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The Maxim Maxim

For those unaware, besides being my last name, the name of a magazine, an integrated circuit manufacturer, and countless other companies; a Maxim is a universal truth. A proverb. As you might have guessed, that is where the name of my company came from, Proverbs, LLC. Pretty clever, huh?

It is also the name of a specific proverb coined by my friend Liz. Simply put, the Maxim Maxim states that "For any item that a person is in need of, having specific requirements, and which should be readily available off the shelf, will, in fact, have to be custom ordered and/or manufactured." It is the proverb that I have been cursed with most of my life.

We recognized the Maxim Maxim while shopping for my first high definition television some four years ago. I had done all my research on brands and models, determined the perfect viewing angle from the ideal reclined position upon my couch, and performed all the measurements for distances from the wall, viewer and floor. I found the perfect television, right down to the model number. Research completed, time to purchase.

Only no one carried it in stores, and we went to them all. One store had the same model in a larger screen size, which they offered to sell at the same price. Good deal, right? Except being a larger television would require the screen to sit further from the wall (bigger means a deeper box) and thus closer to the viewer ruining the optimum viewing experience. Much like sitting in the front rows of a movie theatre.

The worst part of the shopping experience, aside from having to go shopping, is that none of these stores could even order the model I wanted for some reason. Or maybe it was just too much hassle for them. I wound up having to special order the television online and pay the extra premium shipping charges. Thus the Maxim Maxim was born.

It wasn't until after that ordeal that I noticed it was something I had always been afflicted with. Some friends (*cough* Heather *cough*) say I am being too picky, but I don't believe wanting shoes and clothes that fit classifies as "picky". Yes, the Maxim Maxim really does hold true for those things as well; from purchasing shoes (I am a men's 10 extra wide, and no one use to carry that size), to buying clothes (30/32 waist, 32 length pants are impossible to find in American stores, not enough girth apparently), to furniture (the stand for above mentioned television was a two week ordeal), to computers, to parts for robots; and the list goes on and on.

At this point when I mention to friends needing an item for something, I will generally produce a tale of the heroic ordeals that I will likely have to go through in order to find said items. "I'll be out of the country for a few months as I travel to the darkest reaches in the Amazon Rainforest in search of the sap of a rare and endangered dwarf tree to mix with the volcanic ash from a long dormant volcano buried under miles of ice on Antarctica and cured with the methane rich waters from the under ocean lakes found only in the Gulf of Mexico. It must all be mixed within the perfect vacuum of space and set to dry under the warmth of a star going super nova. Unless you happen to have an extra bendy straw for my orange juice."

And that is the Maxim Maxim.

In a Nutshell (finishing touches)

Eventually I will put together a biography static page containing a reader's digest version of the wonder that is Andrew Maxim. I will also likely include a copy of my professional resume, just to tout myself a little further. Arrogance really is a wonderful thing. In the mean time I thought I should throw out a little further information on the "where I am at" and "where I am going" aspects.

In January of 2005, after much procrastination, I finally decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. Given the levels of experience I had already gained in the workforce I was, as previously mentioned, over qualified for many positions, but lacking a four year degree was under qualified for the remainder. I was never very good at pickle as a child, and figured it was time to rectify the issue. After my typical research frenzy, I enrolled into the Computer Science program at Excelsior College in March of 2005.

Pursuit of my degree can be described as sporadic, with long periods of inactivity followed by completion of far too many credits in the following few months. Mostly this is just me taking advantage of what free time I have, but I also enjoy a break between educational overload sessions. After two years of this I was nearing completion of my degree, three classes remaining.

Unfortunately, (didn't I already mention there was always an unfortunately?) Excelsior College was removing their Computer Science program and rolling it into a different degree. Those who were in the Bachelor CS program were given until November to have all credits submitted for a December graduation or we would be rolled into the Computer Technology major, with differing requirements. Given the course availability this was an impossibility for me (as I am sure others) to complete, as the courses I required ended in December, after the cut off.

I took this as an opportunity to change majors to something more suiting to my career and instead switched to the Management Information Systems degree program. A few additional business classes are required, but I believe the extra work will be rewarded in the long run. I hold a 3.75 GPA, with a 4.0 in my major, and currently am sitting at 131 credit hours completed while I wait for additional transcripts to arrive. I then have two classes to complete and expect to be part of the June 2008 graduation. Not quite the three years I was hoping for, but it is under the four years one normally takes.

Aside from working and college, my professional life also consists of maintaining current certifications, as well as certifying in new technologies. Most of the time spent in this category belongs to my beloved ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), which, unlike my Cisco certifications, I intend to maintain. And that is Andrew Maxim, the technology professional, in a nutshell.

In a Nutshell (part two)

I found that "something else" for myself in two parts. The first being Information Security. While a few might say that infosec is the reasoning behind the specializations that I dislike, segregation of responsibilities for security reasons really came much later (relative to I.T.), but I will save all that for another entry. What infosec did offer was the continued reason to learn and understand all of the systems within an organization. How each application behaves and relates to one another is just as important for security as the application itself, and for the record, it is just as important for the I.T. personnel who is an Expert in said application.

The second part of my solution was to step slightly away from the hands-on aspect of technology (at least in the work force) and push a little paper. Supervision and management became my primary new focus within the Information Technologies world. Although becoming a manager allowed a continued broad focus on technology and learning, it was not enough within many larger organizations as managers were department heads over specialized groups. Back to that again.

There was only one avenue to travel and that was Information Systems Director (similar titles included). Many groups, many specialties, many projects, many small pictures; one hat and a big picture view. My hands might not get so dirty, but they are definitely not manicured. With every project and every task I was able to explore the new systems and applications, and then have the luxury of taking a step back and seeing how it all relates. I was home.

