I didn't really set out to be a technology consultant, but I’ve found a great career that really suits me. There are a lot of threads running through my life that contributed to getting me here, and it feels like there are several ways I could tell my story. I always appreciate being raw and authentic, so I'll tell those details and a lot of the things I learned along the way.
Early Life Lessons
I was born in 1981 (just turned 40!) in North Dallas. I had a good early childhood and life was grand until my parents got divorced when I was 9. There's obviously a lot I could say there, but the divorce, split custody, an eventual blended family, hard financial times, etc., taught me a lot at an early age (i.e., life can be hard, it's not about me, I don't get everything I want, etc.)
Like a lot of children of the 1980s, I grew up biking around the neighborhood, playing in creeks, and playing soccer. I also started playing video games when the first NES came out. Eventually computers became widespread in the early 1990s. For me, console games were just a gateway to computer games and eventually technology in general. Games like Wolfenstein 3D and the first Elder Scrolls couldn't run unless you modified some memory settings at boot time to optimize the very limited 4 or 8 MB of RAM.
I remember eventually building my own computers, setting up home networks for gaming and LAN parties, and teaming up with my fellow nerds in high school to hide a copy of Warcraft on the school network so we could skip some standardized testing and hide in a computer lab playing play video games instead. I learned I was fascinated by technology and what you could make it do.
My early life circumstances taught me a few other important lessons toward later childhood. I worked hot summers for four years with my stepdad as he was building what turned out to be a very successful property maintenance business. I learned how to work hard and that I wanted to eventually move away from manual labor.
I later worked in a restaurant in Plano called Jack Astor's as a bus boy. I got my first taste of customer service there. The tips I got from waiters and bartenders were directly tied to my work ethic, so I busted my tail as hard as I could every hour I was there. I knew I was going to need a better car than I had at the time to drive to college, and I was likely going to have to buy it myself. That job allowed me to make a lot of money for a high school kid, and I eventually bought that car. That was an accomplishment I was proud of. At that restaurant, I learned how to serve all types of people, what it's like to serve someone who's not happy with you or perhaps doesn't respect you, and what a sense of accomplishment feels like.
During middle school and high school, I watched my dad struggle with his career, which was really challenging for him. He was a car salesman who worked his way up to general manager of a dealership that was eventually sold. His career was yanked out from under him. He tried a few other sales roles but eventually switched careers altogether, which was a hard reset. I learned at a deep level that I wanted a skill set that had a long future in front of it, that was always marketable, and that provided well enough to weather a few potential ups and downs.
As I finished high school and looked to college, computer science at Texas A&M (whoop!) seemed to fit. I was big on school spirit in high school (I won the spirit award my junior year), and Aggies are famous for school spirit and traditions. As I mentioned, I had an interest in computers and technology, and they had a great computer science program. So, I headed that direction and never looked back.
It was a hard degree. Literally everyone I knew in the program during my freshmen year switched majors by the time we were done. I think some of that work ethic I had learned was part of what got me through. I graduated cum laude in 2003, but by that time, the dot com crash made jobs hard to come by. Many of my friends went home without jobs. I was fortunate to get a job as software engineer at Raytheon, and it even paid well.
Starting a Career in Software Development
Raytheon was a great place to start a career. I got a taste of highly structured and disciplined software engineering ("engineering" was the most appropriate term, not just "development" or "coding") and how large projects work. I helped estimate a project that was worth a quarter of a billion dollars over five years (and was still on track four years in when I left!). I was also given the chance to be a team lead a mere two years in and helped lead a group of over 20 engineers.
I learned that I really enjoyed leading teams and developing people.
After five years at Raytheon, I realized there was a lot of technology passing me by (I was in danger of not remaining marketable). I hadn't touched a database or anything web related! A previous team lead forwarded me a job opportunity at a small consulting firm in Richardson, Texas, called SSG.
