I am writing this post on 12/17/2019, but I have dated it 2/16/2007 which is the day before my first post and the launch of this blog.
I have not written a lot of content on the site since it launched in 2007. As I get older and my memory starts to fade (ok my memory is terrible!) I wanted to start documenting and publishing some of the key events and milestones in my life. One of the reasons I got into Photography was so I could capture these moments. I love going back and looking through my SmugMug Albums and reliving so many of these great memories. Over time, I will hopefully build on more of these posts to fill out the archives.
In October of 2005 I moved to Atlanta to work for The Home Depot. When I first arrived in Atlanta, I rented a room in a townhouse across the street from Home Depot in Smyrna. After a few months living there, I moved to another townhouse that was on the Silver Comet Trail. After Crystal decided she was going to move to Atlanta, we started looking at houses.
I knew that with Atlanta traffic I wanted to be somewhere close to the office. We narrowed our search to the cities of Smyrna, Vinings, and Mableton in Cobb County. After looking at a lot of different houses, but focused on two new developments in Mableton named Legacy and Providence built by John Wieland. We looked at a few homes in Legacy and really liked the “Hamilton” floor plan but they did not have any available with a basement. After looking at Legacy, we went next door to Providence and found a Hamilton floor plan with a basement. We decided that Lot 107A was the one and we put our deposit down! On June 7th 2006 we closed on 6101 Queens River Drive Mableton Georgia
We lived at 6101 Queens River Dr for 13 years and had so many milestones in this house. We got married here, both of our children were born here, and countless other memories and events like 1st birthday parties and holidays!
Not only did our kids grow up in this house but so did all the trees and bushes. Here is how the house looked when we sold it in 2019!
On October 17th, 2005 I joined The Home Depot as the User Experience manager for Homedepot.com. It was a big change as the first five years of my career had been spent on the IT side but now I was making the transition to the “business” side. I worked for Greg Foglesong who was the Director of Homedepot.com at the time. Greg was a great mentor and friend during my time at Home Depot and six years later he would hire me again at Carters.
As the user experience manager for homedepot.com, I was responsible for everything from home page to checkout. There was a digital marketing team that focused on driving traffic, but as soon as users hit the site it was my job to ensure a great shopping and eCommerce experience. After checkout, our supply chain and customer service teams would take over to complete the full customer life cycle. Since I sat in the middle of both teams, I got a lot of exposure to all aspects of the eCommerce business at homedepot.com.
In addition to the marketing team, I also worked very closely with the technology organization to implement new features and functionality. A key reason that Greg hired me was to help hold the technology team accountable to the business as I had the development background and technical skills to “speak their language”.
The New Homedepot.com
When I started at the end of 2005 Homedepot.com was running a very old version of the Broadvision platform. It was well past its end of life and with the explosive growth of sales on the site we desperately needed a modern eCommerce platform. The site barely made it through the 2005 and 2006 holiday seasons! Prior to me starting, Home Depot had selected IBM’s Websphere as the next generation platform we would migrate to. For the next 18 months, I would live and breathe all things Websphere as my primary focus was the relaunch of Homedepot.com on the new platform. It was a massive project to replace the entire technology stack of the site and there were no shortage of challenges along the way. In June of 2007, we launched the new site and it was a proud moment to see it go live!
After we launched the new site, I started to think about the next steps of my career. The Home Depot is a really big organization and some of the bureaucracy started to weigh on me. I also wanted to get more exposure to the marketing and supply chain sides of eCommerce. In January of 2008, I resigned from The Home Depot and joined Astral Brands as the Director of eCommerce.
In June of 2004, I was promoted to eCommerce Development Manager at Gardener’s Supply. As part of this promotion, I took on management responsibilities for the eCommerce development team. In addition, I also stepped into a more strategic role of defining the road map for the future of eCommerce technology at Gardner’s Supply.
Gardeners.com had been running on the same homegrown platform for a long time. It was really starting to show its age, and we knew that we needed to consider alternatives and migrate to a new platform. In 2004, we started considering the different options and started holding meetings with potential vendors. During this review process, I also received a cold call from Mary Ann Charlton “Mac” at Demandware. At the time, Demandware was a very small company with only a handful of clients. I was impressed with the initial conversation we had and so we added them to the RFP.
After a long and exhaustive evaluation process, we ended up selecting Demandware to be the new eCommerce platform for the Garders.com site. It was a leap of faith for us at the time but we believed in the technology and team behind it. Gardner’s Supply was the first big client win for Demandware and over the next 10 years they went on to become one of the most dominant eCommerce platforms in the industry. In February of 2004 Salesforce acquired Demandware for $2.8B and it is now part of the “Commerce Cloud” offering. Gardeners.com is still running Demandware/Salesforce 15 years later!
We spent most of 2005 working on the build out and implementation of the new site with Demandware. It was a great project but unfortunately I would not get to see the new site launch as an event that summer would have a significant impact on my career path.