As a good supervisor, I firmly believe I should understand everything my employees do, should be available to assist or provide information, and should never be willing to ask an employee to handle something that I, myself, can not handle. At least that is the stance I take and it is one that has allowed me to stay in touch with the technology I hold so dearly.

For my future, I can only see myself staying in the Information Technologies and Securities field. My soul burns for robotics, but I can never see myself inventing, designing or building someone else's vision or idea. It was the same, to a lesser extent, with programming and development for me. So I will continue to learn and grow in the I.S. industry, and devote my personal time and resources to fulfilling the whisper I heard when I was still so very young. And I will smile.

In a Nutshell (part one)

I imagine I have written enough "opening" rambles, so thought I should cover some information about myself, where I came from and where I see myself going. I was born on August 23, 1972 in Connecticut. Maybe a little too much "where I came from," alright, we'll skip ahead. I began my professional computer career in the fall of 1989. PCs were still "IBM clones," DOS was the platform and you still had to low level format a hard drive for the controller it was connected to (mostly MFM with a few RLL thrown in). Ahhh, the good ole days of writing batch file startup menus for the computers.

I learned a lot apprenticing at that first job: monitor repair, printers, operating systems 101, networking and even managed to install an AS400. We had a joking statement for working on monitors and the need to discharge the caps,
"You know it's not the voltage that kills you..."

<pause and wait for the people "in the know" to say something about it being the current>

"It's your neck snapping when you hit the wall behind you."

A bit morbid, but if you have ever been hit with a discharging capacitor while sitting at a workbench, you know there is some truth to it.

Good times were had for several years, but as with all things they had to come to an end, for it was time for me to move on and learn more in pursuit of my dream of robotics. And so I enlisted in the US Navy as a Nuclear Electronics Technician. I learned everything you never wanted to know about electronics in a quick six months. Rumor had it that the course was basically a two year MIT electronics program crammed into six months. Considering the flunk out rate and long hours nearly everyone put in, I would not be surprised were it true. It was also one of the only times in my educational career that I can remember being even remotely challenged, something I greatly enjoyed.

Fast forwarding again, when I left the Navy I once again embraced the computer field, just in time for AT&T GIS to begin their Windows 95 roll out, which I was lucky enough to be a part of. (Side note: if you do the math at this point you might notice that I did not stay in the Navy for the six years normally required for a Nuke, which was mostly because I was no longer a nuke.) From there I went on to a variety of differing companies learning all that I could from each; playing with different applications, differing hardware, a variety of OSes and networks.

At some point I started collecting certifications. Not for any real purpose, just mostly in competition with friends and coworkers. I had possessed a few at the beginning of my career, but they were required per the company I was employed with. These new ones were more of a fun thing. Unfortunately, and there always seems to be an unfortunately, having too many certifications can sometimes wind up being a bad thing. Had it not happened to me directly I would have never believed there was such a thing as being over qualified; that was a myth after all. Of course until Bank of America I would have never believed in such a thing as being "too ambitious," but that is a story I will likely not bother to share.

Specialization became a huge thing for a lot of companies, which likely was part of the whole over qualified thing, but it left me at a crossroad in my career. Play dumb, which I just can not bring myself to do, specialize in a certain field, which feels like playing dumb with a different label, or find another option. I suppose I could have played ball and labeled myself as an Exchange Expert, or a SQL Expert, or Oracle, or any number of other things that people were looking for. I knew the information after all, but it would be wasting knowledge. So I found something else.

Whispers

At some point in every person's life there is a voice, a soft whisper, a feeling that resounds throughout the very core of your being, louder than the roar of a volcano erupting and, yet, still quieter than a butterfly's wings; telling, begging you to fulfill a destiny. It is a simple thing to miss, or ignore, and easier to misinterpret, but for some it becomes a guiding call for them. There life's work. A blessing, a curse, a dream and a madness.

When I was still very young I heard that whisper, and while at the time I could not comprehend what it was or what it meant, it has become an obsession of mine; leading me unwittingly throughout my life. Simply, Robotics. It is what brought me into the field of computers, both as a programmer and technician. It is what lead me to join the United States Navy as a Nuclear Electronics Technician. It is what brought me back to computers in the networking field, and further into programming. It is what has made me a technology geek. And I loves me some technology.

Of course there are sides of technology I hate, mostly what people do with it. In particular I have an intense dislike of communications technologies. And not just for the obvious reasons that would lead one to hate mobile phones (which I do and refuse to own), but mostly due to the anonymity they can provide. Or rather that some take advantage of. While I do use much of the same technology that I dislike, I use it with a set of principles that precludes me from hiding behind the phone receiver or the keyboard. If you would not be willing to spend the time speaking directly to a person, face to face, then there is no reason to use other methods. Further, if you would not be willing to say those same words aloud to that same person, then those words are not worth uttering.

Pretty easy. Of course I have digressed from the purpose behind this post: Technology and Andrew Maxim - Chapter 1 - Why I blog. It is my hope to make use of this blog, this conduit into my world, as a means of releasing the random thoughts which so often keep me from sleeping at night. Whether it is a reply to a newspaper article I might have read, or my drooling over a new technology, or a random observation, or even, on rare occasion, a little insight into how I see the world. It is these things that I will likely post on, and should you not have noticed, it covers about everything.

It is also my desire to use these entries as a means towards refining my writing style. I have been told that I am a decent writer, I have even been published a few times in the past, but as any perfectionist will tell you, I can be better. So this will be my medium, the keyboard my pen, and the electrons flowing across these computer systems, this technology I enjoy so dearly, shall be my ink. I hope you enjoy.