10 Years in the USA: Looking Back

10 years ago today, my family and I drove across the border, leaving our life in Canada 🇨🇦 behind and embarking on a new adventure: working and living in the 🇺🇸United States of America. It’s gone by so quickly, my brain can’t quite grasp it’s been a full decade of my life. It was such a scary 😱 decision at the time — leaving behind our friends and family, moving to a place where we knew no one, and where we’d be starting over from scratch. Keep in mind that neither my wife nor I moved away from home to go to college: our entire world was in our hometown of Calgary.

So much has happened in the past 10 years! Some of the highlights that come to mind, more or less in order, are:

  • Getting to work at HTC and having my first real corporate job (before that it was just vendor contracts with some big companies, never full time employment). Special thanks goes to John Starkweather for trusting that some guy from Canada was the right person for the job (even when the job ended up being a different sort of animal). Thanks also to Jason Gordon for his wise words as I was thinking through the big decision to move.
  • Being able to build a new home with space for people to come visit.
  • Having the joy of creating HTC elevate, traveling the world and meeting some truly fantastic HTC fans. That community program and the people in it hold a special place in my ❤️. #IBleedGreen
  • Working with some truly fantastic people at HTC, some of whom are still my friends to this day.
  • The birth of my daughter Alanna, who’s a real spitfire and destined for great things!
  • Learning the valuable lesson that green card sponsorship should have been part of my HTC hiring contract. 🤷‍♂️
  • Getting the opportunity to work for John Starkweather again, taking a contractor role with K-Force to work for AT&T and get my green card (and so did my wife and son).
  • Learning that I could step up into big roles and take on leadership where there was a gap; that being the one who says “Yes, I’ll help” is a great way to learn and grow.
  • Using my role at AT&T to move through a variety of experience-expanding roles such as learning Adobe Experience Manager and other tools.
  • Discovering a great school for Logan that grew into a career path for my wife and a great school fit for my daughter.
  • Experiencing the totally new scenario of having to earn a job interview, and failing to get the role; reinforcing the importance of interview preparation and confidence in telling my story to an employer.
  • Watching my son grow from a little guy who fit in my arms to a kind-hearted, creatively brilliant kid who’s getting taller by the day!
  • Once again learning that truth in the maxim of “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”; leveraging my network and past recruiter contacts to open the door to a role at AWS that was absolutely perfect for me. I had to work very hard to get through that open door mind you…
  • Being reminded that relationships matter; building and maintaining a professional network is critical to continued success.
  • Jumping into the developer community space with my role at AWS, something I knew nothing about, but realizing that people are the same no matter if they can code Javascript or not: everyone wants to belong to something special and online community has been in my blood since I first heard the screech of a dial-up modem.

Looking back on the past 10 years, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for the blessing that have been showered upon my family and I. I’m so glad that every other door in Canada was closed to me, and that Ashely and I had the courage to leap through the open door that led us to this life. Here’s to the next 10 years!

A grim Thanksgiving weekend reminder about human nature

Over 205,000 people tested positive for covid19 across the USA on Friday, a new record. 13.6 million people have/have had covid19, placing the USA 6th in the world on a per capita basis (interesting that it’s not higher, right?). 272K+ dead, 5th in the world per capita. Who’s #1? Belgium of all places. 🤷‍♂️

We live in society where immediate gratification is the norm, where we want what we want when we want it, and woe be to anyone who gets in our way (Karen would like to speak to your manager now). The idea of us not getting to do what we want, of saying no to ourselves, and of making a sacrifice, is completely alien to many.

That’s why millions of people still travelled on Thanksgiving to be with family, why people still go into restaurants to sit down and eat, and why by the time Christmas comes there will be many more funerals happening over Zoom.

It made us tremendously sad when we made the decision to not travel back to Canada for Christmas, but it’s the only rational option. Not seeing our family for a year is difficult, but far better than perhaps not seeing some of them ever again if we were to accidentally get them sick.

This holiday season, think of others more than yourself. 🙏🏼

How Much Email Does a Presidential Campaign Send?

Email marketing is a persistent subject of curiosity for me; I’m always observing how companies use email as a communications medium with their customers/supporters. It’s the oldest form of electronic communication still in use, but it ubiquitous and effective.

Back in September 2019, I signed up to support Andrew Yang’s Presidential campaign because I like his vision for the USA, in particular universal basic income (even though I can’t vote here yet). I was surprised by the amount of email they sent in the first three days: seven messages. I’d never experienced such intense email saturation before. Usually reaching out even once a day would be considered borderline email harassment. 😆 The first week? 13 emails. 😲 I decided to keep every email he’d ever sent just out of sheer marketing curiosity.