That firm was my first experience as a technology consultant. They hired me as they were trying to create a custom development offering. It was a good experience, but after about two years, the custom development work dried up. All that was left was their standard business, which seemed a little more narrowly focused than I wanted to be.
I looked elsewhere and first found another consulting company in Dallas that didn't work out. They liked me and wanted to hire me, but they had a policy of not hiring unless they had an open spot on an active project. They said, "Not no, but not now."
I eventually made a connection to Credera through my church, Watermark. One of Credera’s founders, Matt Levy, and our former CEO, Rob Borrego, were both members there, though I didn't really know them. After the technical interviews, Rob and I met. He talked quite a bit about the type of company Credera was and what they were building. I know he mentioned being family-oriented and wanting to create a low-travel environment. That all sounded good to me, but I honestly wasn't paying much attention, because my experience was that "the cruise usually doesn't match the brochure," as a friend of mine says.
I was hired and eventually found that from my perspective, the company seemed to exactly match the image Rob had painted.
Learning Credera Was a Values Match
My first big project at Credera did a lot to endear me to the company. I was working with Dustin Talk and Phil Lockhart on a commerce platform for a major automotive retailer. I was 30 years old at the time. Most of the team was younger than I was, but they seemed far smarter and more capable. There was a 22-year-old who I felt ran circles around me and made me particularly self-conscious.
For the better part of two years, I came to work each day with a tough mental battle. I felt my previous experience had not lent itself to what I needed to know to be successful here. Imposter syndrome was in full swing. There was no way these people weren't annoyed at my presence on the project. However, I was met with only humble, friendly, patient help, even from that 22-year-old.
I experienced the tangible outworking of our core value of humility. I eventually learned to calm the noise in my head. “Maybe I'm terrible at my job. Maybe people dislike me or laugh when I turned around. But today I have a job to do, so I'm going to at least try.” I also learned that not all experience is created equal, so to speak, and there was a ton of opportunity to gain new experiences in consulting at Credera. I learned that at Credera, the core values were real, not just a cheesy motivational poster on a breakroom wall.
Side note: Thanks, Phil and Dustin. Without you, I may not have stayed.
The core values at Credera have been important to me and really align with my own values. Back in high school, I put my faith in Jesus Christ and resolved to follow him for the rest of my life. That changed everything about me. It's a huge part of who I am... it really is who I am. Credera was founded on Christian values, including those core values. Though I didn’t know it when I was hired, I had stumbled on an amazing match for the kind of place where I wanted to work—a place where I could work the way my faith convicted me to work, or at least try to.
Making Memories With the Credera Family
It's been over 10 years, and I've learned that my favorite part of the company is the people. I cherish the memories with these people. Here’s a few memories that come to mind.
I remember a poker night on the rooftop of Phil Lockhart's downtown condo with our project team to celebrate a project launch. I remember developing a daily ping pong rivalry with Kyle Wahlquist (and trying with all my might to land a single point against Vik Jain).
I remember watching Office Space on a projector during an overnight deployment with John Lutteringer and Dustin Talk while a four-hour database routine ran (flawlessly, by the way!).
I remember my first big client dinner at Credera with my project team at Nick and Sam’s. I remember commandeering a resort golf cart after midnight with JB at a management team retreat and driving around the dark golf course, where we ended up talking about our relationships with our parents.
I remember driving my clients' boat down the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida to go to dinner. I remember staying up way too late in a hotel room in Fort Lauderdale with my team just having fun. John Lutteringer taught us how to imitate Bane's voice from The Dark Knight Rises using just a coffee cup (it's amazing how accurate it is!). I remember flying home with that team on a completely empty flight, which is a surreal experience.
I remember a practice retreat at a remote place out in the country. When the front doorbell rang late that night and no one was in sight outside, we all nervously laughed about how that's exactly how horror movies start. Later that night, a teammate wandered off to bed without telling anyone. We couldn’t find him for bit and were pretty sure the horror movie was starting. It turned out fine, though we never figured out what was up with the doorbell.
