The road to an MBA

Note: I originally wrote this on 10/29/2014 for Pacific University’s MBA blog. The blog, it seems, never came to be. Now that I have completed the program, I’ve decided to share that original post here.

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The past 12 months have been full of transitions for me. It started a year ago when my wife asked me for a divorce. It had been some time coming (we’d been separated six months) but that didn’t soften the blow. Now that I think about it, it was Halloween night when she gave me the news, and I’m writing this almost exactly one year later, October 29, sitting at a bar right across the street from where it happened. I suppose this is as good a time as any to reflect, but also to look forward.

The next transition was much more mundane, but nonetheless jarring: I turned 30 in July. When I had graduated Pacific back in 2007, I promised myself that if I was still earning under $30k per year by the time turned 30, I would take drastic measures to promote my professional life. Without getting into details, I’ll just say that when my 30th birthday finally flew by, it was time to fire for effect. (Some clarification: I majored in Media Arts and money really wasn’t an immediate concern of mine at the time. Still, I had the foresight to know that, at some point, I would have to make some of it, and 30 seemed like a good age to start doing that.)

When I took stock of my situation at that moment—getting divorced, entering a new decade—I realized that now, more than ever, was the time to affect positive change in my life. That’s when a friend, a fellow Pacific alum, mentioned that he had heard Pacific was starting an MBA program.

I had never considered myself a candidate for grad school. It simply wasn’t in the cards. I paid my dues: 16 years of school were quite sufficient, thank you very much. But, I also had a promise to keep to myself, and with no relationship, no kids, and flexible employment, I knew I would never have a better shot at going back to school. Perhaps this was the positive change I was looking for. But an MBA degree? Other than running a wedding photography business for a handful of years, I had zero business experience—or interest, really. Nevertheless, I said, what the heck? It can’t hurt. I applied to Pacific’s nascent MBA program, resting completely on my essay because I knew it kicked ass, and called it good. I didn’t apply anywhere else (you probably should; it’s what you’re supposed to do, but I didn’t. Because I’m a rebel.)

The next few months flew by, until on one Friday in October, I found myself at Pacific’s Hillsboro campus for the MBA orientation, surrounded by the other members of my cohort, all of whom were much more qualified to be there than I (undoubtedly). Now, I’m just two days away from taking my first final—for Accounting—and it feels somewhat surreal. I mean, I never wanted to learn accounting. Throughout the class, I kept being reminded of an old Southwest Airlines commercial in which an employee of a fictional company is sitting in a meeting, humorously imitating his boss who is giving a presentation on “making accounts payable exciting again.” When the employee gets caught, the commercial cuts to Southwest’s motto: “Wanna get away?” Ironically, I didn’t want to get away from Accounting class (although, I assure you I still have no plans of becoming an accountant). I actually found great value in it—value that extends far beyond what you probably consider to be the confines of the accounting discipline. Sometimes you a take a class that directly affects the direction of your life; other times, you take a class that merely, but importantly, exercises your mind and allows you to see the world from a different perspective.

So, anyway, yeah, my final is coming up and I should probably be studying for that instead of writing this blog post, but I’m just one of those weirdos who enjoys writing. I don’t have a moral to this story, perhaps because it isn’t finished being told. I still get really depressed at times because of my divorce; I still say I’m 29 by mistake when people ask my age; I still feel loads of stress from working two jobs and being in school; I still think about dropping out (I wouldn’t be the first). But for now, I’m continuing to manage, to hold true what I hope is the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself all those years ago as I walked across that stage and grabbed my diploma. Positive change.

You might be wondering what I plan to do with my MBA, but I’m not someone who enjoys making plans. I roll with the punches; an MBA might help me land a few of my own, and that’s all I’ve got for now.

High school bomb threats

I took a physics class my senior year of high school. One day, we were assigned an in-class project to make radios by wrapping copper wire around cardboard paper towel tubes. (And I think there was a magnet in there somewhere. All science things have magnets, right?) After class, we lined all of our radios up along the counter so we could come back the next day and finish them.

Coincidentally, a disgruntled student (not from my class) called in a bomb threat that next morning. We students got to stay home while the police searched every classroom high and low. As my Physics teacher later recalled, when he unlocked his classroom door for the police, they saw the 40 copper wire enshrouded cylinders stacked on the counter and yelled, “Holy shit!” They thought they had just uncovered the largest bomb ever seen in Nevada County.

