Mark Rogers
Richmond, California, USA

The Geek

I'm Mark Rogers and I'm a bit of a maverick. Actually, I'm a hard core maverick. I have a reputation for doing the impossible because I always think outside the proverbial cube or sphere, for that matter. That's because I can!

When I was in Silicon Valley, I was called a Gold Collar Worker. I still am. No one has a clue how I got things done; I just make it happen or make it so. And I do it quickly while consuming the least amount of resources. Sometimes I even get a net gain. Just tell me it can't be done and I will do it!

The short version . . .

I'm an Application Developer, recently working through Robert Half Technology, San Francisco, CA. Recent projects have included Project Management & Reporting System for a major bank using ASP.NET WebForms and MVC, and a paperless Purchase Requisition System using ASP.NET MVC for a major winery. I also work on server side projects, reusable components and class libraries. Cloud projects are now in the works on the Windows Azure Platform. I prefer to use Microsoft's Visual Studio, .Net Framework, C# (C Sharp), SQL Server and MySQL. I also use Visual Basic .Net, C++, Java, JavaScript and even PHP at times. I tend to be partial towards Microsoft since I was a Microsoft MVP (1996-2002). During that period, some of you will remember my very popular SiteCrafters site that provided information, tutorials and code snippets for other developers.

The long version . . .

My other major characteristic is: I am an out-of-the-box thinker. I never do anything just because it’s always been done that way. If there is a valid reason - great! But, if there is a better way, I want to find it. Here's an example: An owner of one company asked me how I was able to complete a programming project so quickly. I said that it was simple - he told me what results he wanted instead of how to do the job. I asked if he told his doctor how to treat his illness or his auto mechanic how to fix his car. That’s the difference. If you tell the programmers how to do a job, you might get what you ask for… but perhaps not the results you really want.

In the beginning . . .

The main reason I am the way I am is because I was raised by the greatest guy I have ever known, my father, Jack Rogers. Before he died in 1977, he was king of the plastic molding world. He ran Automatic Plastic Molding Company, Berkeley/Benicia, California. He mentored many others who have gone on to become owners or managers of other factories. My dad's talents brushed off on me where I grew up in his world of compression, transfer and injection molding.

If I wanted to be with my pop, I had to go to work with him. Thus, I started young. By the time I got out of high school, I was a journeyman machinist, a great draftsman, novice welder and I could do any job in the factory.

AWACS with F-16 Escorts

AWAC & F-16 Fighting Falcons

When I was in my teens, I had a desire to be a flight engineer. The easiest and cheapest way was to join the US Air Force. I went for it. My goal didn't happen because it was near the end of the Viet Nam War. That career path was blocked by many patriots coming home, and they outranked me. That was a good thing, having them come home, so I can't complain. I became a jet fighter mechanic at Columbus AFB, MS. My objective after the USAF was to get hired by one of the airlines. That actually happened. At first I worked for Aircraft Service Inc., then National, Frontier, Braniff and ended up at Continental Airlines. More about that later.

A few setbacks . . .

1980 Ford F-250 - the last that I built
at Ford's San Jose Assembly Plant!
Ford called it the year of the 'RAM'
but I think Dodge beat them to the name.

It's odd about life, sometimes you're forced to change course in mainstream. Surprise, surprise, I went from the USAF back into the plastics industry at Weeks Engineered Plastics. Then I made a major change in direction. I went to work for Ford Motor Company at the San Jose Assembly plant in Milpitas, CA. They also assembled Mustangs and Capris. I was in their supervisor training program while I was going to college. It was great job and I only worked 3 nights a week. That came to an end when Ford started closing assembly plants like the one in Milpitas.

While I was working for Ford, I still had my heart set on the airlines. That didn't go very well. I worked temporary or part-time for many carriers like: Frontier, Braniff, National, World, TIA and probably a few others. Many of the airlines went belly up, or major cutbacks, and I had worked for many of them.

I finally landed a full time job at Continental Airlines in San Jose. CA. That was also great job. I worked at Ford, and at Continental and I went to college. Life was good . . . That was until Ford decided to close and Continental Airlines told me they had forgot my preemployment physical. That was a Thursday. Their doctor told me to get to my regular doctor now, like today. He wouldn't say why. I freaked out, but when I got home I had my Ford medical insurance (Kaiser Permanente) card in the mail. I called Kaiser and went to see a doctor that same day.

