Odd Fella, Odd Jobs
Hi I'm John
I am one of those folks that is cursed with a backstory that doesn't sound real. I get bored and move on fast when I'm not challenged.
Different than most folks. I tend to think out loud, in rambles and need to whiteboard a lot to see the structures of a problem.
I tend to be direct. I do not want to negotiate and play the games - my pricing will always be transparent because truly business does not interest me. I just want to build cool stuff, and build a small team to support that.
If You Need Something Urgently
Send me a message and ask for a call. I will follow through quickly if you're my sole focus. Getting me on the phone is a great way to ensure that.
If You Need Something Eventually
Send me an email. The beauty of email is I can edit my nonsense down to just a paragraph or two - but I need time. If I had more time I'd write a shorter letter!
I'll gladly schedule time with you, but I need prep time for most bigger calls, if nothing else to research you and your company, so I know how we should communicate. I tend to prefer to work with technical folks that understand my value, so I always appreciate pulling in an engineer to our calls just in case we have a technical language barrier.
I tend to overcommunicate, and this is an example below. Skim it, I don't use GPT or anything to write my narratives.
I learn and connect a lot with folks and stories - especially via audio and visual diagrams. Scoping calls might get rambly - which is why I may ask for follow-up info up front!
- Two associates (lol)
- Bachelors in Computer Science
- Masters in Data Science
Probably expired: Sec+, Net+, ITIL v3, more that I don't plan to renew
- FCC ham radio
- Special Operations Radio Operators Course
- Special Operations Network Operators Course
- Certified Data Centre Design Professional (CDCDP®)
- Pistol and Rifle Marksman, SERE, etc.
10 years in IT, infrastructure, and tech with 8 in intel and SOF, and a few years of hard knocks.
- Machine Learning Engineer 2x
- Lead Cloud Engineer
- Automation Engineer (Think Ansible - not industrial)
- Communications Team Lead
- SATCOM (And all RF/power/fiber, etc) Infrastructure Engineer
- Sales Rep (Musical Instruments)
- Projectionist (Film)
Some Important Odd Jobs
(In order of coolness)
Joint Communications Unit
I worked in radios and SATCOM for two years. I got my ham radio license (K4JMP, which I need to update/renew probably) to study for the unit, and volunteered to go there. A hard deployment later, I was a team lead. I very briefly (badly) ran the show day to day in the shop, before moving on to work on networks (my actual Air Force job on paper) and servers for a rotation.
I worked in network infrastructure for that deployment, with some server (windows) work. Mostly video and user facing network stuff. I got my feet wet in automating stuff there (And helped automate a lot of the forward network, especially helping us find problems early). I finished my first semester of grad school during that deployment, staying up all night until class - then heading to bed after the sun rose. I had four troops as I recall - all spread out. I wound up managing the whole site at the end of the deployment for about a week or two, it was a mess.
The last few weeks of that deployment I got hired to the network operations center, to automate stuff. I got good at Python there (because they didn't know how to use me initially). With some technical friends we automated away hundreds of man-hours each month. We changed the culture - Devices can be configured "correctly", and we became that source of truth.
None of that is super exciting - but it was all in support of special operations. My first deployment I carried a weapon nearly anytime I was out of the office, and chain smoked middle-eastern cigarettes from an airport roof or boom lift for a few days at a time. I usually didn't wear a kit, why bother? I never once felt in danger, other than a few flights here and there. I even told a few folks off that could've killed me with a single bare hand. I had work to do, whole countries to support from time to time. Prioritizing the work was impossible, but I was my own boss.
I didn't love that job and was ready to get out of the military. I got promoted to E-6, got orders to a crappy base in the sticks, and laughed at it. I separated, that was my nightmare.
I more or less can't discuss my time there, but I can discuss the work I did. I built the second and third generations of their oil and gas forecasting model (and a lot more). Version 3 would've been very nearly truly automated - Had I stayed. I did work I never could've conceived of at a scale that is hard to understand - My usual ML workload was individual models at the per-well level, and we had a lot of them.
