Born to a nomadic band of northerners, I was raised throughout various romantic sounding settings as Duluth, Grand Forks, Pembina and West Fargo. The mythical land of block heaters, ski-doos and arctic cats, 10,000 lakes and mosquitoes the size of birds instilled in me an incredible desire to be somewhere else. After arming myself with most* of a degree in Film and Literature from Moorhead State University** and 6 or so years of restaurant experience, I went south.
Well, more southeast… pulling a small U-Hall trailer, my lime green, 2 door hardtop ’79 Lebaran sailed past the Mississippi, south of the Great Lakes, across the plains of Indiana to the Scioto River where I docked at Columbus, Ohio. Settled in the land of the Buckeyes, I married a local girl and found a job at CompuServe.
Relying on my vast geek knowledge, anal organizational skills and youngest child desire to always get my way, I started a career in project management. Throughout the mid-to-late ’90’s I managed projects ranging from “single-sign on” systems, billing projects to content management systems and consumer sites. In ’97, AOL acquired CompuServe*** and I decided to follow a different career path into information technology management. As a project manager, a good portion of my time was spent as a business analyst type working with the business owner to help flesh out their requirements. In order to really help with feasibility assessments, I spent a great deal of time shadowing architects and developers. I sat in design discussions, code reviews, you name it. I was the little kid following the IT folks around asking questions. When they changed from ignorant to insightful and I found myself acting more manager to the developers than their actual managers, I realized I was falling into a new career. Knowing my partial film degree would be of no help, I obtained a BS in Business Information Systems via the University of Phoenix. (Oh, my wife and I also had 4 kids… it was a fun time)
Now, managing projects is NOT the same as managing people. Just like great developers do not necessarily make good people managers, the same goes for project managers. Luckily, I had some really good mentors during that time… really good people persons. They coached me, suggested reading materials, training and provided excellent examples. Luckily, I ran into a few challenging situations early on. Yes, I said luckily. You can’t learn how to manage if people and situations don’t require managing. Throughout this time, we also pushed some really cool projects. My team found ourselves working on consumer internet applications/sites ranging from search, discovery driven music and games portals, AOL Radio and AOL Video. These were high performance applications with in depth infrastructure systems. SOA, XML, ReST, Oracle, MySQL, Java, MicroFormats, streaming audio and video, Flash/Flex, Ajax… those sorts of things. And I found myself responsible for a manager, 14 software engineers of various levels, an architect and individuals in other teams matrixed in. When it came to an end, it really felt like leaving on top.
Now, I’m working on the next chapter…
* 3 years of classes related to the majors, but neglected those pesty core classes universities expect everyone to get
** NOT the one in Kentucky. That’s Morehead University. You probably haven’t heard of the one I’m talking about. It was, at the time, one of the only universities in the Midwest with a film department.
*** Technically at the time, it was stated as a merger where H&R Block, parent company of CompuServe, sold off the Network division to one company and AOL took over the online service portion. I’m not really sure how anyone could classify that a merger.
Here are 25 Random Things About Me…
1) Much like a young Luke Skywalker, I have only a vague idea of who my father is (never met him, unsure if the name on the birth certificate is read, working theory is my mother isn’t sure, etc)
2) My earliest memory is walking on my grandmother’s sidewalk, tripping and falling face first onto the pavement w/o putting my hands out to break the fall
3) My next earliest memory is being carried down a flight of stairs at night on the shoulders of a man (I have no idea who he was)
4) When I was in Kindergarten, my mother dressed up as a giant Easter bunny with paper mache head to visit a hospital ward and hand out candy. She stopped by to pick me up so I could come along. I was scared sh*tless that this mutant bunny ate my mother, knew my name (she thought it would be funny to come up to me and say “Hi, Andrew… I know you”) and tracked me down to finish off the family.
5) I have an older brother. He has a different father (as far as we know – he knows his father, tho). Technically, that makes us “half-brothers”. I never understood the prefix. In my eyes, you are either brothers or not. We are brothers.
6) Neither of our father’s were a “Conley”. Conley was the name of my mother’s first husband. We were both born during a 4 year window when that was her lastname and she hadn’t gotten married again (yet). Our inside joke is that when someone asks us about us (such as a way we speak, dress, look, family tradition), we answer “It’s a Conley thing”. Really, it could be. We wouldn’t know.
7) I learned in second grade that if I waited until my mother left for work, I could simply call into the school office and tell them I was sick. About midway through the year, the school informed my mother I was close to missing more days then attending.
8) We got cable when I was 8 (1978). I spent my days in Duluth watching Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, Space Giants, Ultraman and The Andy Griffith Show
9) We moved every 2-3 years, changing schools along the way
10) Until I was 12, I spent every summer and all school breaks at my grandparents’.
11) My grandfather took me to auctions with him. My grandmother took me to garage sales. She once bought me a big set of hot wheels cars from a family who’s son (my age) died. Every time I would play with them, she’d tell me to take special care of the dead boy’s toys and that I had to play twice as hard with them since I was playing for two.
12) One summer, my grandmother purchased a trampoline at a school auction. They were selling them due to insurance reasons (they weren’t safe). I spent the entire summer bouncing on that every day, making up stories in my head
13) Before I got my driver’s license, I drove a snowmobile to school every day in the winter
14) I hated reading as a kid. I read/listen to 1 to 2 books a week now.
15) I was “Andrew” up until I interviewed for a job when I was 16. The manager called me “Andy” and I didn’t want to correct him. I’ve been “Andy” every since.
16) I met my oldest friend at that job – Kathy “Kate” Caldwell. Even then, I knew we’d stay friends. We’d argue all the time but would always just know when we were both done being angry and would be close friends again. After awhile, we realized (unspoken) that we could just be completely honest with each other.
17) My mother and her husband at the time offered to help pay for college if I would go for “computers”. I told them no way, I was going to be a writer. I joined the Army Reserves as a combat engineer, enrolled for journalism, changed to a dual major in English Lit and Film and eventually went back and completed a BS in CompSci Mgmt after finding out I had a career in “computers”.
18) One of the happiest memories I have was when my oldest son laughed for the first time. We were out for dinner with Steve & Michelle Sattler and Joel & Kay Schnee.
19) I’m not good at having allot of close friends. I feel most comfortable with a couple really good friends.
20) I think I’m really good at being an IT Manager. I couldn’t program to save my life, but I do well managing people and can translate geek to glossy.
21) I once got my brother an exotic meat of the month club membership for Christmas. That’s still one of my favorite gifts I’ve ever gotten anyone.
22) The saddest period of my life was grieving the death of my son while watching his sisters struggle for life in the NICU. My wife and I wouldn’t have gotten through that if our oldest son wasn’t the kid he was. I will always be grateful for his humor, intelligence and love.
23) My wife Gina makes me a better father. Left on my own, I’d be lazier than I am. She pushes me and I’m thankful for her.
24) I make a pretty darn good pumpkin roll (made with fresh pumpkins I grow in my backyard)
25) On a “first date”, I flipped my car driving down an interstate where it eventually rested in the ditch upside down. Several people stopped, but I was the one who crawled back in on broken glass to get my date (who would later become my wife – Mrs. Conley) out of her stuck seatbelt as she hung upside down.