How Copylicious inspired massive improvement to my About page

by Mike Stankavich on July 17, 2009

One of the things that’s always difficult about bringing up a new site, particularly a personal branding/image site, is writing an about page that isn’t laden with bizspeak buzzwords. It’s perilously easy to end up with something that sounds like it came out of the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator. Unfortunately the mission statement generator is no longer online, but a quick google search will find many examples such as http://www.bioteams.com/2008/09/27/mission_statement_generator.html.

I’ve been mulling over how I could write something that wasn’t completely annoying for the past few days. While I was avoiding the problem, I read Wednesday’s post on The Fluent Self by the amazing and brilliant Havi Brooks. She mentioned that Kelly Parkinson from Copylicious recently posted a killer awesome guide to writing an online bio. That was just what I needed. I actually followed Kelly’s process without skipping steps and came up with something far better than I would have on my own.

The first draft ended up looking something like this. After a bit of editing, I reduced it down to this, but thought it was kind of long, so I split it into an About page with a condensed version and a Biography page. I was feeling pretty good about it, so I wrote a thank-you comment on Copylicious with a link to what I had done. Kelly was kind enough to actually read what I had written and propose significant improvements – note her reply comment just below mine.

I implemented pretty much what Kelly suggested and made a few minor improvements to end up with is now a very solid about page. Thanks Kelly, if you ever need help wrestling with database stuff, just let me know! You may find it amusing that I overwrote the older version of the about page, so I had to go extract it out of last night’s WordPress database backup. Sometimes those geek skills come in handy.

I think that I’ve been playing with computers for too long. Most of the things that are allegedly new and revolutionary look very much like things that were new and revolutionary 10 or 15 years ago. I’m not sure whether that makes me jaded, cynical, or both. But guess what? I’m still here, I’m still working with this stuff, and I still dig it. Maybe the jaded cycnicism is just a surface affectation.

  1. How did you arrive at running this business? What path brought you here?
    1. I started playing with computers when I cut math class to play space invaders in the computer lab next door, and a fine computer lab it was – one apple IIe and one IBM PC with dual floppy drives !!
    2. When I cut college due to youthful folly I ended up working with computers and worked my way up, reinventing myself several times along the way. Transitioned from desktop support to network engineer to enterprise software developer. Became a pretty good linux sys admin and web developer on the side.

  1. What are you known for professionally? What do you have a knack for?
    1. Getting to the bottom of tough problems. Being the fire fighter of last resort. Having cross-disciplinary knowledge. Being able to speak English and business to the rest of the world as well as speaking geek to the techies.
  2. What’s the one problem you are best at solving for your clients? What do your ideal clients say about you?
    1. Same as #2
  3. Who have you worked with in the past? And what have you done for them?
    1. Home healthcare company
    2. Several iterations of computer store / consulting practice
    3. Fort James aka James River
    4. Intel
  4. What are you most passionate about professionally? What most excites you about your work & the contribution you can make?
    1. How to implement great ideas
    2. Building the perfect IT environment
    3. Fiddling with the numbers – I can lose 2 hours playing with an Excel sheet
  5. What are you passionate about personally? What do you really enjoy? What can’t you stop talking about?
    1. Building computers & networks
    2. NASCAR
    3. Family
  6. Where can we find you when you’re not working? What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend or a Sunday afternoon?
    1. Watching racing
    2. Dreaming up the revenue numbers that would fall from the heavens into my lap if I just implemented my latest great idea
  7. How long have you been doing what you do?
    1. Either 15 years or 25 years depending on whether you label me as a software developer or all-around IT guy
  8. Where did you grow up and why aren’t you there now?
    1. Tennessee, Ontario, Michigan
    2. Parents were in mission work and moved around a lot. I hated Michigan because I’d been there too long and unemployment was high. Visited parents in Pac NW, immediately felt at home, knew that’s where I wanted to live
  9. Any volunteer activities you’re crazy about?
    1. Hmm not really
  10. Any nonprofits you love, & why?
    1. Microlending and education with a high pass through on donations, i.e. don’t spend 80-90% of fund raising proceeds on marketing and administration. Need in developing countries goes so far beyond anything in the US
  11. Any awards or medals, or even medallions? Personal okay, too.
    1. National Merit Scholar – walked away
  12. What would be impossible for you to give up?
    1. Internet access
  13. Why would someone not want to work with you?
    1. Talk too fast/loud/much
  14. How do you want to be remembered?
    1. Committed to improving family’s situation
  15. Anything else you’d like to tell people about yourself?
    1. Finished college in 9 months after dropping out 25 years earlier

