Pursue the Passion

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Career interviews expose people to career possibilities. These career interviews come out of our yearly tours and from people we have the pleasure of speaking with between tours.

by Industry| by Name | by State | by Title

Jason Thompson

Career Interview- Graphic Designer

March 9, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Jason Thompson is a graphic designer for Prisma Graphic, a printing company based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the only graphic designer the company employs. He is from Seattle, but has lived in Phoenix the last 20 years. He loves the Seahawks and the Suns.

I went to the Art Institute of Phoenix. My dad is a graphic designer. I’ve always loved computers and I’ve always loved drawing and designing stuff. It just has worked out.

I design the Suns program for the game that they hand out with the stats and stuff like that. They give me stories. Basically, right now I’m putting together the brand new one. I use a whack ‘em tablet. Instead of a mouse, it’s more of actual drawing because you’re moving your hand. It helps out a lot in Photoshop and stuff like that.

I’ve always loved to draw. I wanted to be an animator before I did this. I found out that it takes 1500 drawings to make a few seconds of animation. So I rather see something right away.

I love my job because I get to work on the Suns stuff, and I’m a huge Suns fan. It’s also just thinking that the stuff I’m putting together goes out and is viewed by millions of people. It still is cool to think that every night at the Suns game, there are tons of people reading through something that I put together.

Sam Pilafan

Career Interview: Band Director

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Sam Pilafan is a bundle of east coast energy. He is a music teacher and band director at Arizona State University. This is his 38th year teaching at the college level.

What’s your story? How did you get here today?

Right away I started working. When I was 15 years old I played an accordion at an Italian restaurant. I had the bad news that the accordion isn’t part of the marching band. I didn’t know that. So I took up the tuba because the band director told me that if I played the tuba, I would always have friends. So I did that and became a band guy in high school and college. I had a great time. I played in rock n’ roll and Latin bands. Then the phone rang and I won an audition to go to Tanglewood, which is a Boston Symphony summer music school. I was picked as one of fourteen people who was picked to be on stage during the opening of the Kennedy Museum of Modern Arts.

During that time, I met everyone. That led to a string of 25 Broadway shows. I was a studio artist in New York City. I had an amazing time. That fascination got to the point where I toured the world for 20 years and made 38 CD’s. It was really successful. And then one day the phone rang and it was an opportunity to be a full time teacher instead of part time. And I took it. I worked for 20 years at Boston College. Before that, Berklee, which is a famous jazz school, and then Arizona State. I headed for Arizona not knowing what was going to happen.

Wow. So what do you do now?

In my life, the teaching was the thing that made me the happiest. I’m working with people. I’m trying to make them responsible. By learning how to practice. By learning how to be dedicated and work well together in a team.

My job is to get the students to breathe better. That’s an expertise that I have. My job is to get their rhythm to be better. To set them up so that leads to a piece of music. Now we’re talking about something that borders 250-300 people on a football field. We try to teach them to be a performing athlete from the waist down, and a performing musician from the waist up. This is something that is choreographed from the first note to the last note. From the left side of the football field to the right side of the field eleven minutes later.

There’s a population of 54,000 people here. So we’ve got aerospace engineers, computer science majors and people who are interested in the health professions. There’s almost 300 people out there, so there are people with multiple layers and pacing and problem solving going on. All at the same time.

That’s my job is to mechanic all of that. It’s like being a catcher at a baseball game. Although you don’t know the pitcher. There’s no telling what’s going to be coming down the pipe. Every day it’s different. I find that absolutely fascinating as a job. To teach others the real legacy. It’s an honor to sit with younger generation people and get them ready to take over.

Anything else you’d like to add about teaching?

If you’re in the people business, teaching is a phenomenal thing. This is my 38th year of college teaching. My situation is really interesting in that I teach two generations of people who study with me. It’s like I have a student who is just a spectacular teacher, and I got one of her students. Then I got one of her students’ students. I am now a teacher grandfather, as of this year.

