAA championship game in basketball twice and was located close to my wife’s childhood home.  The interview seemed to go great, and I even went shopping for houses, but as the weeks drug on I didn’t hear back and eventually they told me that they couldn’t extend me a job and they couldn’t tell me why.

That threw me into a panic and so I applied everywhere that I could since a lot of the hiring season had passed.  All the top tier universities except BYU ignored me (and BYU said after the interview that my research wasn’t good enough yet, but keep working on it, I could get there).  I was fortunate to get an offer from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, just on the north side of Oklahoma City.  Things went well there.  I liked the community and my colleagues, but as as a family we found ourselves isolated from friends and family and money was tight.  Just as I was applying for tenure and promotion, which I ultimately received, I was coping with the realization that I’d have to move on to something new.

I interviewed at a couple places, one being BYU in Provo.  It now sort of feels like it was meant to be all along, if that makes any sense. It is truly one of the most amazing place on earth, and I am humbly grateful.  And so the next chapter begins.