Life: Two Weeks in Charlotte, NC

Two weeks today (11-5), we arrived in Charlotte. It was a Beverly Hillbillies looking caravan. After we accidentally rented a moving truck that was too small because “two bedrooms” didn’t account for the 28 or so boxes of motorcycles tools, gear, supplies, parts nor did it account for the 1000 bottles of beer, we had to add a tow-behind trailer from UHAUL for $200 more than just renting a larger truck to begin with and the impact it would have on the fuel economy. Oh and don’t forget about the Husky 701 in the truck. If you step back and think about it, we should have just gotten the largest truck for $3000 instead of $2500 and had space left over versus leaving so much behind in a locked room in our house that is now being rented. But that’s only one motorcycle, the rest were in the back of my RAM truck (R1200GS + F750GS) and behind the RAM on a Kendon Standup Trailer was the R18 which is just barely under the maximum weight of the trailer and the whole thing was a bit over the maximum payload for the truck but, 15 hours later, we arrived in Charlotte North Carolina only spending about $350 in diesel / gas and our bellies full of greasy fast food and truck stop coffee. The entire event went well. No issues at all.

With the trucks unloaded and returned to UHAUL, priority went to getting beds setup in our new 4 bedroom ranch house that’s about 2000 square feet versus my old 2 bedroom 750 square foot lake house. We had 2 solid days of unpacking things that were the highest priority before I went to get my 4th booster shot (a requirement at my new job or so I thought until they said only one booster was required despite their language saying “all available vaccines and boosters”). That same day, Heather started getting sick and while it wasn’t COVID, it was the flu and she was in bed for 3 days recovering. The house setup basically went on hold while we both lay in bed with fevers and chills. Porter is super anxious even in his old home so it’s been quite an adjustment for him. Two weeks in and he’s still following me around the house, won’t lay down on the couch and won’t sit still. He paces around the house at all hours and his ears are constantly forward with every creak or crack or car going by. It’s been really tough for him. He’s basically on edge 24/7 and unable to sit still.

5 days in our new home and I leave on my bike to head to the MOA Strategic planning Session and board meeting in Greenville, SC which is a 90 minute ride. I had a flight booked from BOS to GSP for this meeting which I was able to cancel. This should save the members of our organization a bit of money to have another board member who is close to HQ and can just ride to events. I prefer flying but this is much cheaper for members. I spent 4 days while Heather continued to setup our house and get things livable.

Back home, we finally had our first day out since moving a week prior. A day of clothes shopping and getting me a haircut before I started my job on the 15th. We finally left Matthews, NC and went into Charlotte for the first time and bought new clothes for the first time in 4 years. I haven’t lived this close to an Apple Store since I left SF in 2010, nor have I had access to many of these stores without a 2 hour drive. It’s odd to think that writing this here in a fancy cafe, I’m like 10 miles away from anything I could possibly need. This has been an expensive move but much less expansive than had we ended up in Northern California (Palo Alto area). The move, the shopping, setup and all of the extra costs we’ve had have been about 30-50% cheaper by making Charlotte our home versus the Bay Area.

Finally, after a lot of time driving south, unpacking, getting clothes, going to a BMW event and finally having dinner out with Heather at a fancy restaurant, my first day at Credit Karma has arrived. Well, it arrived a few days ago and I have already finished my first week and about to start my second. If I can share what I feel comfortable sharing it’s that the job is going to be a lot of fun but more importantly the culture and teams at this new company really embrace creativity and change. You can propose something and prove the business case and get something off the ground without being told no. Everyone is free to manage their own projects and try new things. This is great. The team is also brand new so I have a lot of work ahead defining how we do things and trying to keep it all running smoothly while not adding any inefficiencies in the name of “process”. The office is great, the company was voted #2 place to work in Charlotte this year. Everyone is welcoming and friendly and it’s a super easy commute even with traffic just 15 minutes each way which is 3X as long as my old commute before I went fully remote during the pandemic but it’s totally doable especially when I get to arrive at the office and am greeted to a barista ready to make me a hot coffee and some oatmeal and other snacks to start my day.

First work week in the bag, yesterday I went to a Meetup group for dog parks and met some new people. Porter did as well. Then I did my 5th cardboard recycling run (still about 10 boxes left to break down) and finally went out to hit some local breweries on the BMW R18 just grabbing bottles and cans to bring home so I can see what Charlotte has to offer. I dropped off the Husky 701 at 10 Cycles for some warranty work and new tires (part of Husqvarna’s TKC80 recall) and then I took my rear R1200GS wheel over to Charlotte Motorcycles (my local BMW dealer) to have them replace the TPMS sensor on that bike.

Today’s Sunday, Heather is in New Hampshire for 2 weeks spending time with family so I’m at a hipster coffee shop drinking a tiny pour over coffee and eating a tiny breakfast sandwich that, in total, cost $16. More expensive than New Hampshire but a much higher quality. After a long walk with Porter, it’s off to get the rest of my camping gear unpacked on new shelves that arrived then get ready for my 2nd week at work to begin.

While this blog post may not be a clean and easy read, it’s for me to look back on in a few years like a time capsule of what my first 2 weeks in North Carolina was like. I hope to keep this writing style going for a bit. 

Life: Twelve Years in New Hampshire

Nearly 15 years ago, I composed a series of blog posts here about my first year in San Francisco. It was aimed at folks who were considering relocating to the Bay Area. Not everything holds up but it was my view and opinions from an introverted and occasionally anxious person who moved from a farm in Florida to San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. It was a fun series to author but when I arrived at a one-year anniversary in New Hampshire, the feeling wasn’t there primarily because the market for a blog post about someone moving from San Francisco to Northern New Hampshire to a cabin in the woods wasn’t something people on Google were searching for. COVID-19’s mass-exodus from cities not-withstanding, most people thought I was insane to give up cell phone service, Uber, food deliveries and 24 hour coffee shops for a cabin in the middle of nowhere with DSL and a 5 acre patch of land for a garden, livestock and well water. Yes the pandemic would have made a piece like that more appealing but here we are, 12 years later and I’ve never written about what that decade plus was like in just one post.

Spending 19 years of my life between a farm in Alabama and a farm in Florida shaped me into someone who isn’t comfortable in the most populous of cities. I’d say any population density that’s on par with SF or NYC is going to be a temporary fit. It makes since that my life in San Francisco for a few years was a challenge. I wanted peace, quiet, stars and time to contemplate life and was never more than 10 feet from another person. My last day in Florida was spent sitting on a beach alone and writing for 2 hours without a single person walking by me and this is the one major reason I stayed in New Hampshire for as long as I did and why I will likely end up there for my forever home. Ten years of time to develop myself into an adult, a working professional and someone who was well-adjusted with both personal and professional passions was exactly what I needed. It is clear on the outset that I will not likely make any new life long friends. I know there are people in the state of NH who will miss me but the odds of me talking to them again is slim. I am a ‘friends by proximity’ kind of person and don’t maintain those connections. I warned my team on my last day at TomTom that I do want to keep in touch with them but they need to email or call me. I won’t do that for them and despite how I’ll drop everything to talk to them when they call, I won’t make that contact. It’s just not in my nature to bug people, even those that care about me.

