How Did You Get Into Tech – John McAndrew
In this part of our How Did You Get Into Tech series, John McAndrew, our Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Phoenix TS, tells his story.
Where did your interest in technology start?
I took my dad’s advice, “Go to college to expand your mind. It’s not trade school.” I took one computer class, Pascal 101, the whole 4 years, and did poorly. After a stint as pre-med, party animal, super-responsible fraternity president, actor, athlete, you name it…I graduated with a philosophy degree. I had no idea what I would do with it. I had no desire to teach or go for my masters.
Soon after graduation my dad had more advice, “I hear computer networking is big. Ed Walker [owner of a local, small Apple Dealer] needs a salesman.” Ed hired me, and trained me, and trained me and trained me. I sold a bunch of computers for him. Most importantly I learned a trade, and it was a trade I loved.
I was making up for lost time with complete devotion to computers. I read owner’s manuals, MacWeek, PC Magazine and Byte cover to cover. I could not get enough. I shadowed the shop technician to learn basic repair techniques and listened intently when the other salesman shared his deep knowledge. Most importantly I would listen to business owners’ needs, convert the needs into solutions, and create a demonstration to show my understanding of his business while also making his problems go away. What an education!
What was your first job?
I was eager to get out of my parent’s house so a got a job at a Washington DC beltway bandit. I threw myself into it and they rewarded me with training and exposure to UNIX, Macs, PCs, programming, Oracle, problem solving, hardware repair, everything I loved, all in one place.
In 1992 came the best of all situations. I was hired by a company of 200 people in downtown DC where many of the people did not have a computer on their desk. My first task was to implement a new, enterprise-wide system. They had great funding and chose me to lead it. I had the technical experience but my people and project management skills were immature at best. Luckily my bosses were very supportive.
A few years later, at the same company, the CEO started a company-wide business process reengineering. I got to be part of the team that reinvented all the processes, from marketing to customer service. Technology was key to making all the processes run smoothly and custom software was the only answer. I became a database designer and programmer. My skeleton team built new systems tailored to the needs of the company. It was a thrill. I made so many mistakes, like poor planning, listening, training, poor expectation setting, but we increased sales while lowering expenses.
The mistakes teach you a lot if you are eager to improve, and I was.
Then, still at the same company, along came the World Wide Web. It provided so many efficiencies, revenue sources and opportunities to hone my skills. The products remained the same, but the way we took the orders and delivered the products changed greatly. And building it all was an incredible experience.
By 2007 I had changed companies and as their VP and CTO I made the most of my world-class, real-world education. This position allowed me to make the most of the business acumen, soft skills, and frankly, the mistakes I made in the past.
What is your current position?
Today I’m the COO for Phoenix TS because of my soft skills and process-driven approach. Technology put me at the center of those companies for so many years where I learned how everything worked from every perspective.
If you were to give an individual advice about starting a career in tech, what would you say to them?
Not every person fits into a specific mold. You can see from my experience, the advice I can give is to discover your passion and invest yourself fully in the technology by reading whatever you can and taking advantage of all the great resources out there today.
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