We tried a few other cool things - Statistics at huge scale, physics-based models for well optimization, and a ton of generic data science work. The data was mid to low frequency, typically 5 to 30 minute intervals, which is pretty normal for SCADA systems. NLP for oilfield comments, signal identifiers (which I'm stoked to try again - it's way easier with a model I'm cooking up) and some GPT/embeddings for a knowledge base.
We made other folks quite a lot of money. I'm itching to do it again on my terms. Ultimately we parted over management style disagreements (And me blowing up over it - It had been time to move on for quite some time, but I yelled a Hail Mary, a tactical error.)
This place really showed me the value of simple things done well. I came in chopping complexity wherever I found it (after a few months of orientation). Simplicity is beautiful, and with determinate systems (Think physics - not squishy people) modeling is pretty fun, with great results (with great experts to help guide me - a client responsibility in my future!)
This was my first job out of the military, I knew I didn't want to be in the federal space but it was a good bridge.
I built full stack apps, and integrated a bit of off the shelf ML. NLP in particular was of interest here, for a product that I had developed internally for processing scanned documents.
My favorite story from here was the pivot to automation (Product is called MANTLE). I built a web frontend to show what could be possible in the future for a few COLs we were supposed to meet. I more or less hacked until they walked in the room, hit save, and presented what we were thinking about from a
create-react-app dev server.
I coined something here I called the
configuration pyramid - A visual way to explain infrastructure as code and why it matters to Army folks. The whole point is that 90% of our configurations are the same - we codify that then program exceptions. This will sound familiar to a lot of folks - CS fundamentals.
I taught a Python class to an Army unit, which was a blast. I love teaching and presenting, I got to do a ton of that at NTS.
I do not love kubernetes or self-managing infrastructure, I won't do that again likely.
Why would a guy with an MS in data science take a cloud engineering job? Depression, I guess.
This was my second job out of the military. I learned everything I know cloud here - I still use AWS SAM because of this job. It took me a few months to recognize that I wasn't actually interested in cloud engineering, I got pivoted to the data engineering team part time, but immediately realized I was out of sync with the vision, and bailed.
I got told I was too abrasive in code reviews (yep, lol, working on that now), got marked down on a performance review for it, and decided it was time to move on.
I did my whole CS BS in Java - I do not plan to work for a company building Java apps again.
Or... Subprime lending. Never again. Never ever.
Everything Before the Air Force
Surreally I (reverse chronologically):
- Worked at Sam's stocking shelves for about a month
- Worked on the Romney campaign registering voters (and not voting for him)
- Worked at a music store, cold calling and selling instruments
- Worked on the BP oil spill, as a lazy deckhand. We slept under a bridge a lot. I get motion sick - this was hell. Well paid hell.
- Worked at a movie theater, rising from concessions to the first non-management projectionist. I miss threading projectors and building movies, film is cool.
- Drove a delivery truck for my parent's bed store at 16, and carried those big stupid beds into a lot of folk's homes.
Stoked to Help
Overall - I learned how to work my ass off for a buck, how to talk to folks, and how to sell stuff. Those little jobs are as much a part of me as the big blocks above, but it's harder to articulate the benefits and applicability.
I have endless empathy for folks that work for folks because of those jobs - They all prepared me for life, but I was not fairly compensated for that time. I work less now than I ever have and make more money. I believe in pulling folks into tech by all means because of that.
I used to get paid biweekly - one whole paycheck went to my rent, the other to food and stuff. I'm great at being poor and surviving because of all of these jobs - 8$ an hour was decent pay, back in the day. At least it wasn't minimum wage.
I now have a masters and experience leading teams to meet the demands of the SOF world, and a ton of buddies looking for work. We're (generally) here to help, we're not here to write your code.
Data Science as a Service
The other side of the coin is that I believe in open tooling for making the world better. I am glad to build and open up models as a service, but I generally will not just huck something over the fence to you. Consultants that drop off models are a true evil in my mind, I will either maintain it or help your team frame the problem and build it.
If you need my help, want to pay as you go, but can't afford us - Shoot me an email. Chances are we can work together, if you're comfortable handing me your (anonymized) data for training and learning.