Did I just move to Seattle?

Columbia Tower Seattle

Columbia Tower Seattle

I have been living in Idaho for about the past 12 years after living in Seattle while in my 20′s and early 30′s. I have always had a love for the city, its business environment, the culture and yes even the rain which we don’t see much in Idaho.

During my early 20′s I was working in a mall in Boise, Idaho for a retail chain that isn’t around anymore due to Walmart, Redbox and Netflix. We sold VHS videos, laserdisc, movie memorabilia and DVD’s weren’t even around. I was offered an opportunity to move to the Seattle area in the fall of 1991 and manage a store in Tacoma. After a year I was managing a new store in Westlake Center which was in the heart of the retail core of Seattle. After 7 years I left retail management and started to work for a company selling software updates. Just a few months into the job I started designing web pages as a hobby and did a few mock-up designs of what I thought the company’s website for our product should look like. Most websites at the time lacked any type of design and were pretty basic compared to todays sites. Soon I was promoted to work out of the Bellevue office with the web team in Cupertino, CA. I found it hard to focus considering I had no one overseeing me and a lack of communication from the team in California. But that changed after half of the company was laid off due to competition from Microsoft. I was unemployed for the first time in my life but saw it as an opportunity for change.

Western Wireless

Western Wireless

It didn’t take long to find a new job and I was soon working for wireless communications company doing customer care for their new company VoiceStream Wireless. During training I created a mockup of the online tool the customer care reps were using to find information to assist customers. I asked my trainer if she had seen the new company intranet and showed her what I had created. She actually thought it was a real website but I had explained I did it myself the night before. She ended up showing it to the intranet team and after being a call center agent for a few months I was promoted to assist the team. I liked my job but I didn’t think that I was being compensated well enough for the work I was doing. After all the team was designing a new look for the intranet because of the design I showed my trainer several months prior. The intranet site probably would have had the same boring look at feel of most website at the time.

This all was happening around the time I was meeting others in the tech industry who worked for Microsoft. I soon found out they were being compensated way more for the same kind of work I was doing. One of my friends who I am still in contact with told me about a wireless phone company she was working for. She was a salesperson who was activating phones for this retailer but found it hard to find information or keep track of her sales to get paid correct commissions. I was soon introduced to one of the owners of the company and told him what I could do to help keep track of activations and provide reps with the information they needed. I named my salary and left the other company to build an internet and intranet site for this company. While there learned a lot about business, the behavior of others in the business world and built a great site along with a few others I brought into the project. But after a year I was again out of a job and headed back to the unemployment office.

The tech industry was again on the upswing in the Seattle area and after a 2-week search on Monster.com I landed a job that paid $55,000 a year and I didn’t have a college degree. Here I was a self-taught web developer for a company that processed film, sent the prints in the mail and then uploaded customer photos to a website. I felt a little strange at first because I never had made that much money in my life and I wasn’t working my ass off like I had at past jobs. I still had a lot to learn but not that many schools were teaching web development at that time. It was fall of 2000 and right after the presidential election and the dot-com crash was just starting to happen. I came back from Thanksgiving in Idaho and was asked to speak with someone in HR. The news wasn’t good and I was let go that day along with 50 other company employees who were given boxes and had an hour to pack up, turn in their security badges and leave the building. Now I had already been through this a few times before with a few other high-tech company in the Seattle area. But this time it was different because soon lots of companies in Seattle were doing the same thing. Some weren’t even giving their employees a warning and they would arrive at work to find their security badges didn’t work. Probably why I was always nervous when my badge didn’t work but only because of my own doing. I came back home to live with my folks after losing a job that paid well considering I didn’t have a college degree. I was on unemployment for about a year and couldn’t find work because hundreds of others in the same industry were doing the same. That’s when I decided to pack up and move back to Idaho where I grew up and have spent most of my life and live with my folks.

Read Part 2

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  • http://jtree.net/ Josh

    Great to hear your story! Looking forward to part 2!

  • http://www.dennisjsmith.com/ Dennis J. Smith

    Thanks Josh. I’ll probably post it later this week.

  • Joanna Tucker

    Enjoyed reading your blog.

  • http://www.dennisjsmith.com/ Dennis J. Smith

    Thank you Joanna.

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