While I was working full time at Gardeners.com, I was also a competitive cyclist who had aspirations of becoming a professional cyclist. In July of 2005, I had a cycling accident where I broke my arm, that ended my racing season. It was after that accident that I started to reevaluate my career path, and made two difficult decisions. The first, was that I abandoned the idea of becoming a professional cyclist! Second, I decided that for my career to continue to progress at the trajectory that I wanted I would have to leave Vermont.
In September of 2005 I made the extremely difficult decision to leave Gardner’s Supply and Vermont to join The Home Depot as the User Experience Manager for homedepot.com in Atlanta. Georgia. As I write this 15 years later, this decision still ranks as the most difficult decision I have had to make in my career!
Summit Elevation: 6288 ft.
Base Elevation: 1565 ft
Elevation Gain: 4727 ft.
Length: 7.6 miles
Grade: avg.12%; extended 18%; final 100 yds. 22%
Road surface: 65% paved, 35% packed gravel
After realizing last year that I was a strong hill climber, I set this race as a big goal for the season. I trained hard all winter, did lots of hill repeats at Bolton Valley and App Gap, and built up a super lightweight 13 lb. “climbing” bike. A special thanks to Ian and Paul from Fitwerx for setting me up on the ultimate Mt. Washington bike.
In preparation for the big race I did the practice ride four weeks ago. It was a perfect day: sunny and winds out of the west at about 5mph. Weather conditions on Mt. Washington don’t get any better than that! In my first run up the mountain, I clocked a time of 59 minutes, and this included a 1 minute stop at mile 6.5 to fix a slipped rear skewer! I was pleased with the effort and knew I was ready. I used my 30×25 for almost the entire ride. This gearing worked pretty well, but since I am a spinner, I could have used a little more on the steeper sections. For the race I decided to throw a 27 on.
We got to the base of the mountain around 5:45am. We were going to give my friend Kevin a ride down so we used his car as base camp. I unloaded my stuff into Kevin’s car and we sent Crystal up the mountain early to get a parking spot at the top. I had gone through meticulous preparation in making sure I had everything I needed, but I made a critical mistake and sent my spare bike and wheels up with Crystal not thinking I would need them. I went through my standard 45 minute warm-up and then pulled up to the start.
This is where things start to get interesting. As I put my foot down, I get this weird sensation that my rear tire feels a little soft. My heart sinks. I reach down and squeeze the rear tire….definitely too soft! I quickly run over to one of the cars and grab a pump from someone. I pump the tubular back up to 130 and run the tire over my fingers…there is a piece of metal lodged in the tire that is causing the tire to leak. There was no way this wheel would make it an hour to the top. As a year’s worth of preparation flashes before my eyes, I go to plan B: I need a new wheel and fast… the race starts in 3 minutes! I see Phil Wong’s teammate Greg and he says Phil has a spare wheel in the car. I throw the wheel on quickly glancing at the cassette hoping that it might be a 25…no such luck- it is a 23 and there is no time to switch to my 27! This race just got a whole lot harder!
I get back over to the start line and take a few deep breaths to try and calm myself down. “BANG” The gun goes off. Tom Danielson, Phil Wong, Drew Miller, and Genevieve Jeanson take off. I let them go as my plan was to go a little more conservative in the first half as I overcooked the first 3 miles of the practice ride. After the first mile Scott Fiore comes by me and I get on his wheel. We pull back Miller by mile 1.5 but the other 3 are quickly pulling away from us. I was glad to have a wheel to stick on as the first 2 miles were pretty rough; at times I was struggling to stay on Scott’s wheel. By mile 3 I start to feel a little better and I pull by Scott to take over the pace work. He sticks on my wheel for the next mile but by mile 4 I have started to put a gap on him. Mile 4 is also our first western exposure as we come through the tree line the wind starts to pick up! As if this climb is not hard enough, now we have to deal with the wind! The next 400yards are tough with a full western exposure on our faces. I estimate the winds are blowing 15 to 20 at this point. I continue on and for the next mile the winds are not an issue as we are protected by the face of the mountain.
As I come through mile 5.5 I am greeted by a blast of wind, fog, and rain. Conditions just went from bad to UGLY! The winds are now blowing 30-40 mph but they are now more of a side/head wind! Visibility is about 30 feet, and taking your hands off the handlebars to grab some water was not an option! With the wind and my 23 I am really starting to bog down. I am having trouble getting my heart rate up and I begin to think this climb is never going to end. I hit mile 7 and the weather has continued to get worse. Winds are blowing 50mph and I can barely see anything in front of me now. Keeping the bike tracking straight is really an issue. I hit the 22% grade at the finish and my legs are about to explode. I can feel my rear tire slipping on the super slick pavement, but I make it to the top and finish. What an incredible ride!
Conditions at the top are CRAZY. Within a minute of stopping I am freezing cold. It had to be 45 degrees up there! Crystal runs over and gives me some warm dry clothes to put on. I finished in a time of 1:01:40 and was 4th place overall. I was the 3rd Male so I made the podium presentation at the bottom!
In June of 2003 I joined Gardener’s Supply as an eCommerce Web Developer. Gardener’s Supply was established in 1983 by Will Rapp in Burlington Vermont. It was a classic catalog company, that was transforming its business model to adapt to the growth of eCommerce. While the majority of revenue came from the catalog, the eCommerce portion was the fastest growing part of the company and everybody could see it was the future of the business.
