I have an idea, I hope it will catch on like the “I’ve Been Tagged” (see below) series of blog posts.  It was inspired by my previous blog post, which was inspired by a recent post by Scott Hanselman.  I encourage all bloggers to write a post and mention 5 people that influenced their careers.   It doesn’t have to be a chain, you don’t need to be “tagged” to join in.  Just pick your 5 people.  None of the people I am naming have blogs themselves.  It’s just a chance to say thank you.  You can pick anyone you want, it doesn’t even have to be someone you know personally or worked with, just someone who has had an impact on your career.

So here is my list:  5 People That Influenced My Career.  I suggest Including a name, relationship, current title, and description.  (These are in order of when we met, by the way)

Name Relationship Current Title Influence
Roz Schwam my Mom “mom” She raised me and gave me my values.  She always encouraged me to work hard and do my best.
Marc Ziss best friend President, Z Consulting In addition to being a great friend, Marc has always been a sort of “career advisor” for me.  He gave me a lot of encouragement when I decided to change careers. In fact, he pretty much convinced me to do so.  And he has provided a lot of guidance through several job changes since.
Dennis Meagher friend and brother-in-law Executive Director, Walt Disney Company Before he was family, Dennis was one of my first boss’s at the movie theatre in college and we continued to work together in the film industry until my career change.  I learned a lot about working hard, having a good work ethic, and perseverance from Dennis.  He’s not just a brother in law, but a great friend.
Joe Saladino friend, previous boss Senior Vice President / Central Division Manager, Paramount Pictures Joe was my boss for several years at Sony and was one of the first people I ever considered a Mentor at work.  He provided me with lots of career advice and friendship throughout my career in the film industry.  He was a good leader and I learned a lot from him.
Bill Wolff friend, we work together for Philly.Net Consultant, Leader of Philly.Net Through his work at Philly.Net (The Philadelphia .Net User Group), Bill has had a big influence on many people’s careers including mine.  I got my previous and current job because of contacts I have made from Philly.Net.  If it were not for Bill’s hard work in running that organization I would not have made many of the contacts that have influenced my career and position in our .Net community.  Add to that all of the information I picked up at monthly sessions over 5 years.

*If you aren’t familiar with “I’ve Been Tagged”, it is a series of blog posts where the blogger writes 4 or 5 things about themselves.  Then the blogger “tags” 5 other people by adding their names to the post.  Those 5 people do the same.  Sure, it’s kind of like a chain letter but there is a purpose.  It has spread to include many, many people.

In a recent blog post, Scott Hanselman writes about a topic that I have always felt strongly about – honoring those who have helped us in our lives.  He writes about how he got to where he is now, noting that if it were not for the help of his parents and some teachers, his life might be quite different.  He suggests that we do the same, blogging about how we got to where we are.  And he mentions Paying It forward.

I’ve always like the concept of Pay It Forward.  This can mean different things to different people. But here is how it fits into my career…

As a kid, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  Some people seemed to know right away what they wanted to do for a living and that always frustrated me.  I guess around junior year in high school we start looking into colleges.  Time to pick a school, a major, and possibly a career that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.  I had no idea what to do.  I wasn’t a great student in the first place.  I spoke to some friends and family and decided that Communications seemed like a good major. 

Through college I worked at a movie theatre and decided that I wanted to put my degree in Communications to work in the film industry (distribution, not production).  It took a while but a few years after college I got a break and was off to work at Sony Pictures Releasing (at the time called Triumph Releasing). 

