My first job was scooping ice cream for Baskin-Robbins in Charleston, South Carolina during the summer of 1974. I was 16, and they paid me $1.25 per hour. Later that year my new step-father Albert Yatrofsky was assigned to the U.S. Navy base in Rota, Spain, where we'd live for the next two years. During the summer between my junior and senior high school years I painted Navy trucks (only grey color) for a small wage.
After returning from Spain my mother and step-father decided to start their retirement in San Diego, California. I was not invited to join them, so I stayed in Baltimore, Maryland with Aunt Mary (Frum)...a cousin of Albert's. I was eighteen. For a few months during the autumn of 1976 I worked part-time as an apprentice for Mary's son-in-law who ran an air conditioning repair business. As the weather cooled so did the air conditioning business, so I took a bus to downtown Baltimore and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. (It felt like a logical choice, since I was raised as a "military brat" and I knew how to march quite well from my years in the high school marching band.
The Navy told me I tested well, and they offered me any post-bootcamp, advanced training school I wanted. I selected air traffic controller school, but there was a typographic error somewhere in the paperwork, and I was sent instead to weatherman school instead. Six months later I graduated at the top of my class and was told, as a reward, I could choose any duty station I wanted. I asked my chief if the Navy had a base in Hawaii. He replied, "You idiot! Ever hear of Pearl Harbor?!" So that's where I worked for the next two years, in the computer center of Fleet Weather Central, supporting U.S. ships and aircraft in the Eastern Pacific.
I played trumpet in official Navy bands (both concert and marching). One day I was offered the chance to play a marching snare drum. I loved it! From that moment on I spent every spare dime I had on building a rudimentary drum set from pieces bought from local pawn shops. I played daily in my barracks room in Pearl Harbor. When my enlistment in the Navy was complete, I decided, I would become a full-time, professional drummer in San Diego, California. And that's exactly what I did.
For the next three years I played drums five nights a week in cover bands, growing my hair long and learning to play all different styles of music. I learned how to sing and play drums at the same time. But drumming -- even full-time -- pays poorly. A musician acquaintance told me he was enrolled in a 9-month program at a San Diego trade school called Coleman College, learning how to program computers in various languages. He told me he'd be earning twenty thousand dollars a year after he graduated. I was ready for a change, so I cut my hair, took out a student loan for the $5000 tuition, and spent the next nine months learning Assembler, JCL, PL/1, FORTRAN, COBOL, RPG and a few other languages.
After graduation from Coleman College I was hired immediately by Hughes Aircraft Company in Fullerton, where I was, in fact, paid $20,000 per year to program aerospace CAD/CAM computers using FORTRAN and PL/1. After two years of increasing pay and confidence I accepted a higher-level job as a systems analyst at Northrop, where I stayed for a total of almost six years.
During my Northrop years I got married and quickly started a family (Valeri and Alison were born just 15 months apart in 1984 and 1985). Seeking better income I completed my bachelor in computer science degree during night school, then I joined Banyan Systems, Northrop's key computer network provider, and began selling technology to customers. After three years I took over management of California sales for network manufacturer Shiva (later bought by Intel), then later headed up Western sales for Compaq's new Network Products Division for several years. After two years with Extreme Networks I decided to launch my own network products reselling business. Telsius Technology was born. My employees and I sold Extreme Networks and other manufactures' products into large hospitals and government clients.
My entrepreneurial income enabled me to take the time to write my book about effective sales practices. That led to keynote speaking and training engagements, which led to additional writing and consulting opportunities. I sold a portion of Telsius to competitor TechStrata, but retained my corporate structure. Boston-based software vendor Courion hired me to help their struggling Western North America sales, which I did, raising regional revenue from $1M to $10M in less than two years.
In 2014 I co-founded Advantage Improv, a company that teaches organizations and teams how to boost creativity, effectiveness and profits by leveraging proven improvisational techniques. Our clients include Microsoft, Adobe, Brown-Forman, Ayres Hotels, University of San Diego, CalOptima, Spectrum Brands and many other forward-thinking companies.