New Hampshire is this unexpected home I found. It is a New England state, it is moderate political and it is really two states. There’s NH as a suburb of Massachusetts and there’s NH as an extension of Vermont and Maine. Once you’re 50 miles north of the border, you’re in Vermont on the west side and Maine on the east side. Once you’re 50 miles from Canada, you start seeing maple-leaf flags and more-often hear people speaking French. Vermont has a very strong brand and, thanks to Champlain, it separates itself well from upstate New York and the Adirondacks but on the eastern side, you can cross Maine on a back road and not realize you’re in Maine for over an hour. The geography of where I was living was weird. I joked with friends that I did most of my shopping in Vermont. It was 11 minutes to the border and a slight mental shift to buying locally crafted food and household goods then crossing the Connecticut river back to NH on my way home and hitting a big-box store for a high-dollar, albeit tax free item like a computer or car.

A poor assumption of NH’s Upper Valley which has the largest employers as Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Hospital respectively (separate entities despite the name) was that I would find some friendships in the transient yet educated people who came to this region for high paying jobs. I did initially meet some of them via my Meetup group for Craft Beer but I found that even though our conversations were intellectually charged by current events and philosophy, I never made friends beyond this group and when I shuttered it due to being too busy, I lost complete connection with all of those people. Being a Florida Farmer, I bonded with the blue-collar folks more. I have a deeper respect for those who ‘actually work’ as in build and fix things with their hands. the ditch diggers are the folks I get along the most because I respect them more than my office-mates. Call it a projection of my imposter syndrome if you must but I ended up spending time with friends of my wife (locals / townies) and with people in my neighborhood who were a janitor, highway repair man, snow plow operator, real estate agent, teacher and gas station employee. I know you’re supposed to spend your time with people who inspire you and are smarter than you. I realize its importance but I worked hard all day with smart people and it was great to unwind with cheap beer and talk about simpler things.

New Hampshire is a low income state. I believe my town’s average household income was around $55,000 USD. Despite this, the area’s home and overall living expenses always exceeded that income which leads to a very upper middle class and a very large group in the low income bracket who have to rely on heating oil, food and tax subsidies to get by. Trickle down has failed New Hampshire. Despite this, there is $$$ in New Hampshire. There are old families who owned hundreds of acres of land, parceled out and slowly sold over the years to where one town is made up by 5 last names who each have millions in assets controlled by trusts with land in current use tax-exempt status so while cash-on-hand was low, there was a lot of asset leverage that original settlers of the area could tap into and, because everyone in town drove a Subaru, you had no idea who was a millionaire and who wasn’t. It made it easier to just strike up a conversation with someone at the general store getting their morning coffee and breakfast sandwich.

New Hampshire, like Vermont, survives on tourist revenue. Businesses all over the state cater to the tourists that are here 3 seasons out of the year. Summer RVs and camping, boats, families and hikers all heading North on foot (AT) or by car are followed by leaf peepers here to see a bunch of dead trees in their journey to hibernation and finally the winter snow season with its sports and more tourist money that mostly gets concentrated into the ski resorts versus trickling down to the rest of us. The ski resorts have heavily consolidated in a small group of nationwide companies so that money flows primarily to investment firms like Blackrock than the small towns that need it. Every day of the year, license plates from VT, NY, MA, ME and CT traverse the state for some reason and the locals complain but nothing is done about it because they’re bringing money to the state.

When I moved to New Hampshire, I had a grand plan to become a Yelp Elite because I immediately noticed how many businesses weren’t on Yelp and those that were lacked photos, hours of operation and literally any reviews. I was active the first year but found that it was going to be impossible to keep up and document every business change. Since the local smartphone adoption was only around 25% when I moved here in 2010 (despite me having a smartphone since 2005), there wasn’t much need to have a perfect Yelp or FourSquare POI database because only tourists would benefit.

It’s not news to anyone here but my first hobby was exploring the state. I did a lot of hiking and taking long drives to various landmarks. I met a girl pretty quickly on a dating site and we went to Six Flags, farmers markets, local events and explored the area. That relationship faded as it felt generally one-sided to me. I then met Elizabeth who moved in with me, we got a dog and I think our timing didn’t line up in a few ways. She was from a city and I was from a farm. She wanted to gain professional experience and move on and I wanted to stay in the country because I had just left the city. In addition, we met when I became fully involved with craft beer and not in a small way. We’re talking a $25,000 a year hobby where I visited 15 countries and was rating 1250 beers every year…new beers with all of the weekend festivals and road trips to collect all of the special ones I couldn’t get and then spending money trading those to people for other special beers. This hobby consumed my 2012-2017 years when I wasn’t working and I think combining the beer thing with my inability to consider living anywhere but New Hampshire or get married settled that. She married and was with child in just 1 year after moving. Like I mentioned, timing is everything in relationships even if they’re your soulmate.

Like SF though, I did continue to be overemployed the entire time. TomTom occupied my 9-5, photography, beer rating, writing was my weekend work and I grew my TweetForMyBiz business and earned Verizon/NFL’s business in 2013 until 2017 which was very lucrative and I had to hire a few people to support the operation all while keeping my day job. I concluded that, got my real estate license and started property management eventually growing that hobby (under a broker) to about 350 units which was a roughly $125,000 a year gross side-job. There were obvious expenses that whittled that down to a net of around 30% of gross but I further grew as a project manager and added construction management to my skills and further solidified confidence that I probably could do consulting at some point. Heck, I love traveling and love new ever-changing challenges. You never know what the future may hold but property management skewed how I measure a home’s value. I go to someone’s house now and can estimate how old their roof is and if they need to consider a mold inspection. I know what roof pitches have the highest likelihood for ice-dams and when to redig a culvert or mitigate erosion issues and so many other things like troubleshooting pool systems and navigating million dollar insurance claims on behalf of clients. These are skills that won’t change with time unlike social media which for me is stuck in 2012 before short-form video was a thing. My last YouTube video was 41 minutes long and this blog post 3000 words so clearly I’m not keeping up with trends and don’t care to.