It’s really neat because the science of teaching has gone into areas all over North America. It’s really fun to watch that. As a musician, even though you make a lot of recordings, it’s a permanent record of sound, it seems to me that the real legacy is your students. The culture that you pass on is enduring. It lasts from teaching generation to teaching generation. But that’s what I do.

Nick Cotsilis

Career Interview- Ice Technician

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Nick Cotsilis is the Ice Technician at Jobing.com Arena, where Wayne Gretzsky coaches the Phoenix Coyotes NHL hockey team. He is in his second year with the team.

We put the ice in the day after Labor Day this year. What we do is we try to get the building as cold as possible, right around 56 degrees. We get the concrete to around 10 degrees. Then we lay water out with a golf cart using a spray system. We put a layer of water on the floor, then we start with the white paint. That process takes about two hours just to set it up and have it freeze.

Once the white paint is done we go back to a more clear. After that’s all frozen, we lay the lines down and start painting away. We go with the lines first and then move on to the logos. We use all different kinds of tools and paints. There’s a special paint that we use. There’s some special chemical that they use where you paint it and it freezes right away. I’d say there’s roughly ten colors or so for the different logos that we use.

We started lying water down at noon, and got done around eleven o’clock at night.

It’s the best job in the world. Totally my dream job. For sure. I love interacting with the players and getting good feedback from them. I love doing this job.

James Acevedo

Career Inteview: Private Investigator

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

James Acevedo is a private investigator.

What’s an average day look like for you?

On an average day, our caseload could go from insurance fraud through risk assessments to doing vulnerability assessments for various companies. The good thing about this profession is that it is a growing profession. We are providing services to a diverse group of people and industries. You’re really helping people.

As a private investigator, we can cross the borders and not have any problems. The only thing that limits us is the laws itself. The types of investigations you’d be working on is mostly surveillance. You’d be out there watching a potential target or a person who claims that they’re hurt, and you find out if they’re hurt.

What are some of the common misconceptions of being a private investigator?

Some of the common misconceptions are that we only chase lonely housewives and husbands. And that all investigators are former police officers who couldn’t hack it. And that’s not true. This is a professional industry and has become a professional industry in the past twenty years. It’s really changed.

What are some of the characteristics you have to have as a private investigator?

You have to have that sense of right and wrong and always wanting to uncover the truth. And always wanting to know what’s going on around you. It’s a lot of fun when you work an investigation from beginning to end and you solve the case. You get such a sense of well being. It’s great! To me it’s something that’s really satisfying. And I love it.

There’s no other industry out there that offers the type of flexibility and freedom. For a person that’s looking for excitement and a person who is going to keep them constantly thinking and constantly on their feet…this is the best industry to be in.

Does a person need gun training to be a private investigator?

Because we carry a firearm, we try to practice as often as we can to maintain proficiency. You have to qualify once a year for training. You have to fire the gun at least one time a year. But we encourage our investigators to practice as often as possible so you’re proficient and you know what you’re doing with it.

Why should someone become a private investigator?

This industry has a huge need for quality people. It’s not an easy industry to get into. There’s a good ol’ boy network there. You have you to be a former police officer, or military, or government or something. You could work as a police officer for twenty years, and that doesn’t make you a security expert or an investigations expert. It’s that real world experience. I’ve worked with people who have retired from being a police officer after thirty years. And all they did was drive in a patrol car and write parking tickets. That doesn’t that make them an investigations expert.

If there is a good ol’ boy network, what’s the best way to get into this industry?

The best way to get into the industry is to find someone who is looking for a trainee and work with them. You have to stick with. In regards to education, they should really specialize in something. A criminal justice doesn’t hurt, but you need to apply it to your industry. A criminal justice degree is a great degree to have if you’re going into law enforcement.

What advice do you have to become a private investigator?

Get your experience. Get your hours in. Get more training and education because it will help. And don’t give up. They’ll be times where you’ll ask yourself why you’re doing it, and there will be other times when you’ll know exactly why you’re doing it. You have to take the good with the bad, because this industry does have a lot of bad in it. The only reason why I’m successful in this industry is because I’ve stuck with it.