The following Tuesday I was on the operating table getting a cancerous tumor removed. Prior to that, the San Francisco VA had treated me for an infection for over a year. As a result, the cancer had spread into my lymph-nodes. Kaiser handled all treatments. If it wasn't for Continental, Ford and Kaiser, I wouldn't be here. And, thanks to them, I have three wonderful daughters - Shelly, Jaci, and Danielle - and four grandchildren. Needless to say, I always drive Fords!

The rebound . . .

Clinton Nuclear Power Plant Control
Room was originally built in 1979
at General Electric NED, San Jose

Once I was back on my feet, I went 'all out' to pursue my career. I had some interesting jobs. I started at General Electric Nuclear Energy in San Jose where we built Control Rooms for Nuclear Reactors. Grand Gulf, Clinton, Perry and Susquehanna were a few of the reactors. My project partner, Bill, is now one of my best friends. The environmentalists put an end to that era of nuclear power so we had to move on to other jobs.

I answered a single line ad in the Mercury News - Mfg Eng 326-9500 - and went to work at Randtron Systems in Menlo Park as a manufacturing engineer. Randtron (now part of L-3) designed and built state of the art airborne radar systems. Some of the airplanes were AWACS, E-2C, EA-6, F-14, F-15, F-16, F-18 and a few others. Randtron was a great job and a good company. That's where my computer skills began in 1980 at the very beginning of the Mac/PC world. I learned how to program in Fortran with Punch Cards. I learned Basic using a Commodore Pet 32 . The first computer I bought was a HP85. At work I could make that thing do all kinds of tasks that were never imagined. Coincidentally, I made the first prototype cases for the HP85 at Weeks Engineered Plastics a couple of years earlier.

The jump into the cyberspace . . .

Randtron (airborne)
& ARGOSytems (shipborne)
US Navy Antennas

As I progressed at Randtron and my duties expanded I was given the task of implementing Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines into our operations. I had an IBM PC at work and quickly upgraded to an IBM XT. Then I was introduced to Computer Aided Design, AutoCad 1.0, I think. I excelled at both like I was born with the skills.

I eventually took over the manufacturing operations and had to keep track of everything. A MP/M computer with dBase II came to the rescue. It had a whopping 10mb hard drive that was bigger than a large microwave oven. After Randtron a did a short tour at ARGOsystems in Sunnyvale as the Manufacturing Engineering Manager. ARGOsystems was bought by Boeing, then Condor, then EDO RSS which merged with ITT Defense. At ARGOsystems, I ventured into the application software arena by producing an application for estimated the manufacturing costs and operation times for printed circuit assemblies.

The next career move . . .

F-15 Eagle firing a AGM-65
Maverick Air to Ground Missle

With the runaway home prices in Silicon Valley, I had to make a move. Sacramento sounded good. I went to my buddy's shop in Sacramento and started calling around using his contact list. I was working at Aerojet four hours later where they built liquid and solid rocket motors. It was a contract job for 3 to 6 weeks as a manufacturing engineer. It lasted 4 years, then I was hired as a regular employee. I became an expert at manufacturing solid rocket motors. I eventually ended up on a thirteen member team to bid on the Advanced Solid Rocket Motor (ASRM) for the Space Shuttle. It was a corporate team consisting of Lockheed, Rust International and Aerojet.

The real challenges began after we won the ASRM contract. I developed the manufacturing plan, including all the requirements and specifications for tooling and equipment to manufacture, inspect and test the finished product. I also had a major role in making the entire project paperless. That was very exciting.

Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB
separating from the Space Shuttle
after lift off

While I was at Aerojet I enhanced and refined more computer skills. This time using the high end stuff like Oracle, VAX/VMS, UniGraphics and Intergraph CAD/CAM/CAE systems. I was pretty darn good at creating relational databases. For the ASRM project, we put together a mixed network of PCs, Macs, Intergraph workstations and servers along with a VAX cluster. It was one of the first ever put into operation. We were even linked to NASA in Huntsville, AL, Rust International in Birmingham, AL, Lockheed in Sunnyvale, CA and the main facility in Yellow Creek, MS.

Aerojet transferred everyone to Mississippi. I decided not to stay with the company. That was a good choice in the long run. I started my own consulting business that provided engineering and quality assurance services to manufacturing companies. I had customers like Web Press, AeroGo, Hovair, Falcon Systems, NEC and Packard Bell. AeroGo and Hovair where big subcontractors and rivals for Aerojet/Lockheed/Rust International on the ASRM program. I spent a great deal of time in Seattle working with them and loved it.

