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A little about me

·6 mins

My two worlds #

The big dream was always to be on a stage sitting behind a grand piano singing in front of crowds of thousands. I was a skinny, quiet blonde kid from the suburbs who spent his afternoons alone. Most summer afternoons you could find me riding my bike or shooting hoops on the basketball hoop attached just above the garage door. My piano lessons and favorite CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) artists of the 80s fueled my desire to become a musician but I never considered that anything more than just a silly dream. However, the pictures you build in your head can be more powerful than you expect. Believe it or not, in my 20s I found myself at a grand piano with a microphone playing and singing for dozens (not the thousands from my dreams) of people as a church musician and worship leader. I played in a few bands, recorded on a few small albums and was living my dream. It was sort of a light version of it, but I was good with that. Becoming the next Michael W. Smith was a ridiculous goal anyway.

I always loved computers. From my first time playing Oregon Trail and copying a BASIC program from a magazine, I was hooked. I attended my local community college and took classes in computer networking and telecommunications, where I learned some HTML. Just HTML. CSS wasn’t even a thing yet. I got a job at a small computer store where I assembled custom computers for customers and businesses. In 1996 the big spenders were ponying up for the upgraded 17" CRT monitor, the 1.2Gb hard drive, and 64Mb of RAM. I then transferred to Bible college where I got my B.S. in Bible and Theology and minored in music.

I did some web design while I was a music pastor, but always saw those as two separate tracks in my life. Like two different worlds. In 2010 when my church job became part-time, I decided to start freelancing as a graphic designer. I didn’t want to do web because I felt like it was too unstable. Print design stayed put, and web design was really hard, especially at the time when desktop browsers were so inconsistent, and mobile websites were just worse versions of the desktop experience. That said, everyone that I did design for needed a website, and since I had some experience (and needed the money) I dove in. A friend had told me that WordPress was a great platform for building websites. “You mean blogs, not websites,” I thought to myself. But I thought wrong. WordPress was about to go far beyond the blog platform it had become known for. With the incredible community of developers, content creators, and plugin ecosystem, WordPress would become the tool that powers nearly half of the internet. I dove into learning WordPress at that point and haven’t looked back.

The longest distance between two points #

When I started with WordPress, I could install the platform (remember the famous 5-minute install?), install a theme, and add some plugins. I used my limited HTML and CSS skills to customize the site just enough to satisfy my small clients’ requirements. Soon, I wanted to do more than the basic functionality of WordPress core or its plugins. I remember working on an e-commerce site where they wanted to add a flat handling fee to the shipping. It wasn’t possible with the plugin’s configuration settings so I set off to find the code that controlled that. I soon found it, modified it, and it worked! What an exhilarating feeling! I was now empowered to write code that solved a specific problem and I couldn’t get enough. I continued to take online courses, read books, hired a mentor, and attended our local WordPress MeetUp. The WordPress scene was vibrant and active in Portland in those years and it painted a picture of what a career in web development could look like. But I also felt that I was entering this career completely backward. My education and work experience up to this point had nothing to do with programming. I wanted to help people, not sit behind a computer for 8 hours a day. Colleagues and mentors that I connected with had gotten a CS degree and started on this journey much sooner in life. It felt like everyone else had decided on this career, and I had bumbled into it.

I didn’t let that discourage me, though. I continued to bumble from freelancer to part owner of a small agency that was soon acquired by a larger agency. After working there for a couple of years, I shifted to the client side and worked as a Director of Technology overseeing web and IT for an entertainment company. In 2017, I left that position to start a small WordPress development shop called Indevver. I sold that a few years later to another marketing agency where I came in and built a web division from the ground up. When I stop and look back at my journey it’s amazing to see how much progress I made in such a short amount of time, with no formal education or training. I don’t have a degree in computer science or an MBA, but I somehow managed to make it work. While I classified much of this a luck or being in the right place at the right time, I also can’t deny that there are some underlying factors that have driven me to where I am now.

It’s character that counts #

I would never tell anyone to follow my path, I don’t think anyone could. I’m not trying to make a case against education or brag about doing it without one. This is simply a chronicle of a thing that happened to a guy once. If there are insights to be drawn from my story, they would come from my character, not my accomplishments. To me, character is the most important indicator of true and lasting success and it’s how I judge myself, and those around me. I honestly don’t care how much money you make, but if you’ve accomplished something cool, I’m very curious about how you got there. I am more interested in learning about the kind of human you were along the way than what the outcomes were. Did you treat people with kindness and dignity, or did you use them to further your agenda at their expense? Perhaps this is where Pastor Jeremy, Entrepreneur Jeremy, and Web Developer Jeremy all converge. Websites are an amazing tool, but they are just that, a means to an end. You can use a website to sell a product, promote a service, or express yourself creatively. You can turn that into something that generates income for your family and the families of your employees, and you can make the world a better place by dreaming big and putting all of that out into the world.

So here I am, 48 years old, and starting another agency. There will be some luck, and some bumbling, but I do know that the journey ahead is going to be filled with opportunities to help amazing people put their ideas into motion and amplify their message. I doing so, I want to make businesses stronger, communities more resiliant and the world a little kinder.