I moved to San Francisco with a credit score in the 500s. I was 24, had never had a credit card and did leverage what credit I did to start AdamsBlock and accrue some debt. it took time to get that debt paid off and then get a secured visa credit card and begin building. My grandmother co-signed on my 1st car lease in 2011 in NH and co-signed on my car purchase in 2013. I didn’t think at 24 that I’d ever have an 830 credit score and have a handful of credit cards at $0 balance but $150,000 in credit lines or qualify for 0% interest on anything but here I am. It took WORK. I had to be strategic, keep lines open a long time despite the interest rate to increase average age, request credit line increases with certain timings and obviously use credit without being owned by it so accepting that I was signing what I’d consider today to be a predatory loan knowing that when it was paid off, I’d unlock better terms. It took 9 years of credit building but it has unlocked a world of capital I never had at a younger age and despite that, I still had a property management company in Charlotte rate my rental application as ‘high risk’ and worthy of $5,000 in refundable fees to rent a unit because I was moving for a new job and relocating despite my high score. I guess your score just isn’t everything. Debt-to-Income (DTI) is also a factor and right now, it is slightly higher than it needs to be since Heather and I decided to consolidate all of the vehicles under my credit to earn 0% interest on every auto loan we have. This is a temporary move that will save us thousands in interest. This is going on too long but I did want to highlight how happy I am to have this outcome despite a lot of work.

On the topic of money and New Hampshire, I have to give Heather Credit. We were renting and I didn’t want to commit to a home purchase but she found our home for $94,500 USD. It was a 2-season camp on a lake with a tax of around $2,000 a year. It was unlivable and foreclosed on. The condition was just terrible. We talked them down to $89,000 since the propane furnace was not maintained and moved in 6 months later after spending $72,000 completely remodeling it from the ground up. The only thing left that’s original is the roof which had solar panels added. The most premium insulation and efficient furnace means we only use about 250 gallons of propane a year and the water from our well is heated on demand with solar powering about 75% of the electricity needs and earning us RECs that offset the power we do have to pay for. That house is now worth about $350,000 just 6 years later thanks to the COVID_19 city exodus but it’s being partially pushed down due to interest rates but that’s a short term issue. In our county, only 6 houses are for rent with 2 bedrooms….yes, the COUNTY. So a $3,000 a month rent is normal. It goes up from there. It feels like stealing to rent a house with a $750 mortgage for $3,000 but that is the current rate and we’ll pocket that money into future improvements to the home. We hope to remodel while we’re gone, adding 2 more bedrooms and a garage for my toys and return ‘home’ to a house that’s paid off in a decade or so.

Oh yeah, toys. I am still passionate about beer but my days now are primarily spent drinking down my liquid assets. I ‘invested’ in beer that could last decades and now that I’m more cash-poor due to an aggressive savings agenda, I get to enjoy the over 1000 bottles of European beers I acquired from 2011-2018. We drink one a week so we have many years of enjoyment left in those beers and it’s better for my health and those beers continue to age gracefully. A 2010 beer I opened last week was fully carbonated and amazing. Way better than I remember it fresh and a 2015 I had last night had a magical aroma and we drank our glasses over the course of an hour while talking about life. So what if that bottle I paid 15 Euro for is now selling for $1000 on auction sites. I’m not in the business to make money. I want to enjoy these beers and I do. I did talk to an auction house one year ago who confirmed they’d take all 1000 bottles for around 50-75K guaranteed or I could accept the lump sum after sale minus their fees and maybe get more. No thanks. It would take 6 years and today, much more effort, to acquire those same brews again I just want to enjoy them.

Back to toys, I’m so lucky in 2013 that my friend Justin recommended I purchase a Golf R. He recognized that I love small cars and needed something with all wheel drive so we went and looked at a Golf R. I bought it and then 3 years later, upgraded to a new one and spent 7 years with that car modifying it, racing it and driving across country. It was a true sleeper because no one knew it was 400 horsepower (390 torque) beast but it was and no wheel spin, it grabbed and took off like a rocket ship. Thanks Justin. My 1st Golf R was a $33K purchase and I does it for $27K. My second cost $38,500 and I sold it for $33K 7 years later. If you’re looking for a car that REALLY holds its value, splurge for a Golf R. Keep it stock and sell it in 5 years for just a few grand less than you paid. They are worth the money and hold it. Very few cars depreciate LESS than 20% in 5 years.

In 2016, I discovered motorcycling and this is all thanks to being in New Hampshire. So a many trails I walked were open to cars but you had to be in a 4×4 to go on them and so many dirt roads I would avoid due to my low and specially painted Golf. I got this wild hare for drive across country for my 30th birthday so I started 1 year in advance looking at motorcycles for that trip. I arrived at the BMW GS as the best of the best and I blogged about it here. Someone who reads this blog emailed me and offered to sell me his for about $6,000 under what it was worth since the bike was going to a good home. He drove the motorcycle up to me, took a check and I started riding it off-road and dropping it a LOT. 2 years later, I replaced it with a newer GS and when I crashed that, i just bought another one thanks to a very generous insurance payout. since then, Heather has started riding (F750GS) and I have picked up a BMW K75 RT (now sold), a Beta 500 RS (sold), Husky 701 (my dirt bike), and a BMW R18 (highway cruiser which is the most beautiful bike in the world). I would like more bikes but I think 4 is a good number for now and they cover the riding gamut from dirt to long-distance touring. Despite riding almost 100K miles in 6 years, being a director on the national BMW board, President of the Vermont club and having millions of YouTube views of my motorcycles, I have not done a cross-country trip yet. I keep saying “next year” but I keep finding better trips to do with my time that offer better and more scenic terrain but now that I’ll be moving to North Carolina, it’s probably time to do a cross-country trip even if it’s one way and store the bike then go back a year later to ride back the other direction.

I think New Hampshire allowed for a few things to happen for me and all very timely. I didn’t mention my relationship with Heather and our eventual marriage last year but that obviously being a highlight for me and I’m not ignorant to the fact that as soon as we got married, it appears I began making plans to take her away from her home town but it’s a decision we made together and in fact, she may have pushed me.