Joe Boni

Career Interview: Stadium Engineer

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Joe Boni is the Director of Engineering for Global Spectrum at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. The stadium is home to the Arizona Cardinals and on Sundays, 64,000 screaming fans. Depending on the season. Among his many engineering responsibilities, he oversees the only football field to be moved in an out of the stadium, as well as manage the first retractable roof that moves on an arc.

What’s your job entail?

My job is a culmination of everything that is mostly mechanical in the building. It could be air conditioning, electric, the plumbing, it could be the roof or the field. I do some game day productions. The sidelines, the coordination of the headsets. Instant replay. Just the technical aspects of the business.

I have to coordinate broadcasts to make sure they’re plugged in and parked in a logical, sensible order. I also do a lot of tenet improvements. Construction projects. Major renovations. I oversee that as well.

That’s a lot of responsibilities.

When I get into a situation where it’s just one thing, I get bored. I have to take on new challenges. I’m someone who thrives on chaos and a fast paced environment. I think that’s why management keeps throwing new jobs on to me. They know that I love that. I make sure that it’s done right.

How did you get this gig?

I started in the business about 20 years ago as an apprentice engineer for operating engineers. I went to school for heating and air conditioning. I just worked my way up through the trades. I became a journeyman. Eventually I become the chief engineer for running a building and a crew. And then I wanted to get into management and went back to school for a four year degree. Got a four year degree in business management. And I just kept working my way up.

My last job was Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I started there as a chief engineer and was promoted to facility manager. A few months after that I was promoted to Director of Facilities. I became a facility manager, which eventually led to here as the Director of Engineering.

Here, everything is about volume. Everything is larger. There’s more of it. The quantity is larger. I went from 2,500 seats to 64,000. I moved from a building that makes symphonic music to moving a 19 million pound field.

What would you say to someone who eventually wanted to get to where you are today?

Find a mentor. When I began, years ago when I was a chief engineer, I had someone who took me under their wing who taught me and guided me. They gave me a path of education. They imparted knowledge to me to move along and advance my career. Since then, I’m now an instructor as well. I teach classes for this industry as well. I teach management. I teach heating and air conditioning. I give back to the workforce as well as being active in the workforce.

I’m very passionate about what I do. I try to guide my staff on a career path that will make them just as successful.

What do you think of when you go to work?

When I drive up every day, I just look at the stadium and say, ‘wow.’ I’m proud of my accomplishments. All the hard work…it paid off.

Hank Sindlinger

Career Interview: Farmer

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Pamela and Hank Sindlinger have a property in Pinellas County that is 100 feet wide but a quarter mile long. They have about forty different types of vegetables in the ground right now. “It’s every man’s dream,” Hank says. “You get to come out and have fun in the sun in Florida.”

What does a farmer do?

We just start going in and planting seeds or planting seedlings for crops. On Wednesdays and Saturdays we harvest. Today’s a harvest day.

What’s one of the misconceptions about farming?

It takes a lot of planning and thought. You have to know a lot about science and math. You have to know your ratios for calculating your inputs. There’s a lot to know about weather. It’s a little more sophisticated then what you may think. It’s not just throwing seeds in the ground.

Why is this a good job for you?

I really like planting the seeds. I really like seeing things come from the very moment you put it in the ground. Some of the radishes and lettuces we plant can be up from the ground in almost 24 to 48 hours.

One of my favorite things is when you do the harvest, and you’ve got some volunteers here for harvest, and you pull a carrot out of the ground. You’re like, ‘Whoa!’ Just seeing all the people when they get the vegetables and seeing their eyes light up. Then again, we’re still in the honeymoon phase.

But it’s just a rush sometimes. Like a calrobby. It’s like a plant from Mars. It’s like, I didn’t even know what it was, and now I grow it. People see it and they ask me what it’s all about. It’s nice to see it all turn around and to see people come here to see what we’re doing. It’s been a rush and been a really cool job.

Sparkle Hickey

Career Interview: Casting Director

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

Sparkle Hickey is a casting director in Los Angeles. She is the owner of Make it Sparkle Casting.

