When I started working at the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) nearly 18 years ago, I was relieved any company would hire a college dropout with an admittedly sketchy backstory. So, their offer of the position of Customer Relations Assistant (answer phone calls and ship customer orders) was just fine with me, little did I know what a great opportunity it would be.
The NRCA years
I am grateful to NRCA for the many opportunities I was given over my employment including: promotions, increased responsibility, education assistance and flexibility. In my 18 years, I moved through the ranks and held a long list of titles:
- Customer relations assistant
- Risk management coordinator
- Customer relations assistant manager
- Customer relations manager
- Web site manager
- Director of Internet Development
- Associate Executive Director of Information Technology / Chief Information Officer
Not only did I move through the ranks, I moved through the office too. I moved desks or offices 10 times finally ending up in (seemingly) the coldest but cleanest office in the building. But not only did NRCA provide me with opportunities to grow within the company, it also provided me with the thing I am most grateful for, my education.
I decided eleven years ago that I needed to do something about that college dropout moniker I was carrying around. I went back to school, full time, and NRCA allowed me to have a flexible work schedule and also helped with my tuition bills. I graduated from DePaul with a B.S. in computer science in 2005 and then graduated from Northwestern with a M.S. in computer information systems in 2007. Now when I yell at my kids about going to college they won't be able to respond, "you didn't even finish"...Instead, I can say, "I went to school full time, worked full time and had a family. It was hard so, you should go while you don't have those demands"...Boom!
Being a freelancer
Some time around 2002 I started doing freelance work here and there for various clients. Mostly small projects in the beginning but the requests began to grow in both size and volume. For the last few years it seems like I have done nothing but work. Every day, every night, every weekend and every "day off" have been spent working and I finally reached the tipping point. I decided about a year ago I needed to come up with a better way to manage my work/life balance.
The real problem I was having was there were only so many hours I could work. I needed help but I was too afraid to hire someone for fear of having to let them go if the work dried up. I was also reluctant to leave NRCA because of loyalty and, not to mention, the benefits; with three kids, health insurance is fairly important. Thankfully, my wife decided to go back to work full time, and in March she took a job that came with benefits, namely health insurance. That whole change has been interesting, but overall better for everyone, I think.
Starting my own company
I created a corporation two years ago in anticipation that this day would eventually be a reality. The company, Stack Solutions (www.stack-solutions.com), provides IT consulting services including custom software, website and mobile development. In addition, Stack manages IT infrastructure for small to medium businesses.
June 1, 2013 Stack Solutions will go from my side project to my full-time endeavor. Initially there will be a total of three employees with plans to add a project manager within the first month.
I'm excited, nervous and optimistic. Thanks to all of Stack's clients, the future of the company looks promising but I couldn't have done any of it without (Stack's newest client) NRCA.