Thankful #19: My Career

Today I am thankful for my career.

Not just my current job, for which I am thankful, but the whole arc of my career.

I started working in technology in 1992, when I was attending college with the hopes of being an English teacher. Somehow I ended up doing some clerical work for a local software developer who also did some hardware reselling and support.

One day they were short staffed, and they needed someone to visit a customer site. So they said, “Hey Brad, do you think you could install this tape backup drive for a client?”

I responded with the five words that have gotten me in more trouble than any other words in my life: “How hard can that be?”

That started me down the road.

It took me a while to let go of teaching, though. But I eventually found a way to combine my educational background with my vocational experience when I took a job as a computer lab aide at Hans Herr Elementary School in Lampeter Strasburg. That job paid very poorly, but it was the best job I ever had. I would actually wake up on weekdays excited about going to work. I loved working with the kids, and I even got to spend a couple hours a day outside being the Recess Guy. That was so much fun.

But we all have to grow up and soon I took a full time “grown up” job in the tech department of the Eastern Lancaster County School District. That lasted five weeks, until Etown came calling and offered me more money and more responsbility.

Twelve more years passed at Etown before my current boss called me and asked me to apply for my current job at Manheim Township.

It’s been a fun ride, and I never would have predicted where I’d end up. And who knows? Maybe the ride isn’t over yet.

I am thankful for my career.

Reflections on 2010

I already wrote about what I plan to achieve in 2011, but how about a look back at 2010? I figure the best way to compare where I was a year ago with where I am now.

A year ago, I weighed 220 pounds. Today, I weigh 158.

A year ago, I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Today, I can run a half marathon.

A year ago, my size 36 pants were getting a bit tight, and I really should have been wearing 38s. Today, my 32s are getting kinda big around the waist.

A year ago, I had been working at Manheim Township School District for a few months, and I was still feeling my way around in many ways. Today, I have over a full year under my belt, and I’ve relaunched our website.

A year ago, Superficial Charm was just Jen and me since we had lost our drummer, Jeremy. Today, Superficial Charm is a three piece consisting of Jen, Jerry, and me, and we’re having a blast.

A year ago, I was leading worship for our Sunday service at Crossings Community Church, as well as Revolution, our Saturday night ministry. Today, it’s just the Sunday service. This still makes me somewhat sad, but I think things worked out the way they had to be.

Blue Streak

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here, but I’ve been busy. The biggest news, of course, is my new job. I started at Manheim Township School District on October 1 after almost twelve years at Etown. Honestly, it was tough to make a change after so many years at Etown, but it’s been good for me and I’m really enjoying Township.

Tim, the guy who hired me at Township, is someone I’ve known for a long time. He was my cooperating teacher when I did my student teaching back in 1995. I should have ben able to tell where my career trajectory was going to take me, because even back, on my first day of student teaching in Manor Middle School, I was helping him run LocalTalk wires for the school office.

After student teaching and graduating, I went to find lots of work as an English teacher. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to secure any of that work for myself. I decided to change paths temporarily, and I took a job as a computer lab facilitator for Lampeter-Strasburg School District. That was an awesome job, the kind of job where I woke up on weekdays and thought, “Cool! I get to go to work today!”

But it wasn’t meant to last. Within a few months, I had been contacted both by Etown and by Eastern Lancaster County School District about tech jobs. Still not the teaching job I had trained for, but it sure paid a lot more than being an aide. My preference at the time was to go to Etown, since my good friend Joe worked there. His boss Dave had recently left Etown to moved over to Manheim Township. But Etown moved more slowly and Eastern Lancaster Country offered me a job, which I took.

For five weeks.

Because five weeks was how long it took Etown to hire me. I started working alongside Joe in February of 1998, and we had a blast.

For about a year and a half.

Because that’s how long it took for Joe to move over to Exeter Area School District. Interestingly, at that point, Dave came back from Township to work at Etown again, where he stayed until the fall of 2008.

In 2000, Dave and I managed to hire Mike, a talented computer tech and network admin. Mike had previously been working for Dave at Township. Are you getting a sense of how cyclical things are?

Mike moved onto IU13 in 2007, but Dave I kept working together until his departure from Etown last year.

Then, about two months ago, Tim called me. This wasn’t terribly surprising since we had kept in touch over the years. He had moved out of the classroom and into technology. He had also moved from Penn Manor over to Township shortly after Dave left Township to go back to Etown. Confused yet?

Tim said he was looking for a new webmaster/database administrator and asked if I’d be interested in applying. I said yes and got my paperwork together. The funny part is that I wasn’t looking to leave Etown. Etown had been far from a perfect workplace over the years, between administrative scandals, leadership upheavals, and various technology-related situations that I’ll never be allowed to talk about but took quite a toll on us personally and professionally. But in reality, in 2009, things were better for me at Etown than they had been in a long time. Still, I felt like it was the right time to move on when I got Tim’s call.