I started playing with computers when I cut math class to play Space Invaders in the computer lab next door, and a fine computer lab it was – we had both an Apple IIe and an IBM PC with dual floppy drives! I was the quintessential geek – only one girlfriend, but I was the Rubik’s cube champion of the school.

College turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion and defiance of other’s expectations. Although I had a National Merit Scholarship, I dropped out after three months, a decision I later came to regret. Twenty-five years later, I rectified that mistake. Through a combination of CLEP and DSST tests, Microsoft certifications, challenge exams, prior learning assessments, and one online class, I was able to finally get my Bachelor’s degree. All but the one online class were pass/fail, so it’s sure a good thing I got an A in that class. I considered an MBA, and even took the GMAT and applied, but then I came to realize that the doors that it would open would not lead me to a place that I want to go.

After I dropped out of college, I was able to find a job working with computers and accounting that launched me into an IT career. I worked my way up, reinventing myself several times along the way. After starting out with accounting and clerical work at a home health care agency, I moved on to a local computer store and consulting practice. Over my years in consulting I transitioned from desktop support to network engineer to enterprise software developer. I also became a pretty good linux sys admin and web developer on the side.

About twelve years ago I was the principal investor and technical lead for a dial-up ISP. Unfortunately we outgrew our cash flow and became one of the early casualties in the dot com bust. During that time I also spent some time consulting as an enterprise software developer to bring in extra cash to fund the business. When the business died, I was able to continue the consulting work and eventually transition to a permanent position. Ten years later, I’m still there.

Along the way I became known as a technical fire fighter of last resort. People would bring me the really hard problems which I was usually able to solve. I’ve also learned how to translate from geek speak to English and business for the rest of the world that isn’t technology obsessed.

Over the years, I’ve developed an interest in business as well as computers. I like to understand all the moving parts and look for areas of improvement. For many years I avoided the sales and marketing aspect, but over the last year, I have turned my focus to that area and now find it fascinating.

When I’m not working, you can usually find me at home with my family. I’ve been married for ten years and am the proud father of two wonderful daughters. Rochelle is almost five, and Chantelle just turned two. I was deeply into online role play games for a number of years and later online poker, but my wife persuaded me that she wanted to see more than the back of my head, so I stepped away from those pursuits. I do still enjoy watching the occasional NASCAR race or football game, but more and more, I’m looking for activities that involve the whole family rather than the solitary pursuits. We recently got a bicycle trailer, so now I’m dragging the kids around the neighborhood in their cozy little trailer.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Parkinson July 17, 2009 at 8:36 am

Mike, this is so cool. Your new bio retains the “geek cred” but is full of warmth and personality. Congratulations! Just like you, it’s always going to be a work in progress, but this is an amazing makeover! I’m so glad my questions helped.

Reply

Ryan Krueger August 1, 2009 at 7:22 am

Newbie to blogging so take this with a grain of salt…

Great About page in terms of who you are (really…great self bio, I feel like I almost know you), but I have no idea what your blog is about.

Maybe have an “About the Blog” and “About Me”?

Reply

Mike Stankavich August 1, 2009 at 8:15 am

@kelly thanks for stopping by, and thanks again for the inspiration. Like you say, it will always be a work in progress to some degree.

@Ryan thanks for that feedback. You’re right, I haven’t really done much to indicate what the blog is about. My intent is to have this as an identity blog. The expectation is that if somebody googles my name, presumably if they are thinking of working with me, that they would end up here and see that I’m real, have something going on, etc. I’ll give some thought as to how I can make that clear. This is still a baby blog, and I haven’t had a lot of time to apply refinements yet.

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