My Life in Marketing (So Far)

Most won’t read this, but some appreciate a deeper dive, so here goes…


My introduction to marketing came from my father, who owned a roofing business when I was a small child. He would send out direct mail pieces to generate calls, and as he sat at our dining table designing the cards, he would talk to us about what he was doing, why he chose certain words, and why certain graphics mattered. 

From that age on, the idea was burned into my brain that design, copywriting, outreach, follow-up, and other core elements of marketing were what put food on the table. 

As the eldest child of a business owner, I wound up consuming a lot of business books over the years. By the time I was 15, I’d already read Covey, Carnagie, Hill, Blanchard, Ziglar, Iococca, Trump, and others.


I started community college at 16. I recall taking my first marketing class and being surprised at how others in my group were struggling with the material and assignments. Marketing seemed totally straightforward to me because I’d been prepared—or maybe brainwashed?—for it for most of my life. 

My first paying job was as a public relations assistant for the community college. I wrote all the press releases, proofread marketing materials, make phone calls about media placement, etc. It was pretty great experience for being my first job, and helped reinforce marketing in general as a thing I could do.

I had a lot of time to kill between classes, so I would hang out in the computer lab at the college and figure out how to bypass security settings to install video games.

The computer lab managers came to know me, as I’m sure I was a constant source of annoyance to them, and one of the most pivotal moments of my life was when one of the managers walked over to me, slapped down a brochure, and told me to make myself useful for once.

The brochure was about the basics of HTML, since this was around the time that the web was becoming a big thing. This was the mid-90s era of NCSA Mosaic, Netscape, and GeoCities, back when Yahoo was an actual directory of the known internet, and the big full-text search engine was AltaVista. There was no Google, no social media, none of that stuff. It was a crazy time.

So—mostly to show off to that computer lab manager—I made myself an expert in web design and development. That lead to various contract gigs working on web projects both for the community college as well as Arizona State University. Those sites would look ridiculous by today’s standards, but they were awesome at the time.

I eventually got a full scholarship to Arizona State University after being named one of the top 20 junior college students in the country, and started working toward my Communication degree.

While scraping to pay bills, I worked a bunch of random jobs, including working in a watch store at the mall, teaching SAT test prep for Princeton Review, technical writing for software companies, and various other gigs. Each of those jobs gave me great perspective and experience that shaped the things I’d go on to do later.

After graduating in 2000, I got my first real salaried job at a big software company in their technical writing department, where I became a team lead responsible for thousands of pages of product content. (And, now having a proper job, this is when I proposed to my wife.)


A former employer of mine had gone over to work at a digital agency and invited me to apply for a job. I had continued doing digital stuff on the side this entire time, and thought it’d be interesting to push my career more in that direction, so I jumped at it and was hired as an account executive. Managing projects for big clients like the Arizona Diamondbacks provided great real-world experience and confidence working within larger organizations. I also had unusual success reactivating older clients by consulting with them on their marketing needs and helping them see new ways they could work with the agency.

I eventually realized my long-term career prospects were limited at that agency, though, as the senior management team were all close friends and relatives. I’d have to strike out on my own in order to make faster progress in my career.

 In 2003, I founded an agency called Forty, the name having been inspired by the historical use of the number 40 to represent a large quantity of something. I initially focused specifically on web design and development. I was an early adopter of the now-standard use of CSS for web development, which gave me an unfair advantage over other local web shops. 

Gradually, though, clients came to trust me and kept asking for more services, and it wasn’t long until we expanded the list of services and became a true marketing agency.