NH allowed me to rediscover my loves of having wide open space, farm animals, a garden, a river and it gave me a job which I could still make a global impact and work with companies like Apple and Microsoft from the comfort of my cabin in the woods and getting cabin fever would be solved by a hop over to Amsterdam for a week to get work done and be back in a city for a bit. Through having a 9-5 job, I got to try other income avenues and find that I was very successful at them. I guess I can earn money in other ways if I have to which is something my Father told me years ago. He said I can always make money if I really need to and I’ve proven that I can do that even if it’s not in tech for some reason. But in addition to all of the benefits New Hampshire gave me in discovering myself, my hobbies, my passions and having some god-damn-piece-and-quiet, it was a time of really great contemplation to consider what are my priorities and what invigorates me versus bores me. It was really easy to find myself depressed at the 30 under 30 lists when I was in SF. How did someone who I hang out with all of the time who seems normal be in charge of this billion dollar company? I’ve learned that there is a lot of luck and intelligence required to achieve that at a young age. You can be really smart but achieving wealth and success at a young age is very hard and I was spending all of my time comparing myself to others. Do I occasionally get FoMo for leaving San Francisco and missing out on potentially millions of dollars? Absolutely but slow and steady growth has trumped hyper growth and having to hire life counselors to adjust to being young, famous and wealthy like many tech darlings of the 2010s. Besides, most of my friends in SF who I still chat with over LinkedIN, despite being the best in their small towns before moving to SF ended up taking my path eventually anyway and now they’re all just working normal jobs like me. they’re not in charge of billion dollar companies…okay a FEW of them are but most of us are just normal designers, engineers, product and program people and we’re just working for ‘the man’ or, more recently, ‘the woman’ (that has a nice ring to it).

As we reach closer to that 4,000 word barrier even my mom won’t have time to read, it’s been really hard to recount TWELVE years in just a single post. There are a lot of moments that even I will forget when my memories compress from days to months to just one big highlight per year but thankfully I have very rich check-in history on FourSquare (still used to this day) and my Photos library that has been geo-coded since 2011 with face detection and location metadata. These will serve as my time capsules when this blog and my memories fade.

I think 3900 words is enough. Thanks for reading. See you in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Life: Saying Goodbye to TomTom

It is going to be impossible to summarize a journey spanning over 12 years, 4 houses, one home ownership, a marriage, two dogs, many travels, experiences, years lived and time in just one single post. Forgive me if I leave anything out as there is simply too much to capture here. At this moment, I have an outline written but many stories swirling around in my head and I need to make this short enough that most people will consider reading. That means this post will only be about TomTom and my decade long career there and why I’m departing.

I always start these posts by reading what I wrote on this blog in the past. Re-reading what I wrote a month before joining TomTom was therapeutic and fun. I also spent time in my Inbox reading emails from June 9th 2010 (the first interview request) until the 1st week of August when I received an offer to join. My title was Senior Project Manager for Content Production, Community Management and I was to join TomTom as an entrepreneur in residence even though that title did not exist officially. I still managed to get the EIR title on a small batch of business cards to pass out at SxSW and other events. I joined a team of people known as community management and every single one of them including the two managers who hired me is no longer with the company. However, there are a few in the organization who are still here. First, my current manager who first came to our US office from South Africa and ended up at my house for my big 4th of July fireworks and BBQ the 2nd year I was at the company (2011) and my boss’ boss who joined the same year I did but was just elevated to a VP position at our company just yesterday. It’s as if the people who not only stuck it out but also invested their lives have been rewarded and gone on to do really amazing things and I have been there with them as a supporter to our company’s vision but not 2010’s vision but today’s and always evolving my mindset, priorities and changing with the times putting the company and our people first. 

I’m getting off-topic a bit. Let’s look back at my career at TomTom with as much detail as I am allowed to share:

  • March of 2010 – I join BrightKite in charge of marketing & operations
  • June of 2010 – I start talking to TomTom’s recruiters eventually accepting an offer in August
  • September 3rd  – I move to New Hampshire, bought a car and rented a house all in one day
  • September 7th, 2010 – I join TomTom and begin my new career with a more modern title of project manager
  • January of 2011 – The manager who hired me and assembled our team left the company and the team was broken up with the hopes of our entrepreneurial individual qualities spreading throughout the organization
  • 2011 – Worked on a web based map editing platform with a partner
  • 2012 – Ran our content moderation dashboard, Trusted Partners, Trusted Users and forward facing editorials for community map making projects
  • 2013 – Worked in some way and form on Apple Maps
  • 2014 – Spent 6 months in California working in some way and form on Apple Maps among my other projects
  • 2015 – Created half a dozen or so tools and processes in an R&D lab that I believed could help the company’s bottom line in map making and many did help
  • 2016 – Received 2 direct reports and worked on our leads program for traffic and pre actuality and began to join various leadership teams that impacted employees throughout our region and then the globe
  • 2017 – Fought to improve employee inclusion, equity and provide more to our employees through a few initiatives, joined site leadership team and our local employee council
  • 2017.5 – Fought for and had approved our to bring on an intern into a program based on what I thought an early – careers internship program should look like and how it should function. Jake and I built a tool that benchmarked the quality of POI supplier data and I rolled out community mapping tools that helped us gain business inteligence through content moderation and external review
  • 2017.10 – Little did I know that Jake’s work kick started a move that would bring much of our engineering initiatives back to USA versus outsourcing that had grown in popularity over the years. People saw how great it was to have a coder sitting right next to you. This was a massive shift in our philosophy
  • 2018 – Took on event planning, global speaking and representation of our USA based initiatives, created a mobile field collection tool to drive more community mapping, promoted the importance of gamification in map data verification and I wrote the memo that launched our global internship initiative
  • 2019 – Continued work globally with multiple trips to Europe, to Berlin to represent TomTom at world developer conference and created the frameworks for early careers mentorships and hiring and grew that headcount
  • 2019.5 – We created our first breakthrough product using machine learning and data science using exclusively intern hours and this product, while much different now, is still in use today
  • 2020 – The pandemic hit, we all went home but we stayed the course building more tools, R&D initiatives, learning portal for employees, I joined the global steering committee on how we design and implement work from home standards and I worked to design a space for early careers talent at our office when we reopened at some point that year (hah)
  • 2021 – We shipped our 18th proof of concept supporting automated mapping using intern talent with me as program/product lead and welcomed our 60th USA based intern to the team and then we launched our first and second country outside of USA which was a great experience for me and I grew a lot and created two very strong partnerships with local universities further growing our talent resources
  • 2022 – We had almost 90 interns by then through our doors and on track to have 60 more in 2023, I worked on our 2nd annual university hackathon with our partner universities that are feeding our early careers talent program so external marketing and involving young people into computer science and engineering. I joined and worked on our global 1000 person hackathon planning and operations committee, I worked on internal groups on employee branding, recruiting, mentorship initiatives and designing a program I believed we could launch globally
  • 2022.5 – We shipped our 25th proof of concept in the R&D lab and I began the next step in the plan of integrating our early careers talent into the software development lifecycle and our product teams building our production tools and services. It was risky but it paid off. We were both finding new talent, nurturing interns and growing our future leaders by allowing them the chance to mentor and gain management skills who are currently individual contributors. 
  • 2018-2022 – I published many one pager memos company wide on the topic of equity, remote work, transparency, the importance of training and remarks on how we execute at the lowest levels of the organization. These memos were my way to share opinions but also to solicit feedback and build a community around my ideas and to be challenged on them constructively. Throughout my time at TomTom, I found a way to foster collaboration through ideas-sharing. It worked in many ways. The projects I’m most proud of were kickstarted by simply raising my hand and sharing an idea that was floating around. I’ll miss this level of independent creation and founder’s voice.