And move on I did. I’ve been at Township just over a month now and I’m really enjoying the work and the people.

Truth be told, though, I do miss my friends at Etown. I’m blessed to have been part of a great team at Etown and to have worked with some amazing people. Some great tech people I’ve worked with over the years at Etown: Dave and Mike (of course, mentioned previously), Tom, Dan, Ted, Christine, Kathleen, Brian, Gayle, Amy… and the list goes on.

Some of you may be wondering what happened to Kodiak, the student information system I had developed for Etown. Honestly, Kodiak kept me at Etown for a long time, through several job offers, one of which was particularly tempting. But Kodiak was retired in July, 2009. It had a good run, but Etown understandably decided it wanted a commercial product. With Kodiak put to rest, I felt more comfortable moving to Township, since Etown’s SIS no longer depended solely on the knowledge in my head and my head alone.

So, long story short: Yeah, I actually left Etown. And yeah, I’m happy.

Weekend Wrapup

Memorial Day is usually a three day weekend, but this year I managed to make it four.


I took a vacation day on Friday to help chaperone my daughter’s gifted class’s trip to the Smithsonian Insitute in Washington, DC. After some pre-trip jitters from my daughter, we made our way to the museum and had a great day. The only downside was that the return trip, which should only take about two hours took five hours. That’s a long time to ride in a yellow school bus.

Drinks at Turkey Hill: $4.50
Smithsonian Entrance Fee: $0
Souvenirs from the Air & Space Gift Shop: $17.49
Lunch at the McDonald’s inside the Air & Space Museum: $21
Afternoon snack at the Dino Cafe inside the Natural History Museum: $19.80
Dinner at a random McDonald’s in Maryland: $10.76
Spending the day with my daughter and watching her get excited about science: Priceless


Saturday morning started with a trip to church to troubleshoot some issues we’ve been having with the sound system. After fooling around with it for a while, I finally got it working, at least to a usable state for Sunday morning.

In the afternoon, we headed to Tom’s house for a Memorial Day cookout, where we hung out with most of my department and watched dogs and children get soaked from head to toe in bubble juice. We followed that up with a trip to Lowe’s, a visit to the Art & Soul Cafe to listen to my friend Jeff Lease play guitar, and finally a brief soak in the hot tub.


We almost made it through the whole service without the sound system acting stupid, but not quite. Time to upgrade, I suppose.

After church, we went to Toys R Us so my daughter could pick out her birthday present (she chose Wii Music, which I’m looking forward to trying). Then we stopped at Rita’s to buy four quarts of Italian ice  to take over to my friend Tim’s house for our second Memorial Day cookout of the weekend. At Tim’s, we swam a bit but mostly just sat around chatting.


Obviously, it’s only Sunday, so I don’t have all the details yet, but Monday will be my daughter’s 10th birthday party. Well, tomorrow is the family party; her friend party is in a couple weeks (as soon as school gets out). So we’ll be having our extended family here for the afternoon and evening, which would be our third cookout of the weekend for those keeping score at home.

I also wouldn’t bet against a trip to Guitar Center in the morning. I’m just saying.

All Kinds Of New Stuff

So, I haven’t mentioned it, but my dear friend David has moved onto greener pastures. At the end of October, he left Etown for Boiling Springs High School, where he now teaches Business and Computer Technologies. As sad as I was to see him go, I’m happy for him. I love David like a brother, and I could see that he hadn’t been happy at Etown for a long time. He seems much happier since the move, and I’m glad for that.

Of course, that leaves the good ol’ Etown technology department without a director. Well, as you might imagine, I’ve thrown my hat into that ring. I’ve been at Etown for more than a decade, and right now, we have the strongest tech team we’ve ever had (slightly less so since David left, but still). My hope is that I’m chosen to lead that team.

Onto musical issues. As you might have guessed from a previous post, I’ve started a new band: Superficial Charm. So far it’s me on vocals and rhythm guitar, Tom on lead guitar, and my beautiful wife on bass. Astute devotees of traditional rock music will notice the lack of drums, but I’m working on that. My buddy Steve was gracious to jump in and drum for us at our first gig last weekend. Not much else to report yet, but when I have more to say about the band, we’ll probably set up a new site.

One final note: my friend Brett and I have started up a new site dedicate to connecting and supporting the worship community in the Lancaster County area. We envision a place where worship leaders and others can connect, share ideas, share resources, and share their lives with each other. We’re still getting things off the ground, but we have big plans for the future.

(On a side note, through putting up the Lancaster Area Worship Network site, I fell in love with WordPress again. It’s simply magnificent software.)