And I could share a hundred other fun memories.
Other memories are more meaningful than fun. I remember friends helping me when I battled some minor depression in 2015. I remember the tears of a friend as I sang his praises during a performance review, after he had struggled thinking his contributions on an isolated project were unnoticed. I had taken the time to dig up the details of his performance, which was deeply meaningful to him. He would have done the same for me. I remember honest conversations with friends about faith, burnout, anxiety, hard break ups, marriage problems, challenges with kids, etc.
From Clients to Friends
I’m also particularly fond of the impact we've had on clients' lives. I remember a sincere thank you from a client at a pharmaceutical distributor, who had become a genuine friend over the course of the project. The solution we built was performing solidly despite unforeseen levels of traffic during the beginning of the pandemic, which was meaningful to him, his team, and the entire company. I know, by the nature of it, that had a positive impact on his family as well.
It is meaningful to have developed lasting relationships with people I’ve worked for. Life is too short for it to be all business. I keep up with many of them. Even if we never work together again or if time or geography causes those relationships to fade, I have enjoyed bridging the gap of clients to friends.
Finding Balance at Credera
An important part of my Credera story is outside of work altogether, though. I've been able to be a good husband and father, which Credera's family-centered culture allows for. I love my wife and can maintain a healthy marriage. I've been present for my kids. I've been their coaches and taxi drivers. I've been at their school programs and graduations. I've been there to eat breakfast, tuck them in at night, and teach them the Bible. I've been able to serve in a bunch of capacities at my church, mostly in mentoring newly married couples, which my parents' divorce gave me a passion for. Over the years, I've watched many friends whose careers did not allow for all that, so it is something I am profoundly grateful for.
Transitioning to Remote Work
The most recent part of my story here has taken an interesting turn. Despite having lived in Dallas all my life and never really wanting to leave, I've moved to Waco, Texas, and have been working remotely for the last two and a half years. Some of our dearest friends, who we've walked through life with since we joined the same newly-marrieds group at Watermark Community Church 16 years ago, moved to Waco as he took the senior pastor role at a church here.
It's a heavy burden to lead such an organization. Many leaders burn out and crater, unfortunately. We cared for them deeply and wanted to do our part to help them. Credera graciously let me keep my job and transition to a remote role in Waco, which I was super thankful for.
Frankly, the transition to remote work has been challenging for me. It has some nice perks, for sure, but I miss seeing my friends in the hallway. I miss the lunches, the happy hours, and working in a team room. I even miss the commute (a little) since it allowed me to gear up for work and wind down before I got back to my family.
Throughout that transition, I had a career coach in Pete Gekas that took an intentional interest in my well-being and walked through that process with me. I had old friends at Credera checking in on me and encouraging me. When the pandemic hit, I know it was unbelievably challenging for so many people in so many ways, but ironically, it dramatically improved my quality of life. Now everyone, even clients, are on video calls, so I get to see people.
My last two project teams have used some online conferencing software to mimic a team room virtually. It is fun to get to hang with people all day, even if it is virtual.
I've learned to adjust to remote work. I’ve executed a few successful projects, developed many good, entirely remote relationships, and even just recently got a promotion to principal architect! I've also learned a lot of good habits for remote work, including getting more sleep, which helps quite a bit. I've learned how much I appreciate face-to-face. I've learned not to take what I have for granted, and I look forward to getting back into a regular cadence of visiting my home office in Dallas once the pandemic resides.
In Summary of 10 Years at Credera
My story at Credera is one that I am very fond of. It's been fun to look back and write this. I'm grateful for the people I've worked with, the relationships I've built, the opportunities to grow, the experience I've gained, and the memories I've made. But even more than that, I realize there's a theme through this, which is that Credera has been a place where I can be who I want to be and live the life I want to live. That reads a little dramatic, I guess, but it's true.
Working at Credera
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