—–

Throughout the last 12 years, I can think of 7 reorganizations where TomTom shifted in a way that shuffled around employees and led to some losing their jobs. I’m not going to get into the micro-level of what was fair or just when it came to those changes. That’s not my place but in 2022, TomTom in part thanks to many of our efforts to make mapping more efficient and streamlined meant 500 more people were leaving the company. This was announced early in the Summer and sat as a dark cloud over many of us until Q4 began. Despite my contributions, I didn’t feel safe or secure at the company any more. I didn’t know if my initiatives would have value anymore. I didn’t know if I was safe from being fired. Maybe not this re-org but maybe the next one? I had lost trust that I could enjoy everything I had built and feel safe in the future of the company.

It is a large part of what led me to begin looking for a new position. Another reason is looking for a new challenge that could invigorate me in a different way. I worried if I was a one-trick-pony, had I stagnated or plateaued where I could go at TomTom? I’ll never know because I’m leaving.

What is most important and what I leave feeling the most proud of is that recounting everything I was able to do for TomTom was, at the time, a critical impact to a lot of people. Driving change, strategy, efficiencies and contributing to the organization. My job title over the last 12 years never fully lined up with what I was doing every day but I was free to think of what our company needed to achieve this year and quarter and I was given the freedom to deliver. I didn’t need to convince anyone I deserved to be here and the culture and embracing of entrepreneurial spirit and whoever wanted to drive change along with a compelling reason to do so was given the ability to do that. I was sat down a few times and told what I should be spending my time on but if I did that and then did something else in addition to that, I wasn’t chastised. I was celebrated for stepping up and creating something new.

I believe entrepreneurial culture is growing in TomTom and it really, nearly, drives me to tears to think about how I was able to survive the most turbulent decade of this company losing only a couple of friends when right now, TomTom is at the edge of realizing its greatest potential ever. No this isn’t a puff piece. TomTom IS on the cusp of something truly amazing. I’d be stupid to leave now. Huge things are happening and we have a leadership structure, product teams, vision and we’re lean and hungry and everyone has worked hard to set us up for an amazing 3rd act. I joined at the end of the 1st act and while the 2nd act was profitable and TomTom flourished despite having to re-organize around new strategies every couple of years, we are setup for a really special next 10 years. Anyone joining this company today is joining a magical place. Making maps is magic but making maps with AI and also shipping services and products that billions of people use every day is freaking wizardry. The best days for this company are ahead and I’ll have to watch from the sidelines.

—-

There are things I wish I could have done at TomTom and there are regrets of bad decisions and some battle scars. I should have fought harder for some things and let go of others. What I realized in this 12 years of a global project/program manager at a mapping company or really any tech company is you have to give a shit. That’s not hyperbole or lip-service. You give a shit about the products, the customers, the people. You are important but you’re not as important as the customers and products keeping you there. I look at the letter I wrote to my team today as this example:

Dear _____ Managers and members of our organization,

After 12 years at TomTom, I will be leaving you on the ______ to pursue a new opportunity. It’s my belief that this opportunity will challenge me in new and different ways and that I am able to take all of the learned experiences you have given me within TomTom. I appreciate all of your support as we have matured into the ______ Team we are today and I miss that I won’t be able to be a part of our future with ____ and ____ leading the charge into a brave new world and ____ at the cutting edge. I’m really going to miss you all and what we are working toward.

2022 has been a year of immense change for all of us. We have lost coworkers organically and through a change in business strategies. I believe all change is for the better even if it takes a week or a month or even a year to realize what the better was in that change but realize it we will. Whatever happens with Team ____ built by ____ and I over the last 5 years and our partnership with ____ and the growth of Team ____ beyond USA and into other countries, it will be what is meant to be. My ego is hopeful that what we all built together continues but the evolution of it will be for the better. Maybe it takes a hiatus or maybe it grows and maybe you find a talented person to carry this program beyond my wildest dreams. I am anxious to see what happens next but I am honored that each of us, in __, __, __-__ and now__ have been able to touch the lives of almost 100 young people. Their careers at TomTom or elsewhere are forever changed because of the time we gave them. We should all be proud of what Team __ has achieved. I could not be prouder of what we’ve done.

If you are inclined, please connect with me on LinkedIN. Life has a way of bringing us back together in the strangest ways. I will remain a person who writes, takes photos and makes videos. Let’s keep in touch. I’ll always make time for a phone call or email with any of you.

You all have my permission to share this with individuals or teams who need to be made aware of my departure. I trust you.

My communications within the organization both direct and widely syndicated have always been from a place of honesty and integrity and 100% complete trust in my peers to give as much of a shit as I did about everything we’re doing. We have great leaders, clear strategy and we give a shit. Again, not lip-service. I lead by example and I put everyone before me on every initiative. I believe clear and honest trust in yourself and your people is paramount. It creates empowered teams.

I think the skills, some of them I was born with and others I have cultivated over trial and error are transferable to whatever I do next and I hope egotistically that much of my work wasn’t for nothing but that’s my ego talking. Strategies change and I chose to leave so there’s nothing I should do to keep that hope or dream in my mind on my last day and beyond.

TomTom has been my daily reality for 12 years and tomorrow, it won’t be. That is a very scary thought. 

The last thing I wanted to mention is that I regret not keeping a notebook of some of the amazing pieces of advice my mentors have given over the years. I could fill a book. Just today, meeting with my boss, there were so many great pieces of advice he had for me. I won’t post any of it here but what he said meant a lot to me. Despite what his words meant, it doesn’t make me less prepared for what’s next. It’s scary to start over. I hope everything I learned at TomTom has prepared me for that next evolution. 

I’m going to miss solving problems with my friends and I know you’re all going to achieve greatness beyond your wildest dreams. 

Maybe there’s more I’ll say about this experience in a few years but this is all I’m prepared to write for now. To my readers, thank you for sticking by me. The ride is not over yet. 

Technology: iPhones 14, Apple Watch Ultra and AirPods Pro 2nd Gen

This post on MacRumors inspired me to write this post. From that post:

The Apple Watch Edition line had been available since the launch of the original Apple Watch in 2015, and in recent years had offered titanium casings with an additional, exclusive watch band. The Apple Watch Ultra is now the only Apple Watch to offer a titanium casing.