What’s a casting director do?

A casting director acts as a liaison between executives and actors or actresses. The process is that a producer, director, and executives of television shows, commercials, photo shoots, print ads, and events are looking for talent to fill their production needs. The casting director fills those needs with talent they’re looking for.

What do you spend the majority of your time doing?

I spend the majority of my time networking. That, and going through tons of photos and headshots.

It’s hard to find someone with a critical eye for talent and know what it is that people are looking for. As a casting director, you have to find that talent, and you have to have that critical eye. If you have that critical eye, and know what people want and know what the role calls for, the possibilities are limited.

What’s the biggest challenge in your job?

The biggest challenge is finding the talent to fit the role. Because it can be difficult. You know what the director is looking for and you know what the script calls for. You want it to be perfect. And to find someone who fits in perfectly is tough, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth time.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a casting director?

My advice would be to start now by doing your research on every single show you watch. Start to read through the credits when they roll, and research the credits. It’s important to know that everything you see on TV had someone envision it, and place someone in that role.

Ben Koller

Career Interview-Fishing Guide

March 6, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

I’ve always loved fishing. I love teaching people how to fish. So I started a service called the Hookup Outfitters. It’s expanded now to have thirteen guys. I think I’ve got the greatest job in the world.

Basically, I get to take people fishing for a living. Most of my clients are people just like me. People who love the outdoors, who love catching fish, love hearing about the industry, the area, and new techniques.

I actually went to college on a full ride music scholarship. And the year I went up to NAU in Flagstaff, the Pike fishing was really good. I got more addicted to that more than anything else and realized pretty quickly that music was great, but fishing was definitely where my heart was. So I took it and ran from there.

I think at some point in your life you have to start weighing out your options. You spend most of your life at work. Loving what you do and figuring out a way to get paid for it is crucial. In the fishing world, this is a lifestyle job. I’m not going to have a big Penthouse on Park Avenue anytime soon, but I wouldn’t want a penthouse on Park Avenue. I get the lake every day.

The office is definitely the biggest perk of the job. When you take a moment, and stop, take a deep breath and look around, you realize that no matter if it’s work or not work, that this is awesome. You can’t beat this.

Joy Estes

Career Interview: Insurance Agent

March 2, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

The office is like walking onto Main Street in the 30’s. A fire pole spans from the ground to the blue skied ceiling that’s eerily similar to Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. A popcorn machine sits in front of a wall exposing a few painted bricks and an old school car with the license plate reading ‘Joyest.’ Employee placards are displayed proudly with ‘addresses’ marking the start date for their length of service. Joy Estes has one outside of her office reading, Joy’s Junction, 1982.

Joy Estes, the owner of this place, greeted us with road atlases and hugs in a State Farm jersey. Here are a couple questions we asked her about being an insurance agent.

Why go to such extremes to decorate your office this way?

This is where most of your life takes place when you’re awake. Why wouldn’t you want it to be your dream? I try to make it nice for everyone.

What’s an insurance agent do?

In a nutshell, I help individuals, families, and businesses select insurance policies that provide the best protection for their lives, health, and property. I love what I do because I get to be the hero. I get to be the solution. When someone gets in an accident, the doctor tells them they have a problem by diagnosing what’s wrong. Their lawyer outlines their problem for them. The banker is going to tell them they’ve got the problem. Well guess what? I’m the solution to their problems, because I’m the one with the checkbook. And I get to be their hero when I cut their check, instead of the goat.

Right now the insurance business is probably one of the only businesses to be doing well in these economic times. Why is that?

There’s no other business where your clients and revenue compounds and stacks upon each other. It’s all built on relationships. If I can build a good relationship with a client at the start, that will create a long lasting revenue stream. Because everyone needs insurance. So you work really hard at the start to get the clients, and be the solution to their insurance needs, and then it gets really easy for them to renew. Because no one wants to change their insurance once they’ve signed on. It’s too much work. So you just have to make sure that they’re happy, and by a result of them being happy, you’re happy because you’ve got a new check coming in every month. It’s a great business to be in.