Another small setback . . .

Intergraph Software & Computer

I was hit by a young gal on Halloween in 1992. She had just gotten her driver's license and a new car, the day before. She ruptured a disk in my back that took me out for about six or seven months. Kaiser in Sacramento fixed me up as soon as they figured out what was wrong. There's nothing like getting all your income cut-off to make you humble and grateful for what you do have.

The really big jump to geekdom. . .

As soon as I was back in business, I became the Intergraph VAR for Northern California and Nevada. I focused on their CAD/CAM/CAE mechanical products, including I/EMS, Solid Edge and Intergraph/Bentley Microstation. I also sold and serviced their high-end graphics workstations. That got me back into the programming arena in order to create post-processor applications for the CAM to CNC link. I even wrote a post-processor for a Star 6-Axis CNC Screw Machine. That was a challenge because I had no clue as to what I was doing. In the long run, the Huntsville folks were behind me 100%, but the local people were very good at undermining my opportunities. I do have some good stories about those days, especially the one about my thirteen year old daughter, Shelly, who showed degreed designers and engineers how to use Solid Edge, Intergraph's Variational Solid Modeling CAD Software, at trade shows and seminars.

During the same time period, I was a Regional Officer for the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). I organized everything for the Sacramento Chapter of SME and helped a few others. I finally stopped that because SME had become a big ad agency, promoter and money grabber.

Teamwork works . . .

I partnered up with Sierra College and their Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC part of NIST). I also teamed up with California State University, Chico (aka Chico State). I did that because of my buds, Dr. W. Ray Rummel (Doc Rummel) and Dr. Leonard Fallsheer are engineering professors there. I held seminars and workshops at both colleges, primarily to promote my products and services. Chico State is also a major player in the CAD/CAM/Robotics Challenge at the Westec Machine Tool Show in LA every year. I often provided Intergraph hardware and software for their booth at the show.

I built a database of all the Northern California and Western Nevada Manufacturing Businesses and the key contacts. It was a very coveted list. All the sales people would have loved to get their hands on the information.

I published a newsletter and sent it out on my own using my list. A bit later, and with cooperation (bulk mail permit) of the Sierra College Center for Advanced Competitive Technology's (CATC), I produced and sent out a joint newsletter to about 4,000 manufacturing companies. At the time, manufacturing was in a big downturn, thus my newsletter was called HardTimes. The new college president didn't like that. Eventually I told him where to go.

Custom designed and built
products at Mathews Manufacturing

While getting the Intergraph VAR business going, I joined two friends, Walt and Scott. They are, by far, the most honorable guys I have ever worked with. With those two, a handshake was like gold - if we made a deal, it was set like concrete. We opened a machine and sheetmetal shop with design capabilities in Sacramento. We made almost anything. Products were even painted, assembled and packaged. I did the engineering, design, programmed the CNC machines and performed a few other technical tasks. Scott and Walt took care of making the parts and assembling them together. We specialized in fast turnarounds. At our best, we could design, build and deliver rack-mounted computer enclosures with production drawings in just 12 hours. That was very common for customers like Falcon Systems (they were bought by another company). Hewlett-Packard was another that loved our fast response.

These are representative of just some
of the stuff I worked on over the years

We did some strange and unusual jobs. We made surgical implants installed by RoboDoc, aftermarket performance auto parts, weather instruments, consumer products and many more. I even designed and built a computer controlled machine to slice silicon ingots for Silicon Casting, Inc. in Rancho Cordova (Sacramento).

Our manufacturing business had it ups and downs for me. I took over a back room in the shop and created SiteCrafters Internet Services. That went very well. After about two years in the web business, Microsoft made me a MVP (Most Valuable Professional). That had many perks and I miss that now. I have several friends that are still MVPs. If you need help, they are the ultimate ones in the know. Just check out a for a current list.

Getting set for the easy life . . .

I'm actually a good ol' Montana boy, and I always wanted to get home. One day my wife (now ex-wife) told me that I could work from anywhere, so I headed for Whitefish, Montana . She had already rented a moving van. I guess she knew I wouldn't say no.

Upon my arrival in Montana, I setup my servers in a spare room and I was back in business. Shortly afterwards, my three daughters joined me. Life was good, well at least for awhile. My partner in the SiteCrafters business failed to tell me he had not paid any payroll taxes, or any taxes for that matter. Needless to say, California and the IRS cleaned out my bank accounts in one day. I guess is was time to get a real job.