There’s a reason I purchased an Apple Watch Edition last year. The writing has been on the wall for a while and since I was desperately hoping for a ceramic white re-do, I was expecting Apple to do something drastic and would give us a lineup that was $199-$999 for Apple Watch with SE sitting at the bottom,  Watch at $299/$399, Ceramic at $699 as an Edition and Pro at $999 with features I wouldn’t want or need such as the inclusion of a mobile camera or extreme tolerances to cold/hot temps or high & low altitudes such as underwater tolerances that greatly exceeded where I would go. I was going to stick with the Edition watches personally.

I was worried a year ago that Edition would go away so I bought one, a 45MM Space Black Titanium and I added AppleCare which gave me a 3 year warranty. Little known fact about the Edition models that you have a 3 year warranty as, by default, they come with a 2 year standard warranty. I have almost entirely stopped using my Space Black link bracelet and now exclusively embrace my collection of sport nylon bracelets in different color styles (Pride, Olive Green, Red and Nike Grey). These are so light weight and pair well with the almost non-existent weight of the Titanium. I’ve gone totally opposite from the heavy weight of the Stainless Steel + Link Bracelet I wore every single day from series 0 until series 6. 

For iPhone, I was expecting Apple to kill Lightning in lieu of wireless only, a larger screen size and move away from the heavy stainless steel (something I actually value on iPhone) so last year, I purchased a maxed out iPhone 13 Pro Max with 1 terabyte of storage with AppleCare again expecting a 2-3 year ownership like the watch. 

On Friday, I gave Apple $2,647 and purchased:

  • iPhone 14 Pro Max, 1TB – Gold
  • Apple Watch Ultra – Orange Alpine Loop
  • AirPods Pro 2nd Generation

So much for self control. I will be selling my iPhone 13 for around $1100 since there are very few 1TB models for sale so surely there’s a person in a niche who wants that much storage and willing to pay $100 more than a 512GB capacity phone. I will not immediately sell my 45MM Titanium Space Black Series 7 watch even though it’s worth about $650 ($250 less than I paid) due to its rareness as the last non-ultra Edition in Space Black Titanium. I will be putting my AirPods Pro in my secondary carry bag that is just my iPad Pro as a backup pair because the battery is pretty good and I’d be using them in a quiet office space where the enhanced noise cancelling features aren’t necessary.

If you’d like to see a few photos of my Apple Watch ownership story (so far), I created this post last year on my move to Titanium from Stainless Steel.

—–

Why did I spend $899 on my watch and $1499 on my iPhone 12 months ago just to sell them a year later? Well guys, that wasn’t the plan! Duh! Apple did a few things that really convinced me that I needed to give them another wheelbarrow of cash. 

Apple Watch Ultra

I waited 5 days to pre-order this watch as I was torn between pros and cons. Here’s the reasons why and the reasons why I’m keeping my Series 7 for a while or at least until the Ultra’s return policy is up just in case I end up not liking it:

Pros:

  • 1.5 days of battery life or 5 days depending on what power mode you choose
  • 49mm display and more information on the Infographic Module that I use nearly full time
  • Protected Digital Crown eliminates false presses when I’m wearing motorcycle gloves
  • Free strap (I had bought an Orange Alpine Loop for $99 then realizing I could just spend $649 more and get the loop for free — LOL)
  • Activity Button with tracking for way points when riding off-road

Cons: 

  • Activity Button which is necessary to mark way points when off-road tracking isn’t accessible when I’m wearing gauntlet motorcycle gloves
  • Hard (not smooth) corners around the screen will mean the titanium will surely get damaged, scratched and dented when I bang it against walls, trees, motorcycle parts
  • Digital Crown may be harder to use with my full GoreTex gloves but that’s not clear
  • Larger screen = larger touch points. I already get false touches from my gloves when riding in the rain and bits of water gets between my gloves & watch face
  • Heavier than my 45MM Titanium watch by quite a bit. My S7 SB Titanium – 45.1G. My old stainless steel was 51.5 grams. The new Ultra is 61 grams. That’s a BIG jump
  • Overall, it may be too large and bulky to use when actually doing physical activities like lifting weights or riding my motorcycle with off-road waterproof gloves.

I’m going to give it a try and see if I like it. I may not. Honestly, it might be too large completely in which case I’ll fall back to my now obsolete Series 7 with all of the features I need in a very lightweight titanium case with a 3 year warranty.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max – 1TB

A bit of housekeeping, someone asked me a while back if I’ll actually use all 1 terabytes of storage. I just opened my iPhone’s settings and I have 190 gigabytes free with 1.02TB of total capacity. I’m using 820 gigabytes of space on my iPhone. Also, after 1 year of ownership, I have a battery health of 92%. The warranty expires 9/24/2022 but I have Amex covering 1 additional year of warranty and any accidental damage through a credit card perk if I pay my cell phone bill with my Amex card. My iPhone 14 will have AppleCare because I am paying Best Buy $199 a year as a Total Tech Member. They didn’t realize I’d actually take them up on “free AppleCare” for all of my devices and Best Buy is now paying for Apple Care on two MacBooks, two iPad Pros, Two AirPods (Pro+Max), two iPhones and an Apple Watch Ultra. I’m getting my money worth for their $15 a month program that gives me no restocking fees, extended return period and free AppleCare. If you buy a lot of Apple Products, give Best Buy Total Tech a try.

Moving on, The iPhone 14 has some pros that are VERY interesting to me and make the upgrade worth it:

  • Dynamic Island (making the notch/pill useful)
  • Always on display (boy do I miss Blackberry’s red flashing light when you have a notification but this is a good compromise 20 years later)
  • 48 Megapixel raw images
  • 50% improvement to low light photos
  • Re-introduction of the 2X camera
  • Improvements to all 4 cameras (I will link to the Halide Blog’s breakdown when they put one up but there are a LOT of improvements)
  • Satellite SOS (I’m paying Garmin $35 a month April – November plus having to carry a bulky InReach with me every time I ride and this is free for 2 years)
  • One additional hour of battery life
  • Reduced burn-in risk on OLED (I have light burn-in today)
  • They kept the Lighting port (I wanted USB-C but I think we’ll go port-less before they go USB-C)
  • Very possibly new thermal management that will keep the iPhone from overheating in direct sunlight (mine dims the display and overheats every day that I’m outdoors which is the same issue with my iPad by the way. I can get 15 minute of use on my iPad when in direct sunlight before it overheats and goes into power reserve)

Cons: just the price. $1599 is a LOT of money for an iPhone. I’m getting AppleCare for free and the iPhone is sales-tax free thanks to living in New Hampshire. I’ll likely get $1150-$1200 for my old iPhone (one company guaranteed $900 if I sell it through them without dealing with any people) so this is not a HUGE cost to upgrade. I’m glad I didn’t pay for AppleCare on my old iPhone or pay a monthly fee to Verizon and get locked into a 30 month plan like my wife.

