Jim Preston's Domain

Careers – 11!

Photo: Building out a mall quality cosmetics store in Vladivostok, Russia – 1996 to 1997.

Most people do only 1 or 2 careers

A few years ago I listed some 50 disciplines that I had produced useful work for my own entrepreneurial projects, employers, or clients. Most of those had the potential to be careers if I focused on them.

Recently, 2019, I got curious about how many actual careers I’ve been in. Unlike most people, when I feel I know a subject very well, sometimes to the point of being considered an expert, I move on to new experiences. If my world view was that money = a great life then my restlessness is stupid. However, I decided in high school that experiences = a great life, and if wealth happened to come along then fine, but I would rather spend it on new experiences than investments.

So here are my significant careers:

  1. Warehousing – 1969 – 1972, again in 1974. I was asked by my supervisor to stay and move up the ladder. I lasted 4 years but got bored. With this job I was able to take time off to be a ski bum for three winters. It was great but I got bored and moved on. This was my first job after high school.
  2. Power lineman – 1972 to 1974. Great job and great people to work with but I was never able to develop the strength needed. Quit after 2 years to attend college. During this work I was doing correspondence law school and used that knowledge later in my careers.
  3. Landscaping contractor – 1974 to 1976. I was doing landscaping as a business starting in junior high school but ramped it up during college. Many times I wished I stayed with it. It was fun being creative around high end residences. During this time I was also repairing septic tanks, which led to the next job.
  4. Underground pipeline contractor – 1976 to 1979. I worked for my father as we scaled up a tiny company that he started a few years before. I was supposed to get a major ownership stake. I was grandfathered into his contractors license or had my own, don’t remember how that worked. Putting pipe in the ground and working in sewers wasn’t my thing. Mostly the same thing every day. I needed a more diverse intellectual experience. I was attending San Jose State University at this time.
  5. Certified Public Accountant – 1979 to 1995. After college I started with Peat, Marwick, Mitchell, now KPMG, and qualified for my CPA license a couple of years later. That exam was tough! After stints in the audit and tax departments I became very interested in desktop computing, which was just becoming feasible. I prototyped one at work and while they liked it they wanted me to focus on tax work. KPMG didn’t want to start using micro-computers, what PC’s were called then, and I did. So I bought a primitive computer and printer and started my own firm in 1982. That was when IBM launched their PC, which was crap, and CP/M was the most popular operating system.

    About 50% of my time was working with early software developers to create some of the first desktop computer business software for a variety of industries. My business clients were the lab rats, something that software developers didn’t have at the time. I sold the practice in 1994 when Deloitte offered me a job opening an office for them in Russia. That lasted a year because there was almost no work in the region. They never did anything to explore business potential before hiring me to open the office! Idiots, and then it got worse.
  6. Expert witness / litigation support – 1987 to 1994. While I was a CPA (financial statements and taxes) I got into this field and it became a large part of my revenue. I was working to expand it to full time when I changed gears and accepted an offer by Deloitte. My last engagement was for the plaintiffs on the Exxon Valdez oil spill. I was getting bored with CPA work.
  7. Business valuation – 1987 to 1994. I did this alongside my work as a CPA and was trying to build it into a full time business. It was doing well and a large part of my revenue. I dropped this to move to Russia.
  8. Remodeling contractor – 1995 to 1997. After my Deloitte office in Russia was shut down due to lack of business in the region my new wife and I started a remodeling company. We bought product in the U.S. and shipped many hundreds of different products to Russia by air and by container. Purchasing and logistics knowledge were critical, along with dealing with a foreign customs and construction environment. We started off doing well in this business but in about a year and a half the Russian government decided they didn’t want foreign imports and started blocking them. We didn’t want to use crappy Russian shit so we shut it down.
  9. Hardware retail – 1995 to 1997. My wife and I started developing a real hardware store as nothing like that existed outside of Moscow. Consumers and businesses purchased hardware store products at open air flea markets. Some “stores” were in containers. We sold some product but weren’t able to get more due the government blocking imports. I couldn’t stomach selling Russian crap so we gave up and moved back to the States. I knew retail sales and purchasing from part time work in sporting goods during college. That could also be considered a career but I never considered it would be my future.
  10. Web entrepreneur – 1989 to 2012. After returning from Russia I did a year or so of CPA work but was bored shitless by regular businesses. I began researching business uses for the Web, moved back home to the San Jose area, and started working on projects. I bought code for some of them and hired freelancers to make modifications. I wasn’t coding but built up some familiarity. I could read a little code from my college programming class – Fortran on punch cards. Yeah, a real stretch. I did this work for a dozen years but nothing worked out for a variety of the usual reasons, from being years ahead of the technology I needed, or years ahead of the market, or Google killing one that was doing well and the Great Recession killing another. I decided I needed a change of direction. I don’t mind some failures, especially in innovation entrepreneurship, but this was getting old.
  11. Full stack Web application software engineer / entrepreneur – 2013 to present. After Google killed a pet project in 2012, as they have done to thousands of business around the world, I spent a few years self-studying computer science, user experience design, and a couple of programming languages and frameworks. I can now architect and develop software for browsers and servers, full stack, and with databases. I’m not good at security, yet, and far from expert level at anything in this profession. On Stack Overflow, a huge question and answer site for programmers, my colleagues up-voted my questions and answers so that I’m in the top 15% of 10 million coders. Sometimes I supply the question and the answer if I found that a topic isn’t covered well elsewhere online.
  12. What’s next? I hope nothing else!!! My wife will kill me if age doesn’t.
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