Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Birthday Look Back

Birthdays are milestones, especially when they happen to fall on round numbers in our Base-10 system. So, in honor of my birthday today, I thought I'd take a look back at my life and the things I've had the privilege of doing.  


  • Ran 963.82 miles over the past seven years, including 3 Half Marathons
  • Drank coffee in Seattle, ate cheesecake in NYC, beniegh's in New Orleans, Poutine in Montreal, Cheese in Paris, and Pasta in Rome
  • Learned to play the guitar
  • Ridden a motorcycle (briefly)
  • Learned to speak French
  • Drove a Ferrari

I've been to...

  • 16 Countries
  • 6 Canadian Provinces
  • 46 US states

Places I've Seen...

  • Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Empire State and WTC
  • Seen Shakespeare performed in Stratford Upon Avon, England and Ontario
  • Driven Pacifc Coast Highway, A1A and cross-country three times
  • To the top of Mt. Baker in shorts
  • Driven through a giant Redwood
  • Walked down Hollywood Blvd. and Wall St.
  • Sailed up the Rhine, Thames, Seine
  • Heard Jazz in a club on Bourbon St.
  • Knocked on the door of 221B Baker St.
  • Been to Gettysburg, Ft. Sumter and The Alamo
  • Mt. Fuji, The Swiss Alpes, US Rockies and Cascades
  • Seen the gardens at Butchart Gardens, Palace of Versailles
  • Mona Lisa and Winged Victory in the Louvre, Crown Jewels in the Tower of London
  • Swam in an volcanic lake near Mt. Vesuvius
  • Parthenon, Colluseum, Tower of London, Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Cool Rides...

  • Shinkansen & TGV
  • Gone 137mph in a car
  • Hit 100 mph Legally on a Montana Highway (no daytime speed limit at the time)
  • Hovercraft over the English Channel
  • Bottom of the Grand Canyon on a mule
  • Riverboat on the Mississippi River
  • Airboat in the Everglades
  • Seen the Space Shuttle liftoff in day and night

Other Noteworthy...

  • Been to NHL games in 6 cities
  • Come face to face with an idol: Patrick Roy
  • Visited Microsoft campus for a product demo
  • Beta tested Xbox Live

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Next Stage: Part 3 - The Long List

Creating a list of possible programs is a labour of love. It is a time when all the possibilities are spread in front of you like toys on Christmas morning. Do I want to go to Harvard? Put it on the list.

At this stage anything is an option, but those options need to be pared down to  more manageable number. Certain biases are apparent in my list. I am partial to schools here in Florida, in San Francisco near two of my friends, and in my home...Canada.

There are schools that will always be on any list of mine, just because it is a dream to attend them: McGill, Stanford, Berkeley.

Without further delay (in alphabetical order):

The Long List:

This list can certainly grow. There are some which were on my initial Long List for IT/IS degrees that are not on this list, for example. But this is an excellent starting point. This will be updated as needed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Next Stage: Part 2 - Graduate Programs

As I hit the final 60 days of my undergraduate career, I find myself looking forward with a great deal of excitement. I'll be honest: This is a really fun time for me. It's full of hope and passion, mixed with a little nervousness. I've got some pretty successful role models in my life and I hope to make them proud. They range from my eldest sister who got her MBA at Canada's #1 program, my 'older brother' who was "cold-called" recruited to work for Stanford's IT Department, to my high school best friend who took graduate mathematics at the University of Chicago.

As I said, I've got some big shoes to fill.


I love to learn. In a recent interview, I was asked by someone at Disney what I would choose to do if I could do anything and money was no option. I thought this was a great 'final question' in the interview, and I had given it some previous thought. For me, the answer is two-fold. 

First, I want to be part of a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) - something much bigger than myself. During my answer I came up with the phrase "something that I can wrap my heart around." I think that describes it best. 

Secondly, I would want to remain in graduate programs for the foreseeable future. This is not to say that I never want to get a "real job." That couldn't be farther from the truth. 

In compiling my "long list" of graduate programs, I have found so many variations on the theme that I want to take them all. While I know that's not practical unless I hit the lottery (I don't even play), it's still a nice thought. 

In the hopes of being realistic, I have narrowed the field down to these choices:
  • M.Sc. in Information Science with a concentration in Data Warehousing or Database Management
  • MBA with a concentration in Information Technology, specifically as it relates to Big Data
  • M.Sc. in Anaytics with an emphasis on Data Mining
  • M.Sc. in Statistics with an emphasis on Forcasting

Part 3 will be the "Long List" of schools. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beginnings of my Retail Career

I've mentioned that I started out in retail, but I didn't intend to stay there as long as I did.

My first retail job was probably similar to many people. I started working in the computer department for Circuit City as holiday help back in September 1998. It was a great job for a computer geek in his 20’s. Computers were just crossing the 1GHz mark and it was amazing to see that revolution in technology first hand. I was able to play with all of the newest computers right when they came out, get a discount on all the hardware I needed to overclock my desktop, and best of all, be around people like me.

Working at Circuit City was just my part-time job for the first few years. I had a full-time job working in the technology department of a small telemarketing company and I was taking college classes part-time. My plate was pretty full!

After my telemarketing company closed, I ended up making retail my full-time job, eventually earning a promotion to Merchandising Department Manager, later called Planogram Specialist. My first day promoted was Black Friday, so I was a “battlefield promotion!”

I became an Operations Manager two years later and retail was officially my career. I loved everything about that job. It was inventory, loss prevention, analysis, merchandising, human resources, customer service and sales all rolled into one neat little package!

Then, as you no doubt know, the wheels started coming off the economy and Circuit City went under. I stayed through liquidation until the bitter end, March 9th, 2009. After some time on unemployment, I took a part-time position at Target in their grocery department before getting back into management at Office Depot.

But the fun was gone. It was apparent pretty early in my time at Office Depot that my heart just wasn't in retail anymore. I wanted out. So I started looking at different careers.

The trouble I was having is that I had chosen to get promoted over finishing my college degree. All of my recent experience was in retail, so it was a tough sell to get employers to even look at my resume. It was very hard trying to find a good career after retail that still allowed for a good work / life balance.

Over the years, I've met literally hundreds of people in retail. Many of them have been amazing, intelligent, determined people. A lot of them are still in retail, feeling stuck. The truth is, thinking of them is one of the things that drives me to succeed. Without them, I might not be where I am today.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When did you become a Gator?

Still my favourite UF commercial.

#GatorGrad2013 in 73 days!

Nate Silver at MIT

I found an article which was a liveblog of Nate Silver's interview at MIT back in February. For those that need a refresher, Nate Silver was the statistician who correctly predicted the last election with amazing accuracy (read: he got every state correct).

I have to admit, I'm a fan. Anyone who can be that accurate is definitely worth listening to. I've got the Audible version of his book, The Signal and The Noise, waiting in my queue. I just have to finish my book on the history of Google first. <---(I highly recommend that book by the way)

I have to add his work on the last election as one of the turning points that made me seriously consider a career in analytics. That was a great example, on the one of the biggest stages in the world, of how big-data can be used. You can find out more about Nate's work at his blog:

I'll leave with one of Nate's quotes from that interview:

“It’s easy to compete with stupid. How can you be differentiating is the question I would ask.” - Nate Silver