There really aren’t any cons to upgrading. This is the same iPhone I love today with a lot of new upgrades that will save me time and money and allow me to use the iPhone for day rides off-road without having to bring my SLR even though I’ll continue to bring my SLR for many trips because the photos are MUCH better. Just an example, here’s an iPhone 13 Pro Max photo next to a Canon 5D Mark IV with my 70-200 MM lens. I’m still not shooting exclusively with iPhone except for trips that are just one day on my dirt bike. 

iPhone:

People iPhone

SLR (same people, same time, same lighting)

People SLR

iPhone is years away from producing photos like this but it’s getting easier to live with it on a short term trip.

AirPods Pro 2nd generation:

I’m stoked with the features that were added. From memory and in short:

  • Price remains unchanged at $249 (HUGE)
  • Double the noise cancelling
  • Selective noise cancelling and I hope it works on children screaming at a cafe. Jackhammer sounds aren’t something I deal with but I’d love to wear AirPods with Transparency turned on more often and have coffee grinders, children, Harley motorcycles and horns honking be removed. This is the feature that will make AirPods full-time wear for many folks who get agitated with loud noises
  • Audio boost of voices again, in transparency mode hearing someone talk but not a coffee grinder will be amazing
  • Improved spatial audio based on the shape of my ears (wow)
  • Better fitment with more tips (excellent, the Large size falls out because it’s too large to go deep and the medium falls out because it’s too small
  • Bettery battery life
  • Find My support with a loud speaker on the case

I’m excited and there are no downsides except for cost which the iPhone was the same. Tons of upsides but the downside being having to pay to upgrade. Apple can you please bring out a $250 a month “anything plan” so I can just always have the latest laptop, iPad, AirPods, iPhone and Apple Watch? I’d sign up tomorrow. 

Overall, this was a fantastic event. I won’t be purchasing the next iPad or MacBook Pro but I’m still holding some dollars for a ProDisplayXDR that is half the price of the current one. I want something 27-30” that is 6K without all of the reference monitor features that the current $4999 ProDisplay has and ideally a much better webcam than the Studio Display but there’s always next year.

Here’s the products I pre-ordered:

BestBuy2

BestBuy1

Thoughts on Education and Welfare

I wrote something in a local community message board which was my off-the-cuff thoughts toward a wave of both conversations and actions to take on student loans debts and post-primary-school education of Americans. I wrote:

I didn’t attend university. It’s a choice I made and I did okay for myself. The majority of my professional relationships are with folks who not only went to a college but their education was free. I’m talking about Europeans. My dutch, German and danish colleagues had a free or nearly free education and they were able to graduate, get their job and begin building a savings and preparing for retirement just like I did after I got my first job at 16 when I started checking out of high school. I graduated barely but I got to start saving. I’m 36 now and my wife has a masters degree. She makes less than me but pays more in her income to loans because she started her career a full 7 years after I did. I had a huge head start on her but also acrued zero debt. From age 29, I had a mortgage. That’s it. No other debts.

I look at how my colleagues in Europe live and how many of my friends here live and I think there are many forms of education that should be subsidized. Not just university but schools to learn a trade, get a CDL, become a nurse or CPA. There are professional jobs that I think should cost people who have a passion for them nothing. This will of course increase the amount of cash-grab predatory companies who will try to take advantage of a pool of federal money so loan forgiveness and subsidies are a good idea but access to that money needs to be regulated as well. Florida State can’t just make a 4 year degree $250K because they can. I don’t know how Europe does it but there has to be a reasonable cost of education put in place. Maybe the recipient pays the difference if the cost is over $50K a year? I don’t know.

All of this drama over ‘handouts’ is sadly the same dog & pony show where those for it just want to forgive loans and those against it just want to say it’s welfare when the fact is, there’s plenty of money to make this happen if someone brave enough just proposes a tax code reform that forces everyone to pair their fare share. Close these millions of loopholes that allow anyone with a good enough accountant to cut their tax bill by 10-15% with little effort. The money is floating around but isn’t being put back into our economy to invest in these ‘welfare’ programs.

So long as there are tax loopholes, wealthy folks will exploit them while still tapping into the programs that could be seen as welfare (PPP, grants, handouts) and pretending that the poors like us are do-nothing welfare cases mooching off the government.

like libraries, education should not cost anything. I educated myself with just an internet connection (which was a DARPA subsidized program) and real world experience. If someone needs to be in a classroom for that same education, we shouldn’t charge them the equivalent of a house to get it.

The bullshit here is by investing in education, healthcare and infrastructure using tax dollars collected from everyone as a flat percentage of income makes America stronger. We’re weakest in so many areas (drug, crime, education, decreasing lifespans) and yet we’re doing nothing about it but arguing over bullshit. Tax everyone 25%, invest in our people and country and actually make America better than ever instead of pillaging it and throwing scraps to anyone making less than a million dollars a year.

The economic benefits to our fellow citizens is immeasurable. There’s a reason why millions of people from all over the world come to USA for their education. We have great schools here but the median income household American can’t afford to send their kids to one of our great schools anymore. The economic benefits of natural born citizens is HUGE. We’re gutting our country making an education accessible only to the rich. Some would say that’s by design but that’s a short term gain for some and a long term loss for our country.

I am privileged in making the opinions you’re reading because I work with university students as a large part of my job. I connect engineering students to tech roles. I spent last week screening 350 resumes for my 60 person a year internship program that I run in 5 countries. I also act as a connector on LinkedIN for anyone who wants an introduction to my professional network. About 40% off my LinkedIN contacts are enrolled or graduated students in the computer/data sciences fields. As someone who never went to any university, it’s weird to spend a full day at an Ivy League school with staff talking about how I can help place their students and the skills I’m looking for over the next 2-3 years from engineering talent. I don’t talk about that on this blog very much but it is a personal and professional passion.

Through the years of experience, I have realized that there are millions of people that graduated after the year 2000 from high school that went on to gain a college degree and if they were lucky enough to put that education to use and find a higher paying job, they were left spending a large chunk of their income for the next 30 years paying off those loans. Student loans are unlike any other loan type, the interest rates are high and you can’t file bankruptcy on many of them. You can be homeless on the streets and still be getting notices sent to the General Delivery mailbox at USPS or to your last known address trying to collect on these while you walk the streets not knowing when your next meal will be. As I get older, I realize health issues can happen to any of us. You can be unable to work from any freak accident and the social safety nets we have in place don’t apply to student loans.