How many emails did the campaign send in total? 334 over a period of 154 days. That’s 2.2 emails per day, every day, for almost half a year! I have no idea if this is typical or not for a campaign, but if I wasn’t someone who had donated to the campaign and hoped he’d make it all the way, I would have unsubscribed in the first week. I’m deeply curious about what the campaign’s weekly unsubscribe rates were. 🤔

Email can be a powerful tool to communicate with people who care about what you’re selling/saying, but if you overdo it you can alienate the very people you’re trying to build support with.

Lifehack: Cleaning Car Mats/Fabric Using the Sticky Tape Method

Certain types of materials/fabrics are extremely difficult to get clean. A lint roller works well for most types of clothes, but what if you’re cleaning your car and the vacuum cleaner can’t pick up bits of debris embedded in the fibers? I’ve found this type of material the hardest to clean, so I came up with a solution that works incredibly well, is easy to do, and extremely cheap:

  1. Take a roll of basic packing tape (I prefer the clear, ultra-sticky kind vs. the brown, thinner, less sticky kind)
  2. Cut off a six inch piece
  3. Loop it around so that it attaches back to itself
  4. Put the loop around three or four fingers (this varies depending on your hand size)
  5. Use the tape to press down on the fabric you are trying to clean, using a rolling motion to pick up debris
  6. When one side loses its stickiness, rotate the tape to the fresh side

I find you can usually get at least 8-10 rolling motions per side before you have to replace the tape. The type of packing tape I use is much stickier than a lint roller, so it picks up better, and this is also much cheaper.

Got any of your own cool lifehacks for cleaning? Share ’em!

Why is my Orange Crush Water Enhancer Genetically Engineered?

As a general rule, I am not worried about scientific advances in food growth and production. I do not buy organic (it’s not worth the cost to our wallet or the planet) and I do not boycott GMO food like some do. Genetic selection of plants has been happening since the first farmer selected the seeds from the strongest plant; now it’s happening in different way, but there’s no reason to vilify it. I am generally resistant to the waves of hype and fear that swell and sweep across my social media feeds every few months.

However, I was genuinely curious to see the words PRODUCED WITH GENETIC ENGINEERING on the back of the Orange Crush water enhancer squeeze bottle.

The ingredients? Water, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sucralose, contains 2% or less of the following: Malic Acid, Acesulfame Potassium, Yellow 5, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Red 40.

I understand some of the reasons why some food is genetically enhanced – to make it resistant to disease, resistant to pesticides needed to kill bugs that feed upon it, or to otherwise enhance growth. But what part of this delicious and potent concentrated superfluid needed to be genetically engineered? This may be a mystery that is never solved…unless someone out reading this is a food scientist and wants to chime in!

Farewell Old Blog Template…I Knew Ye Well

November 4th, 2006, I started this blog. And right from day one, I had a gorgeous theme for it, designed by my friend Darius Wey. Darius is one of those guys who won the talent pool lottery: he can code, design, write, photograph, and generally create something out of nothing at a level that surpasses most mere mortals (myself included). It’s not a surprise that he went on to big things in the Australian healthcare technology industry.

Back to the template…all my Thoughts Media blog templates were designed for maximum readability, and embedding of white-background graphics (since that’s what PR companies product shots 99% of the time). For my personal blog, I wanted something…different. I wanted it to reflect a completely different sense of style, something deeper to my core aesthetic, and Darius created this beautiful design that has been with me for almost a decade, aptly named Bushido. I wanted to immortalize it in a blog post so I’d never forget how gorgeous it was…

Original-Blog-Theme-Darius-Wey

This being 2015, I needed a template that was mobile-friendly from the ground up, and something that, yes, maximized readability (because this is my only public place to publish long-form content now). I’m slowly trying to work some of the graphical elements from the previous template into my current one…

Farewell blog template of 2006!

Magazine Subscriptions: How Much Cheaper Can They Get?

Popular-Photography-Magazine-Discount

It’s been interesting – and depressing if you’re in the magazine industry – to watch as many magazines have become less and less costly to subscribe to over the past few years. As more people do their reading online, subscription bases have shrunk, and many magazines are rapidly sliding toward become free and purely ad-supported vs. subscriber supported. I find this quite sad, as quality journalism is worth supporting, but it’s hard to be upset with incredibly cheap prices as a consumer. I know what this means for the future of the magazine though…

I subscribed to Popular Photography a few years back, but let my subscription lapse because I wasn’t reading all the issues. I was surprised when I received an offer in the mail to get the magazine for only $7 for the whole year. SEVEN DOLLARS. At that price even if I only read a few issues a year, that would be worth it. I’ve seen similar, though not quite as deep, discounts from Maximum PC, the only magazine I’ve maintained a subscription to for over a decade.