You were the first female to be admitted to West Point. Mind telling us how that happened?

Yes, I was the first female to be admitted into West Point Military Academy. It started in high school. I got really good grades and I really excelled in athletics. One day I got a letter addressed to Jim Estes, not Joy. They must have thought I was a boy! I decided to roll with it and apply anyway. On July 4th, 1976 I became the first woman to be admitted. I started with about 200 other girls in the program. Then I got a call from my high school volleyball coach, asking me to come back to Arizona and marry him. So I did. I dropped out after eight weeks in the program and ran back to Arizona to marry this guy. But, it didn’t work out. I wish I could say I graduated from West Point, but the story didn’t happen that way.

What other qualifications do you need to be an insurance agent?

This business is about people and relationships. You have to be able to build trust with people. I’m a hugger. I hug everyone who walks in my doors. I hugged you guys, didn’t I?

You did.

I graduated from NAU with an elementary education degree. My dad hired me as a staff person. After awhile he suggested I get my own agency. So I started the process of becoming an agent with State Farm, taking an aptitude test, going through training and interviews, and they awarded me with my own agency opportunity. At 22, I got my first client, Edith Brown. I’ve been in the business for 27 years now.

Shirley Furlong

Career Interview: Pro Golfer

February 23, 2009 | by brett | Permalink

This interview is sponsored by GolfNow.com.  View their Golf Course directory at GolfNow.com.

This interview is also sponsored by The Golf Channel. View their Golf Tournaments at The Golf Channel.

In one of the cooler interviews we’ve ever had, we talked with LPGA golf professional and current Bird Golf Academy teacher Shirley Furlong. Shirley’s pointers weren’t limited to just our golf swing, but extended on to her story of how she came to play golf for a living.

When you’re playing golf professionally, who are you competing against? The players around you? The course? Or yourself?

A lot of players when they are in the lead of a tournament play against the player they’re playing with. I could never play like that. When I’m playing golf, it’s just me and the course. Focusing on your game, on that one shot that you have in the moment, that’s the biggest competition you’ve got.

I think it extends on to business and life as well. You can focus on all the things going on around you. You have to focus on what you can do and what you want to happen, and let that be good enough.

Do you have a ritual, mental or physical, in preparation for taking a shot?

Yes. There’s two things I try to do to get my focus together and prepare myself for a golf shot. One is to see it. I step back and visualize what I want to happen. I see the ball landing and ending up in a certain place on the green. Or when I won my tournament on the LPGA, I saw the ball hitting the dirt at the back of the cup and dropping to the bottom. So I see it.

Next, I have to feel it. I have to take a step back from the ball, take a practice swing, and I have to feel what I just visualized. Then I’m prepared to take the shot.

How long into your career did it take you to identify that routine?

I’m still working on it.

Do you consider golf a job like a lot of 8-5ers? And do you ever get sick of playing?

When I was playing golf professionally, about 80-90% of my whole life was devoted to playing golf. That’s all I did. And it was my job. Where I finished in the field determined whether I was eating Taco Bell that night or treating myself to a steak dinner.

Later on in my career a lot of my friends on tour started retiring. I asked them when is the right time to retire, and they said you’d know the time when it came. And that was true. On morning I woke up in Canada, I went out and had breakfast by myself, played golf, had dinner by myself, and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning and I thought, ‘You know what? This just isn’t fun anymore.’ About a month later I retired and now I’m a golf instructor for Bird Golf Academy.

Because when you’re playing golf for a living, you’re living out of a suitcase. You’re waking up on Monday morning and trying to figure out what city you’re in. I only play golf now when I get asked to, or when friends are coming in town. It’s just more fun.

What were you doing before you were on tour?

I started playing golf at a young age and was surrounded by the game. I remember being a young girl and pointing at the TV and proclaiming I was going to be a professional golfer. I got a scholarship to Texas A&M and got a degree in education. Then I qualified to be on the LPGA tour. So that’s how it happened.