I was always interested in computers and programming but didn’t have a head for all of the math back in high school or college.  But at work I looked for ways to get involved with technology and I liked it more and more.  I worked with Spreadsheets, Access Databases, helped with Operating System issues…whatever I could do to get some kind of experience.  I was loving technology.  I taught myself about Access databases, the best I could do on my PC with no programming experience, and wrote some cool programs using VBA.  I couldn’t have done it without the help of friends.  In particular, my friend Marc spent a lot of time explaining stuff like programming and database normalization to me.  He often jokes how we’d sit on the beach and he’d be checking out the girls but I kept asking him about problems with the programs I was writing!   I guess my inner geek had been released.  But Marc always made time to help me.  And he encouraged me too.  While I was having fun with programming, he seemed to think I had some real abilities and encouraged me to change careers.  Other people helped too.  My friend Doug had a lot of experience with Access DB’s.  I emailed him with some questions and he went above and beyond and really helped me with the programs I was writing.  I was really surprised at the amount of time and support he gave me.   People, some that I didn’t know very well, went out of their way to help me learn and they got nothing in return.  It was very generous. 

Fast forward to around mid 2002.  I had been working as a programmer for a few years doing Java, JSP, PL/SQL, etc and had been hearing about Microsoft .Net.  It sounded really good to me.  I started reading some books and took on a side project.  Marc suggested that I check out Philly.Net telling me that I could learn a lot at the meetings. At my first meeting I was lost.  Some guy was talking about a bunch of stuff that was way over my head.  And then it happened.  As a side note, sort of unrelated to what he was really doing, the presenter said “oh by the way, did you know you could do this…”.  The “this” that followed was something I had been struggling with for weeks.  My problem was solved with a 30 second comment that wasn’t even related to the presentation! From there I was hooked on Philly.Net.  I attended many great presentations and picked up a lot of knowledge.  If it were not for Bill running Philly.Net, and all of the presenters who shared their expertise, I would not have progressed as quickly with my career.

A few years later, Bill Wolff started asking for help with Philly.Net.  I volunteered and now I am pretty involved with helping Bill run the group.  I’m often asked why I put so much time and effort into our community.  I see it as Paying It Forward.  Many people have helped me a long the way with my career.  Some directly, some indirectly.  Now I get a chance to help other people with their careers.  I’ve mentored several people in .Net and I put a lot of effort into making sure that the Philadelphia .Net Community is strong so that people can learn and share information.  Now I realize that the people who helped me did in fact get something in return.  They got the pride and satisfaction that comes from helping other people.  It’s a nice feeling.

With the baby on the way, it’s time to buy a camcorder.  This is proving to be much more difficult than I thought.

I was really excited about this.  I love gadgets and electronics and I’m pretty handy with them.  There are all kinds of “gadget-guy types” out there and I am a combination of two of them.  First, I have that “gadget instinct” – I can usually pick up a device and not only figure out how to make it work but instinctually tap into the high end features.  On many occasion I have helped a friend with a device that they own but I have never seen before.  Second, I actually read the manual.  I’m such a geek.  But I like to know what my equipment can do, especially when it comes to something complicated like a camcorder.  Also, I have some experience with this stuff.  I used to shoot and edit videos (some professional stuff and a LOT of weddings).  But that was at least 15 years ago and a lot has changed.  And I have owned a few camcorders too but the last was probably 8 years ago.  So I have experience but I’m seriously out of the loop.

The first and probably biggest decision is format.  MiniDV, DVD, or HDD? 

It seems like MiniDV (little tape) is the popular standard.  The downside is that they are slow to put onto the computer and you can’t quickly access different portions of video.  The upside is that the picture quality is supposed to be the best, which seems odd to me.  It sure would seem like the quality on a DVD or Hard Drive would be better but I guess the camera use more compression with those formats.  Plus, you can only play these back with the camera, unless you migrate them and burn DVDs.  It seems that this technology is old and on the way out.

DVD seemed like a cool option.  Shoot video and stick it into your DVD player – couldn’t be easier.  But this has drawbacks too.  It seems that this doesn’t work with all editing software.  And some reviews say you need to “finalize” the DVD before watching it, and then you can’t put it back in the camera to shoot more vide.  But, some people have told me this isn’t true.  Maybe the newer models work differently…I don’t know.  Plus, DVD has a short time span, I think 20-30 minutes on a DVD.  That could be a pain but probably not too often.