The eCommerce development team was part of the IT organization at Gardener’s Supply, which was pretty typical back in 2003. It was a small team of about eight of us and I reported to Chris Thompson the CTO. There was only one other eCommerce developer so it was a really small development team! I worked closely with my IT colleagues on all the back end plumbing but I also spent a lot of time with the eCommerce marketing team that was led by Max Harris. Max was a great mentor to me and had a pivotal influence on my career. I credit most of my early eCommerce marketing knowledge to Max!
Gardener’s Supply was a Microsoft shop like Burton so all my development work was in Classic ASP and Visual Basic. Since we were a small team, I got involved in all aspects of the eCommerce business. This was an incredible opportunity at such an early point in my career. I was only 25 years old and I was owning large portions of development for a $50m+ business! Coming from Burton, which was very “front end” heavy, I leaned more in that direction while the other developer focused more on the “back end” order processing side of the business. I worked closely with Roland Ludlam the lead designer and together we worked on almost every major site initiative in 2003 and 2004 for gardeners.com. We were a great team and built things like “Plant Finder” and “Cushion Finder” that allowed customers to easily shop the site.
Beautiful townhouse in the sought after Dorset Farms subdivision in South Burlington. Get the feel of country living in a quiet community that is only 5 minutes from Burlington!
On April 26th, 2002 Crystal and I purchased our first home! A three bedroom townhouse at 67 Floral St in South Burlington, Vermont. I had moved to Burlington to work for Burton Snowboards and had previously been living in an apartment at the Woolen Mill. Crystal decided to leave Massachusetts and move to Vermont so we could be together.
As our first home this one will always be special. We got engaged while living here and always look back on 67 Floral with fond memories of our time in Vermont.
After working at CSC, I joined Burton Snowboards as a Web Developer on February 26, 2001.
Working at Burton was truly a dream come true. I started snowboarding in 5th grade and got my first Burton Snowboard in 7th grade. If you had asked me in high school, name the one company you want to work for some day it would have been Burton Snowboards. I joined Burton in the winter of 2001, along with Brad Alan a college friend from BC who had graduated a year earlier than me. We were both in technology consulting and avid snowboarders so it was a great opportunity for both of us.
Before 2001, Burton had outsourced development of burton.com to an outside agency. I was part of the team that was hired to bring this work in house for the launch of the 2002 season on burton.com. We were a small group of developers and designers that rebuilt burton.com from the ground up each season to launch in August. We were a Microsoft shop, so all web development work was done in ASP/SQL/HTML. I learned a lot in this role, and got to build some cool applications including the very first “board finder” launched on burton.com.
In the early days of Burton.com, the site served as a customer facing catalog to support the dealer network. Burton did not want to allow online ordering for consumers but there was an interest in developing a B2B site. In 2002, Rich Sturim and I worked on building the first dealer.burton.com eCommerce site.
Working at Burton was an incredible experience. I loved the company and culture and learned a lot from the more senior developers on the team. We worked some long hours but we also had a lot of fun. If it snowed more than a foot, Jake expected the whole company to be at the mountain riding! During the winter we would hit the slopes in the morning, get a few runs in, and then head into work.
I started as an Associate Consultant at Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) on October 2nd, 2000. There were a number of summer jobs before this but this was my first job after graduating and what I consider the start of my career. Before I get into what I did at CSC a little history on how I ended up here.
I went to Boston College and majored in Economics with a minor in Information Systems. In addition to my classes, I also did a lot of computer work outside of school. I built computers in my dorm room, developed a small business website, launched superwebmen.com with my roomates, and was a computer consultant to a BC alum in the hedge fund business.
I started my job search in the fall of my senior year at BC. The dot com frenzy was in full force and it was an amazing time to be graduating with technology skills. CSC was recruiting on campus and I met with some of the team including Pam Wall a BC alum and the lead recruiter. I liked Pam and the team and was impressed with the training program they offered. In February of 2000 I accepted the offer from CSC.
As part of my acceptance, CSC gave me the option of starting any time between June and October. I jumped at the opportunity to delay my start date so I could enjoy the summer after graduation!
When I signed the offer in February and started in October the entire world had changed as the dot com bubble burst in May of 2000 and as a result my time at CSC was going to be short lived.
One of the primary reasons I joined CSC was they offered an intensive 8 week Associate Training Program (ATP) in eBusiness Technologies. The thinking here was to take a bunch of recent college grads from a diverse set of majors and train them to be technology consultants and programmers. A week after I started at CSC I headed to Downers Grove, IL to meet up with my fellow ATP classmates
During the ATP we worked on projects and implemented systems using object oriented design, Java, Servlets, JSP, XML, HTML, and SQL. While the training program was very intense overall it was a great experience! I learned some great technologies that helped lay the foundation for my career! Unfortunately while I was on the training program CSC announced major layoffs as the entire technology industry suffered a major contraction in 2000.
Luckily I was not part of that first round but as an associate sitting on the bench with no inbound projects I could see the writing on the wall. I updated my resume and started a job search in early 2001 to find my next opportunity.