She's With Me... (And That's How I Got Here)

She's With Me... (And That's How I Got Here)

Behind every reasonably busy blogger there stands a talented sales and editorial team and a great business partner. Plus, you need something else -- a spouse who lets you take business risks... lots of them. Most MSPmentor readers know about Amy Katz, my business partner. But four+ years into my daily dispatches, I'm finally ready to tell you a little about my wife, Annemarie.

I met Annemarie when I was 18. We were freshmen in college. It was a case of an average looking guy with a sharp, sarcastic sense of humor meeting a smart, beautiful, down-to-earth girl. Yada, yada, yada -- we're now both 42 and we have three sons, ages 13, 11 and 6.

But how did we get here? There's a lot of yada, yada, yada to cover. I'll just stick with the points that link family to business and life.

"You Want to Do What?"

I've always been a risk taker -- nothing too crazy, but enough to help keep my career interesting. In stark contrast, Annemarie is pretty conservative -- not big on risks, but incredibly supportive when I take them.

My first big "career" break arrived in 1991, when Annemarie talked me into applying for an IBM internship at the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., mainframe plant. We were college seniors and I was in danger of going nowhere fast. IBM, meanwhile, was bleeding red ink and preparing to lay off thousands of people amid the shift from mainframes to PC LANs. Somehow, with Annemarie's encouragement, I landed that IBM internship in early 1992.

Intense Focus

By mid-1992, we graduated from college and I landed at InformationWeek. It was an awesome "first job" out of college. I developed an aggressive work ethic -- which was good and bad. Good because it allowed me to build a career. Bad because I typically disappeared into my world of IT media for very long periods of time -- which meant less time focused on Annemarie, who had a career in HR management.

But through it all, Annemarie has continued to support me and my risk taking. Some examples:
  • I jumped from IT media to a software company in 1996. The risk backfired; I never really embraced the new job and returned to a lower-paying job in IT media in late 1996. Annemarie never hassled me about the dollars and cents of it all. If I was happy, she was happy.
  • When the IT media and dot-com industries imploded in 2001, I took a job at a college, regrouped and recharged for a bit. There were several months of unemployment involved. Again, I never heard a negative word about it from Annemarie. Instead, I got nothing but encouragement.
  • I jumped into the CIO events business from 2004 to 2006, essentially traveling to three cities -- mostly North America -- each week. It was great for my Rolodex. But the travel was brutal. I returned home each Friday night, zoned out on the couch each Saturday, spent time with family Sunday mornings, and typically left for my next business trip Sunday night or Monday morning.
  • I co-founded Nine Lives Media in 2008 with Amy Katz. Amy's family and my family each lived off our savings those first six months, taking zero salary and pumping money into the business. Annemarie supported the effort every step of the way. Amy's husband, Larry, was similarly supportive. Pretty amazing.
As I look back now on my own "career" journey, the real miracle was Annemarie raising our three sons essentially on her own while I navigated the world of IT. I'm fortunate to work from home when I'm not traveling. Weekends with family have been extra great the past few years. But I still "zone out" completely on certain days, burying myself in work.

So What Kept Us Together?

I'm not sure how Annemarie would answer the question above but I'll take a crack at it. I guess the simple answer is we enjoy a good laugh, we don't sweat the small stuff. And at some point I finally grew up -- at least a little.

There have been some incredible highs. The birth of our three sons in 1998, 2000 and 2005. Traveling with Annemarie to Paris in 2009. And some depressing lows -- the death of her brother to cancer in 2010.

Through it all we keep marching forward. She keeps supporting my risk-taking. And I keep telling her my life would have stalled in 1988 had I not met her.

Indeed, she's with me. And that's how I got here...

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