How I Got Started in Support
When I was at The University of Texas at Austin, I was a year away from graduation with a degree in Human Biology when I realized I no longer wanted to be a doctor and wanted to pursue a career in “business” (yes, it was as vague as it sounds). Everyone I talked to (advisors, friends, classmates) all told me, since I was so close to getting my degree, to just finish my coursework and get my degree and “find a job” related to what I wanted. So, that’s what I did.
When I graduated, my wife had already started a graduate school program in Charlotte, North Carolina. I moved to Charlotte and started looking for a “business” job. I found one at Vanguard (the best mutual fund company in the world) as a Client Relationship Associate which was code for a glorified call center representative taking 60-100 phone calls a day from people about their 401(k) plan accounts, albeit with fantastic benefits, a pretty great training program and lots of opportunities for advancement. For the first six weeks, I was paid to simply study for two licensing exams in a classroom with my hire class and learn about personal finance and investing. In fact, I credit this job for instilling lessons about these topics I am certain have positively impacted my family’s financial well-being immensely.
(Vanguard was and is pretty amazing. Based on what I saw when I was there, I can’t imagine a better place to entrust with my investments. Every dollar I invest will always be at Vanguard. If you don’t have one yet, open an IRA!)
After my wife graduated, we decided to move back home to Texas, so I left Vanguard and found a job in Austin. While it was similar to my role at Vanguard, my prospects there were anything but. There was no career development and very few training opportunities. My manager was more concerned with how many days I missed due to a health concern than how much I had done to improve the performance of my peers on our team. I was working alongside people who had been doing the exact same job I was desperate to advance from for ten years. There clearly wasn’t much of a future there, and after only nine months, I was looking for a way out…
(About six months after I left that company, the entire Austin office was laid off and their jobs were moved to the company’s headquarters. I got out just in time.)
Around this time (the year 2008), I started to realize there was a whole industry around these various software and tech tools, services and apps I enjoyed using. I started using Twitter (@hoonpark) that year and started following people who worked in tech. One day, a link on Twitter showed me something called TechCrunch50) that had some cool, new apps on it, and I discovered some of the companies behind them were actually in Austin!
I knew I wanted to leave my dead-end job and find something with one of these companies instead. I started researching companies on lists of “Austin startups”, looking at their websites for job postings and applying for anything and everything I might be remotely qualified for. One of these was for an “Assistant Community Manager” at OtherInbox, and after a whirlwind of interviews in only a matter of days, I got the job!
Working as the first and only support pro at OtherInbox for nearly three years (before we got acquired where I stayed for a further four years), was a wealth of experiences I couldn’t have guessed were coming down the pike. I learned so much about email, product development, software engineering, QA, email and web marketing and the list goes on and on. Some of my closest friendships were made during my time there as well. I will always be grateful to OtherInbox Founder Josh Baer for taking a chance on a kid with zero work experience in tech.
I didn’t plan to start a career in support, but “thanks” to a poor job without much of a future, I stumbled into tech and couldn’t be happier about that. It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts, but I’m really looking forward to the future!