At first, I fell back on my skills in manufacturing and plastics. I went to work at Kazz Industries, Kalispell, MT as the Tool & Die Shop Manager where they made Identity Snowboards. I built the molds used for a new injection molded snowboard. I just happened to have my own Intergraph CAD/CAM/CAE System so it was easy. I really liked the job but it didn't pay much. I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. It was great. Unfortunately, I had to start looking for new opportunities after found out they were financial trouble with a grim future.

High Tech in Montana? . . .

Most people don't think of Montana as a high technology center. It's surprising how many high tech companies are located in Montana. My home in the Flathead Valley has a wide range of businesses. It surprised me.

God looks after my family and me. Before my job at Kazz ended, I interviewed with Jerry Simmons at Merlin Information Services. I didn't even want the job. He did, however, make me an offer I couldn't refuse. It also had benefits. Later, Jerry told me that he'd hired me because I said "Just tell me it can't be done, and I will do it." So I became a Database Developer in Montana. Some things go full circle. All of Merlin's data processing programs at the time where written using FoxPro, the successor to Aston-Tate's dBase. That was the exact same database language that I started with at Randtron. I thought I would have forgotten most of that, but it's like riding a bike. Much to my surprise, I remembered a lot.

My first "impossible" job at Merlin was to create their California Residential Property Database. It's created from public records from 58 different counties in California. The data for buy/sell transactions comes from a variety of sources and in different formats. Unknown to me, there was a team of two programmers that had worked on the project for two years prior to me with no results. It took me six months to finish, and I did it by myself!

At Merlin, I created huge databases from public records. They included their National Business and National Residential databases. As a result, I introduced them to SQL Server to handle the huge jobs and new products that I created. That was also about the time Microsoft was developing the C# language, which I started using at Merlin.

Because I was a MVP, Microsoft provided me with my own MSDN Professional Library, which has almost everything in it. When the .Net family of products came out I jumped into Visual C#. I could rewrite 40 or 50 lines of Visual FoxPro code into a few lines of C# code. I could also create components and libraries that could be used by FoxPro and SQL Server. The stuff was way cool.

Time for a sabbatical . . .

My favorite vehicle, the Ford
Excursion with PowerStroke
Diesel (aka Montana Limo)

As life went on, I reached a point where I just needed a break. I was in the middle of a divorce and was, simply, burned out. I needed a break. I left Merlin. I worked as a part-time freelance developer in addition to other low-tech jobs. I helped take care of a hotel, managed the construction of a condo complex, sold Canadian vehicles to US car dealers, among other things. I went back and forth to Canada and sold Canadian trucks and SUVs to US car dealers and at dealer auctions.

I traveled around a bit. Arizona and Southern California were a couple of places. I spent some time in the Army National Guard until 2008. Eventually I wound up back in the San Francisco Bay Area to help my brother. With the collapse of the financial and real estate markets, I found it necessary to go back to work. I bought a laptop to communicate with my daughters, and that must have reactivated the geek gene. That snowballed and I'm now back into full blown application development with all the new tools and technologies. C# and VB.NET are even more fun and many times more powerful than they ever were in 2001.

My Next Career Generation . . .

Online Applications

Currently working on Robust
Online Applications

I've spent a lot of time creating background applications and methods (functions for the real old-timers) to handle repetitive operations. Those are the things that work behind the scenes — the ones nobody ever sees. I'm working on some of my projects. Some I hope I can sell. Others I'll release to the Open Source realm.

I registered as a Microsoft Partner and I've spent countless hours learning new technology. My toolkit includes Visual Studio 2008-2015, Expression Studio, Windows Azure and Cloud Computing.

Since returning to the San Francisco Bay Area, California, I've worked on some interesting projects. I worked on a Paperless Work Order for Savannah River Nuclear Systems in South Carolina. I was responsible for data conversion (ETL) for WalMart's new international employee website. I developed a Paperless Purchase Requisition System for Wente Family Estates (aka Wente Vineyards). For Wells Fargo, I worked on a Project Management & Reporting System.

I'm currently looking for a full position. Preferably with benefits and not too far away. Like San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, Concord, Walnut Creek, Solano County or Marin County. Contract work also fills the need.

It's not yet over . . .

Now that I put you to sleep . . . I guess it's time to get back to work or whatever.