And as I recall, no students were suspended.

Interviewing a famous Instagram dog

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kelsey Rodas, the human behind the @rustyrodas Instagram account. Rusty, a golden retriever, has an incredible tale to tell of how he went from abandoned pup to canine celebrity. He has over 60,000 followers on Instagram now and his own line of greeting cards. He also volunteers at a local animal shelter, helping coach other rescue dogs to recovery. What’s also interesting is that I followed Rusty and Kelsey separately on Instagram for about a year before realizing they worked together. I knew Kelsey from college. It just so happened we both went to the Portland Gear #PDXMEET earlier this summer, where she was there with Rusty. Small world.

Anyway, you can head over to Pro Photo Supply’s News Desk to read the article now. An excerpt has also been added to my writing samples page.

Little things no one will notice

I found myself today spending, well, all day working on a project for my job. It is Sunday (well, now it’s technically an hour into Monday, but who’s keeping track?) Sunday is my day off. This particular Sunday followed an incredibly long Saturday which consisted of 7 hours of class, three hours of working an outdoor event in 100-degree weather, and an hour drive home as I darted through the backstreets of SE Portland trying to find away to get across Division street, which was filled with naked cyclists (sorry I couldn’t join you this year!)

My point is that for all intensive porpoises, nobody would have blamed me for taking this particular Sunday to do nothing but relax in front of the fan with a glass of ice water in my underwear. I mean, not that the glass of water would be in my underwear, but… you get it. Instead, I decided to log in to WordPress to take a stab at troubleshooting the new camera review layout I’ve been working on for the past week at Pro Photo. It turned in to a full day of experimenting dangerously with things that are likely detrimental to my health, like CSS, which stands for Cool Shirt Society, as far as I know. I may have even made a spreadsheet that calculates things because apparently that’s what I do now that I’m in business school.

Anyway, we updated our WordPress theme last week and it allows us to create some really stunning layouts for blog posts. Or at least I think they’re stunning. Inspired by articles like this one and this one, I had always wanted to create camera reviews with beautiful layouts that stood out from all the boring-looking ones that litter the Internet (like this one). The thing is, those articles serving as my inspiration aren’t about things—they’re about stories, and they are important, meaningful, impactful, and emotional. But photographers, and humans in general, are inherently visual creatures. I believe that any content we consume should be presented in such a way as to appeal to our senses in as pleasant a manner as possible.

And things tell stories, too. The first article using the new layout is on the highest-resolution 35mm-format camera ever. I felt it deserved special treatment, with large images that help convey a sense of detail (even though any camera can take a picture to fill your computer screen). It’s not my best bit of writing, but I’ve found a new passion for creating layouts—yeah, that sounds nerdy to me, too. I agonized over text placement and image size, grew frustrated about things I still can’t properly control, second-guessed every decision I made (is it too cluttered? Is it too plain?).

In the end, I finally arrived at a point where I feel satisfied: the full Canon 5DS R review is live at Pro Photo Supply. I’m stupidly excited about creating more content now, even if it is just about cameras. Plus, I got to go on a walk through the woods to do it, and that never hurts.

Business School

Here’s what business school is all about. It’s about applying really specific terminology to really vague ideas. You’re then tested on the terminology as if that somehow represents your understanding of the ideas.

Sometimes, people just want to be heard

A few minutes ago, a customer raised his 1 star Yelp review to 3 stars after I replied him minutes after he left the review. He did not respond to my message, did not alter the text of his review, but changed the rating from 1 to 3. I guess sometimes people just complain to be heard, and the simple knowledge that someone took the time to listen to them is enough to change their perception of the transaction. Or something. 3 stars is still not great, but I’ll count it as a win.

PDX Moment – Kid Rides a Fish

A couple of days ago I saw a kid riding a fish bike. That is, a bicycle with a plywood fish fashioned around it, complete with pectoral and tail fins which I imagine aided in providing downforce and keeping the bike level at speed. This was almost Portland enough to make me chuckle — almost. What was Portland enough to make me chuckle was the ensuing conversation by two passers-by:

Woman: “Oh look, he’s riding a tuna!”
Man: “Clearly, that’s a salmon.”

Never change, Portland.