I truly will mourn the day when most magazines fold and things are purely digital…I enjoy the non-distracted, deep reading that magazines can bring a reader.

Off to a New Adventure: I’ve Left HTC & Joined AT&T

 (It’s funny how you can start a blog post with the best of intentions to publish it immediately, then four weeks later it’s still sitting in your drafts folder…time to pull the trigger!)

In the instantly-connected world of social media, it seems like a curious thing to announce a big change on a blog (how very 2008 of me!), but I felt like I wanted to make it official beyond the realm of 140 characters. On April 11th I finished my time at HTC, after 2 years and 8 months at the company. It was an amazing opportunity for me; I learned and grew so much in that role. HTC is an amazing company with tremendous innovation and passion, and I’m deeply grateful to all my co-workers for making my time there so special. As Proverbs 27 says, “iron sharpens iron”. I worked with some smart, highly skilled people and I had to push myself to keep up with them. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn something new every day.

Being a fan of HTC before working there, I remain one today, and will always bleed green!

Having the opportunity to create and run a world-class VIP fan community, HTC elevate, was the proudest moment of my career thus far. Envisioning, creating, then leading a community of like-minded people was truly a dream job and I’m eternally grateful to my first manager, John Starkweather, for giving me the opportunity. I deeply respect HTC as a company, so I won’t fully explain my reasons for leaving in public, but I will say it was related to me being a Canadian working in the USA and not receiving what I needed to stay with the company long-term. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions to protect your family’s well-being, and this was one of those situations. An opportunity came along that would allow me to do that, and to work with John again, so I took it.

So where am I now? In case you missed the headline, let me make it obvious with a giant logo:

AT&T

I’ve accepted a role with the AT&T small business team in Bothell, WA. I went from being self-employed to working for HTC, which seemed to me like a “big corporation” at the time (with some 17,000 employees), and now I’m at a company with over 250,000 employees.  It’s been an interesting adjustment to say the least; things I assumed were normal from my time at HTC are most definitely not the norm at AT&T, so every day I’m learning and adjusting to my new surroundings.

I’m doing a different sort of work than I was at HTC, which is adding to my career toolkit and working some new mental muscles. I was hired as a community manager, but since there’s no community just yet on this new project, I’m getting to project manage, direct developers, evaluate UI/UX, coordinate events, and use my technical chops to assist the team I’ve joined. I’m really enjoying it, and while I miss HTC and my elevate community, I’m all-in on this new role and am looking forward to the future!

Thankfulness…

As I sit here in my home on our first US Thanksgiving since moving into our new home, I’m struck by how truly blessed I am. I have a job that I love – it challenges me and grows my skill-set daily – and I work with some truly brilliant people who help me strive to become even better. I’m working for a company with a lot of passion and soul – a company dwarfed in size by our two main competitors, yet several times a year we show the world what a smartphone pushing design and technological boundaries looks like. I’m blessed to have a strong, wonderful wife that understands and appreciates the work I do, and is incredibly supportive of my efforts to give HTC my best. My son is the purest joy I have in my life, and he’s a smart, funny, kind-hearted little man whom I have the honour of helping grow up. I also have supportive extended family who encourage me and my family in our new “faraway land”.

I am humbled to have been given all these things, and for them, and so much more, I am thankful.

What are you thankful for?

Image above found here.

Yes, I’m Still Alive and Kicking

I was never a highly prolific blogger here, but even for me, not having posted for four months is a long stretch. So much has happened, but I’ve found that social networks (namely Facebook and Twitter) have largely replaced what used to get posted here on this blog. I tend to think that the people who care about what’s going in my life are already following me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, so this blog serves a different role in terms of being a home for long-form content and things of merit that I want to share with the world.

The short version of my life right now is that I’ve got an amazing job at HTC, my family and I have moved into our new house in Renton, Washington as of two weeks ago, and I’m learning to live like an American. Most of the things are the same, but there are enough differences that there’s the occasional struggle – mostly around healthcare. When you call your insurance company and even they can’t explain their own rules, you know you’re trapped in a system that tries to keep you from succeeding with it. All in all though, I feel tremendously blessed and honoured to have been given so many great opportunities.

I haven’t given up on blogging, but life is so hectic right now I won’t fool myself into thinking that I’m going to be putting up any more content here any time soon. I’m hopeful by the summer months things will have calmed down.