I want to be clear when we talk about social safety nets aka welfare that every single American citizen benefits from tax dollars. My mother put food on our table thanks to Florida and Federally backed food stamp programs when she was out of work with a health issue for 2 years. My father was our sole provider and tore his Achilles’ tendon and relied on after-school programs, school busses, free lunches, free sports programs and federal assistance to keep our family together while he spent 1 year working on being able to walk again. I used a federal program to purchase my first home at a great rate. Family members of mine use Medicare / Medicaid for their health insurance and my family who owns a dairy farm has leveraged agriculture subsidies and programs when commodities like milk, corn and tobacco prices fell with demand and we couldn’t make payroll for all of the farm hands. Every single member of my family firmly rallies against ‘welfare’ despite these programs allowing me to succeed and get to where I am today.

Also, corporations, universities, non and for-profit businesses utilize tax loopholes, public funding, subsidies and federal backed PPP loans to pad their bottom line and achieve profitability and the winners are the american people who own shares in those companies, a class that is much smaller than you think. Many Americans that don’t have access to a pension or 401K retirement plan don’t own stock in American companies and therefore have not benefited by our nation’s rising GDP on their hard working backs. The government is subsidizing increased shareholder profits among many other programs.

I write the above because the folks who believe that Americans who commit to a student loan should be required to honor those commitments can direct their opinions toward every single American citizen who has received food stamps, medical assistance, disability assistance, PPP loans, Covid-19 stimulus checks or a discount on anything paid for by taxpayers. You have my permission to write a check to the government reimbursing them for all of the welfare you and your family has received.

I also ask my fellow Americans who believe that they shouldn’t pay for someone else’s education to not forget that this is for the greater good. This isn’t cash-for-clunkers. This is a program that makes our people smarter and better prepared to continue growing our economy relative to other countries. Not every American needs a college degree but those that have a passion for a legal/sciences/medical or other profession shouldn’t have $250,000 USD be the cost (loans + interest) to make our country better. I don’t want to be a nurse but someone who does shouldn’t have any barrier to realize their dreams and help our country. A low-income black man in Alabama should have he same opportunity to be a nurse as a wealthy white man in Connecticut. Both of them are working hard to get into a school but both of them don’t have the economic abilities to attend the nursing schools and get that degree.

I ask when is the best time to make education free? When was the best time to form our Social Security safety net, Medicare, Medicaid, our department of transportation, FAA or other public good initiatives? There’s always going to be someone who makes an out-of-pocket payment for a medical procedure or student loan bill right before the cut-off. There are going to be people who just paid their insurance premium or finished paying off student loans before a new program kicks in. If you retro-actively reimburse them, what’s the cut-off? There is no system that fits all but we have to start somewhere.

My ideology in this and why I am writing is because I have met hundreds of people at job fairs and talked to online who chose to self-teach themselves programming versus going to college because they couldn’t afford it. There are good programmers who are self-taught but not everyone can learn this way. I can’t fathom how many millions of American Citizens who went into a different career field because they couldn’t afford college. To be honest, I’m one of them. I had no college savings from my parents, I had no grants or assistance given to me and at 18, I had to pay my parents rent and get a job or move out. I could have very well been sitting here talking to you at 36 with $100K in debt to pay off and arrived at the work force 4 years later and who knows where I’d be financially had I took on that debt and gone to college.

We need to support Americans who want a college education to get one. This should include trade schools, STEM education and specialized schools for welding, commercial trucking and more. Gaining the necessary skills to improve our country’s economy and fill specialized vacancies is something we shouldn’t put barriers up for.

There is an elephant in the room for me and that’s how the government should regulate the cost of education. Through Executive Order, President Biden is forgiving $10K/$20K in loans for all Americans. There is a bill submitted late-July that has yet to get through committee that would forgive $50,000 in loans. There is talk of making education free not just through the services loan forgiveness program but for everyone. This is what most other developed nations provide but there will be institutions that take advantage of this.

What’s to stop a community college in Florida from charging $100K a year in tuition because the government will just pay the bill when it comes? This will require the federal government to setup a system that regulates that tuition cost. The same goes for a trucking school for commercial drivers. A $5,000 course will balloon if the feds can just reimburse the student based on the number written on a receipt.

There will need to be a way to keep these prices in check. My suggestions is schools are rated based on their degrees offered, public funding, size of their endowment and placement rates. How many graduates get a job in X industry and what do they make per year after 10 years? That’s the only way to properly measure what each school will be owed in tuition reimbursement from the government.

The long tail of this free education is something I’m not seeing anyone talk about on either side. Let’s look at the economic benefits of the federal interstate highway system. What are those monetary benefits? Immeasurable, right? What’s the benefit of dams, bridges, subway systems and taxpayer funded football stadiums? There are economic arguments for all of these to be taxpayer funded even if the benefit is just entertainment and a few jobs working concessions / parking.

The long tail of Americans having a specialized 4/6 year degree is going to make this country more competitive globally and it will help us to eliminate the shortages in the engineering, medical, transportation and energy sectors. I’m not talking about more MBAs. I’m taking about programmers, structural/mechanical engineers, nurses, doctors, drivers, power plant engineers, wind farm designers and developers, all of the things we’re going to need in the next century. What about the psychiatrist/psychologist/crisis help we need that requires a college degree? The list is long on the specialized professions we are currently short.

When you have a country that already hasn’t found a way to keep household income in line with inflation and cost of living, this means less Americans will attend secondary schools and more people from overseas will. It’s good we have people from all of the world who come to America for their education. I get to meet hundreds of them a year but when I look at my applicants pool, only 10% of my applicants are USA citizens for computer programming jobs. How many American kids wanted to go to school for computer science and couldn’t because their family is barely making ends meet so they take a job locally and our shortages grow while our median household income shrinks relative to cost of living.

Opening up college (and trade schools) for all will have a long-tail economic benefit that will reverse this trend in 20 years. It’s going to take a long time and we’re not even close to offering a free university education yet. Today, we’re just talking about loan forgiveness as an economic booster but long-term, if I have a child who wants to become a therapist or build robots, my household income or their 20-40 years of debts won’t be looming over their head when they’re considering what path in life to take.

As you can tell, I’m incredibly passionate about this. Education is our key to a strong nation. Making it free will benefit all of us. I didn’t go to college and I wish I had the opportunity to but now, others can and that’s a good thing. The greater good of this country requires we invest in education. I frankly don’t care that someone is upset that they paid off their loans already or didn’t go to college because this program didn’t exist and are angry they didn’t have this opportunity. This country is more than just one person’s issues. When your town has higher paying jobs thanks to specialized trades and education, you’ll make more money. This is an economic stimulus that makes us all stronger, smarter and better equipped to remain a super power.

Healthcare and Education should be free just like our infrastructure.