At first, Hard Drive (HDD) seemed like a bad idea to me because of the durability issue.  But many people seem to think that these portable hard drives are pretty strong.  It makes me a little nervous.  But the cool part is that you can store hours of video on the camera.  I was really surprised to read the the manufacturers use a lot of compression though, so the quality isn’t the best.  But it’s really easy to move files between the camera and the PC for editing and storage.  I still can’t figure out if these formats work well with editing software.  I think that this format will catch on and some of the issues it will get better quickly.  But I am leaning in this direction.

Next comes the HD question.  HD is cool, no doubt.  But is it worth the extra money?  Buying electronics is always depressing because as soon as you buy something it is outdated and replaced by a better, cheaper model.  I am sure this is the case with the HD cameras.  They are still quite a bit more expensive then the regular models.  I don’t know if it is worth a few hundred dollars extra yet, when all of the kinks haven’t been worked out yet.  Plus, I don’t know if I can edit the HD video with the same software.

Features, features, features.  There are so many options on these things that it is tough to weigh out all the pros and cons.  Some people like just the basics.  But I think I’ll use some of the advanced settings.  I have a digital camera and I am always playing with the exposure time and aperture to tweak my photos.

So here is what I want in my Camcorder… so far.

    • Size – Small to Mid sized.  Doesn’t need to be tiny, but nothing too large.
    • Format – I think I am leaning towards Hard Drive (HDD)
    • High Def – NOPE, I think I’ll wait on that.
    • Video Quality – High
    • Features – Bells and Whistles include:
      • Good battery life
      • Wide Screen Format
      • Manual Control (focus, white balance, etc)
      • View finder would be nice (for sunny day shooting)
      • Good image stabilization
      • Good in low light
      • Mic and headphone jack
      • etc
    • Editing:  Must be compatible with typical editing software and not limited to manufacturers proprietary editing software.

And the winner is… I still have no idea!  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

A cool thing happened at work today.  Dean was stuck trying to figure out how to get the EditItem from an asp:Listview.  So he hits his favorite search engine to look for an answer.  Believe it or not, the first item in the search result was a link to a post on my blog!  Dean got his answer.  But I thought that was the coolest thing that he his answer could have come from anywhere in the world but he searched and got a post from the guy sitting right across from him!

Some time ago my wife and I found out that our baby, due in Feb, will be a boy!  It’s really sinking in that this baby is coming.  As weird as that sounds, my friends with kids say they felt the same way.  I guess it is harder for men, since we aren’t actually pregnant.  Now the responsibility of being a parent is starting to kick in. 

As if it isn’t bad enough that this poor guy is going to inherit my genes, I now face my first real situation to screw this kid up – picking a name for him.  This is a tough choice for many reasons but my wife and I are discussing a few options.  We’ve chosen to keep the name a secret.  That’s partly because the surprise will be fun, and partly because it shields us from a lot of criticism and suggestions.  If we tell people we’re gonna call him "X" people will tell us what they think, good or bad.  But if wait and announce it after he is born, people can’t really criticize us, it is too late!

My second dilemma is pretty serious too.  As I write this post, I am watching the NY Giants game.  Yes, I am a fan of the NY Giants, living in the Philadelphia suburbs.  I grew up in central NJ and have always been a big Giants fan.  My wife and her family are, of course, Eagles fans.  So this is a big situation.  Which team in this classic NFL rivalry will my child support?  Well, I am sorry to do this to him, but I plan to encourage him to back the Giants.  I’ll try not to share my "anti-Eagles" attitude with him.  So when the Eagles are playing, I’ll encourage him to cheer them on (I don’t want him to get picked on too much!) but when they are playing NY, I hope he’ll side with his old dad and cheer on the Giants.  Of course, he’ll eventually make his own decisions so who knows what will happen.