How I got here

Origins

I have always had a passion for photography – starting way back in my high school years. I got to be a freshman twice. During my freshman year in high school my parents sold our house and broke ground on a new home located about 10 miles away – in a different school district. I had a good freshman year academically. The Biology teacher, Mr McNair, was tough.

I think of him often, all these years later because he truly prepared me with the right mindset to do well in school and to pursue a college education. He worked us hard. I worked very hard, doing everything that Mr McNair coached us to do. It certainly paid off as I earned an “A” in Biology that year.

The following school year, I was in a new high school and as a sophmore I had chemistry as part of the curriculum that year. I was both afraid and excited because I had loved to tinker with a chemistry set my parents got me (or that I begged for) and every time I pulled it out my Mom would say, “Don’t blow up the house!”

Since it was a new school, I did in fact feel like a freshman all over again. I didn’t know a single person at school that fall. But I soon met and made some good friends that I still connect with today even though I live quite far from where I grew up. In Chemistry class I met Bob Steiger and I learned that his Dad was a Chemist. I thought that was so cool. And that’s about the time when I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in Chemistry.

Sometime later that year or the next I joined the Photography Club at school, and took the Photography class too. A bonus for me was that I learned how to work in the darkroom, about film chemistry, and I felt a sense of awe every time I exposed some photo paper under the enlarger and then slipped that sheet into the developer solution. Within seconds I witnessed the latent image appear, like magic, before my very eyes. I was hooked.

A Scientific Career

I went on to college and earned a BS in Chemistry from the University of Illinois. After college I worked as a paint chemist for a (now defunct) company in the Chicago area. And after a year of mixing up paint formulations I decided that I really didn’t know what I was doing, and chose to go back to school. Some very fine people at that company, and in particular my immediate supervisor, Rodney Stocksdad, encouraged me and even wrote letters of recommendation on my behalf. I was accepted in to the graduate program in the Polymers & Coatings Department at North Dakota State University.

It took me five years, a fairly typical tenure for a graduate student, to earn my PhD in Chemistry. The oral defense of my thesis was a nerve-wracking experience, but my advisory committee was fair and they signed my thesis. Whew!

Post-graduate career

My first job after graduate school was in the defense industry – in Florida. That was a welcome climate change. I was a young scientist helping to solve encapsulation materials problems in the manufacture of high voltage electronics parts. After a couple of years there, I met my first wife got married and eventually relocated to Texas.

I lived and worked in Texas until my first two sons were born, one in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the second in Houston. Work in Houston was at a chemical plant and after working there several years it became apparent there was no career opportunities with the company outside that facility.

The next career move landed me in New York State, lower Hudson Valley. I was then working at a bona fide R&D center. I had the makings of a great career at that point in my life. My young family was healthy. I was happy in my new job. But alas, things never stay the same. Fast forward about 8 years, and the company decides to close the R&D facility.

I was among the fortunate few who were chosen to relocate to Ohio, to join the staff at a relatively new campus that had been built during y tenure in New York. I was fortunate in my career at that point, but my marriage had been failing, and the move to Ohio ended it.

Starting back up in a new role, same company and now in Ohio I was able to get several promotions and significant pay raises the the succeeding several years. But then along came 2008-2009 and the Great Recession.

Recession

The day after the Presidential Inauguration, January 21, 2008 a bunch of folks from corporate headquarters showed up and had a large meeting with all the staff that morning, and then with individuals in the later hours of the day. We were told that our jobs had been “eliminated” and that for the duration of our employment we were highly valued colleagues. But economic conditions had significantly changed our value to the company, apparently.

Starting up a new business

In the face of a worldwide recession the prospects of landing a new job somewhere seemed remote. Outplacement services were provided but jobs were very few and very far between. So I decided to start my own business, made a pitch to a dozen former colleagues of mine to band together to form a new product development think tank. They signed on as independent contractors and we did our level best to help struggling companies to do the work that was needed to be done, but had few if any, remaining human resources to do the work. Business coaches, SBA counselors, and many others familiar with this team applauded our efforts. But nobody was spending any money back then.

An Employee again

After nearly three years with essentially no income I was able to find another job, in a related industry in Cincinnati. I was only earning about 2/3 of what I had earned previously as an employee, and yet I was just happy to be employed again. It was a bit of a culture change though. I had been working at a Fortune 500 company, and now found myself at a small privately held firm. Things were different, and I would adapt.

Then several years later, even after some significant technical successes at this firm, the owner announced that there would be a sale to a foreign interest – but nobody had to worry about their job. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Just a couple months later I was let go.

Now what?

Trying to compete in today’s job market when you are in “senior” territory with regard to your age is not pretty. Job searching is a very different ball game than what it was early in my career. After pounding my head upon the wall too many times it finally dawned on me, “If I keep trying to do the same thing, I cannot expect different results.” Duh.

I then allowed myself to ignore my academic credentials. After all, I couldn’t seem to find anyone in the scientific/industrial market to see any value in them or my experience – or I would have found work.

I love photography. It has been part of my life for most of my life. I have just about all the gear I need to get started, so why not make a living out of something that I truly enjoy? I see a lot of potential opportunity in real estate photography. There is also lots of opportunity in other areas of photography such as doing head shots and other business photography, selling stock photos online, etc.

So my journey has been long, but perhaps not as long as this blog article. If you have read this far – I love you! And if you need photography for your next property listing – give me a call!

Bob

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