I build short stories, proof points, & engaging experiences that convince people to take action.
Thirty+ years in sales, marketing, IT, engineering, and manufacturing with companies ranging from startups to global high tech. What’s fun? Biking, kayaking, travel, stories, and geeky stuff … like WordPress, building a geodesic dome home, & working with NASA.
What I do
In a nutshell, I like to:
- ask questions (especially why)
- build things
- rebuild things
- use technology to invent new things
My resume (pdf)
Career history (pdf – warning, this is kinda detailed)
Stories – Who I am?
Discovering who you are can be really tough.
For me it happened when I was unemployed and had to (re)write my resume.
Bob was a good friend of mine and the VP of HR for a big six accounting firm. I thought he could give me some tips on how to make my resume better. He took it, looked at it, then handed it back to me. He said “Who is this?” I said, “Not funny, it’s me! “No it’s not,” he said, “I don’t see you in this piece of paper. Go try it again.”
I was crushed, but I learned a good lesson. Since then I’ve read thousands of resumes and hired hundreds of people. While this version reflects who I am, what I’ve done, and what I can do … I think you’ll learn more about me by reading the backstory.
→ Learn more, read the backstory behind my resume – Who Am I?
Stories – Machinist to ME
“It’s hard to believe Jeff did that.”
“Did what?” I replied.
It was 1975 and I had just started at Iowa State. Reb’s mom and I were were standing by the fence, watching Saydel High School play their first home football game of the season.
“You didn’t know … Jeff committed suicide.”
Reb, Jeff, and I had graduated the year before in ’74. With my parents divorced and me out on my own, it looked like my life after graduation was destined to be working at a machine shop. Jeff – my best friend since Cornell Elementary – convinced me otherwise.
→ Learn more, read Machinist to ME
Stories – Building the dome home
Engineering is the art of making what you want from things you can get. – Jerry Avins
Shortly after I graduated in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State, I told my friend Jim Mackey “Cindy and I are going to build a geodesic dome home.” “Figures,” he said. “Foster, you living in a regular house would be like like an architect living in a mobile home.”
I was reading The Dome Builder’s Handbook by John Prenis at the time and thought “Cool, let’s build one.” Thing is, I’d never built a regular house. Heck, I was a machinist, not a carpenter. Granddad was the carpenter. I kept thinking “Maybe it runs in the family.”
So in September 1980 my wife and I started building our first home: a round house surrounded by cornfields outside Sherrill, Iowa.
→ Learn more, read Building the Dome Home
Stories – 180,000 Cisco IP Phones in 10 minutes
Walk into Bank of America and you’ll see Cisco IP telephones. Lots of them. Want to know how they got there?
Let me tell you my best sales story.
The first time I saw voice and video work over a data network was at our Cisco sales lab in Raleigh. My boss Matt Mullady was standing beside me, watching a demo, shaking his head: “This is amazing. This is going to change everything.”
→ Learn more, read Selling Bank of America
If you’re looking for me on social media, you’ll almost always find me as theIdeaMechanic.
So what’s up with that name? Well for one thing it’s pretty unique – there’s not many times … in fact there’s none … that somebody has already claimed it.
The first word – idea(s) – is something I never run out of. There’s a line in a song I like: “Once conceived, once believed, fantasy’s reality’s childhood.” Without ideas the world would be stuck in yesterday.
The second word – mechanic – that fits me too. There’s not much that I can’t make or fix. So it seemed combining those two words created about the best moniker I could think of.
A good laugh
Punkin’ chunkin is a rather eclectic sport, and certainly not as well know as soccer or football. In fact, even though you can find “chunkers” throwing things all year round, you’ll only find them tossing pumpkins (aka punkins) each year a little before Thanksgiving.
The picture above is the first punkin chunker we ever built. It was for a competition sponsored by a local radio station. At my son-in-law’s insistence, we entered the competition and built a floating arm trebuchet in a couple of weekends. As you might guess, we had no idea about how to build a punkin chunker other than to research it on the Internet and use our ingenuity.
We had a blast when we took it (on a borrowed trailer – thanks Gilbert!) to the competition. Each machine had 3 throws. We broke our machine on the last throw but managed to hit about 200 feet. That was good enough for 2nd place and a trophy!
That day we visited with Bob Carbo who won first place. His throw was over 1600 feet and his machine (Onager) was AWESOME. He told us about the World Punkin Chunkin championship up in Delaware that he competed in. So Jeremy and I headed up to Delaware and were hooked. After we came back we decided we needed to ditch our version 1 machine and build a bigger, more awesomely powerful machine – and enter the Delaware competition the next year.
The following summer we started building. I had this great idea for the machine and spent more time & money building it than I should have. We were confident we could throw at least 1,000 feet. So we built a new trailer and hauled it up to Delaware. As with any project, the time slipped by and we barely got it finished. In fact, we had no time to test it – but we were confident! So off to Delaware the family went.
It’s been said you have to be able to laugh at yourself. Well, when we attempted our first throw … let’s just say the results were less than spectacular. Watch the video.
Sad? Yes. Embarrasing? Yup. Funny? Beyond a doubt.
Everyone was impressed when we pulled in and setup on the firing line. It DID look like a killer machine. But I think we actually got negative distance (like -5 feet) on the first throw. I had WAY overbuilt it. I’m convinced the design was good, but the hub for the throwing arm was just too heavy, had too much friction, and our stretched surgical tubing (even though we used two, 2-ton tree pullers to stretch it) wasn’t powerful enough.
Anyway, it was a great trip. We made wonderful friends, saw Onager win with a throw that was over 2,000 feet, and learned some great lessons.