Note: This letter was written and published in 2018 as part of an application for a new job at Van’s Aircraft. I’ve retained it here for reference and fun.
Van’s Aircraft Team,
I’m pleased to present this application for the role of Van’s Aircraft Media-Marketing Director / Community Manager. Over the past several years I’ve often found myself pondering the idea of working at Van’s, playing a part in the aviation and business family that I have come to know, appreciate and care about over the past ten years. I believe working at Van’s, and this community-focused role in particular, matches well with my long-held, true passion for aviation and building that community while allowing the company to leverage my years of professional skills and experience.
To put it another way, this “kid trapped in a grown man’s body” has wanted to work at Van’s for a long time, and I get excited whenever I think about that possibility.
We’re at a pivotal moment in general aviation, with significant changes and great potential on the horizon – changes of the sort that will likely transform the marketplace. The fact that Van’s recognizes the need to expand its existing, strong community of builders and to invigorate new markets and reach out to new people is exciting. I’m quite interested to learn more about what Van’s has in store, and to contribute to achieving that vision and bright future.
The role I’m applying for represents a significant career shift for me, one for which I have put in careful thought and searched my soul before coming to a decision. I’ve determined it’s the right change, and the right time. If I’m being completely honest, I’ve grown a bit bored with my current work. I have a good job at a very large company, but after nearly 25 years in big-business IT it’s just not my passion anymore. I long for a smaller, close-knit team — one in which we can decide to make amazing things happen together and then succeed in doing so. People I have met in aviation and the community surrounding Van’s Aircraft have created a new family of sorts for me. I now know where I need to be.
My professional background has been focused most recently in IT and risk management, as a senior manager with direct accountability for the business initiatives and results my organization produces. My current role is substantially geared around influencing and motivating people across a large and diverse organization and leading collaboratively to meet some of the most critical business needs. I speak to large crowds at conferences, work in the trenches with individual engineers and technologists, mentor and manage people to help them effectively lead their teams, and brief non-technical executives in boardrooms on a variety of topics. I act as spokesperson in relationships with enterprise customers and media outlets in my areas of specialty. Importantly, the role requires me to understand the needs of many different audiences and adapt messages accordingly. Listening and seeking to understand are critical in that process. I don’t wait for someone to give me something to do – quite the opposite. When I see opportunity I take the bull by the horns, find ways to step right into the solution, and gather the right people to work together and make good things happen. An effective combination of technical and people skills has brought me success in my career, and I believe these skills will serve well in this community-focused role at Van’s.
Ten years ago, I had the opportunity to realize a dream I’d had since I was a child – to fly airplanes. I trained and became a pilot, then purchased my first plane – a “spam-can” that I still own. Before I knew it, my life was rapidly changing. I got involved in the local EAA chapter, which is where I first became acquainted with the Van’s RV aircraft line. Over the years I’ve volunteered in a variety of roles with our chapter and have led the chapter’s youth activities, including our successful youth flight-training scholarship program and Young Eagles activities.
It was after an EAA chapter meeting a few years ago when someone approached me and asked if I might be interested in coming to help with a program called TeenFlight. This was a hands-on educational program being led by a strong group of engineering-types who could mentor technically and build airplanes better than almost anyone, I was told. But, they’d realized the program also needed people who really understood youth and what makes them tick. That happens to be right up my alley. Soon I began volunteering and expanded into a new aspect of aviation: building kit airplanes with young people and helping to get the best results out of a strong and diverse team. Ultimately we “build” young adults in the program, leveraging the airplane build project as the vehicle in that process. If we do our jobs well, we end up with both a great airplane and a bunch of great kids. It’s one example of how aviation can expand into communities and facilitate real, meaningful change in peoples’ lives. I’m proud to be associated with this wonderful organization.
My time working with the folks at TeenFlight led to the next set of experiences and skills I’ll bring with me to Van’s Aircraft: I quickly caught the airplane-building bug while working with the kids. One of our TeenFlight mentors decided he wasn’t going to complete an RV-8A project he had in his basement. I acquired the project at approximately the quick-build stage, and so began a whole new phase of my aviation life. Building is a lifestyle, after all! For the past four years I’ve been working evenings and weekends to build that airplane, an experience which has opened even more doors and opportunities to meet terrific people people and learn. I’ve heard people say it’s like getting a Bachelor’s degree, and as a “second-term junior” in that program, I have to say I agree! And much like my college years, some of the best friends I’ve made have come from this community of common interest and learning.
Flying and aviation is what I love to do, even more so now that I am so deeply involved in the community. I regularly find myself settling into roles evangelizing and motivating others with similar passion. I believe these key traits help make a team/community builder successful.
Skills and Experience
My education and early professional background was in journalism and photography. I spent the first seven years of my career studying photojournalism in college and working professionally as a news and sports photographer and writer. I understand the trade and the people who work in it, and have seen both sides of the business – information provider as well as reporter. I have experience in digital photo and video production and editing, plus many common digital media and design tools. I’ve leveraged these skills for air-to-air and remote photo and video work as well as graphical design and photo editing.
I have extensive experience using the various capabilities of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and other media platforms to promote and communicate organizational messages. I have a solid understanding of each platform and use them to advance the state of the art and extend an organization’s reach. I created, authored and published a technology blog for nine years with more than 1800 original posts, and co-hosted a popular technology-interview podcast called RunAs Radio for several years, as well. Links to these are provided on this web site from the Internet Samples page.
As a pilot, I’ve logged more than 1200 hours of flight time, including significant cross-country trips and formation-flying experience. For me, flying trips to Airventure and other fly-in events are the highlight of each year and I regularly fly to smaller events around the Pacific Northwest as well. I have more than 200 hours in the RV-12 and several hours experience flying other RV models (-6A, -7 and -8A). I am tailwheel-endorsed and plan to complete instrument and commercial ratings this year, with a flight instructor rating to follow since I envision teaching people to fly well into my retirement. I am a certified commercial small UAV/drone pilot and have enjoyed video production using that technology platform. I would welcome the opportunity to combine my love of flying and exposing new people to the world of aviation with the business and community needs of Van’s Aircraft.
Finally, as a potential “bonus” of sorts, my extensive IT and risk-management background would be available for Van’s to leverage as needed to benefit the business. I’ve built and implemented a variety of significant enterprise technology projects and systems over many years and have managed both in-house teams and third-party vendors in the process. I’ve also developed and implemented formal compliance programs ranging from certification of risk management programs under ISO standards to driving federal government compliance audits and other similar programs. I would welcome the opportunity to extend my experience in these areas to benefit Van’s, should it be worthwhile – and I am more than willing to step outside primary responsibilities when needed to help the team be successful.
My web application/site development and management experience includes a variety of projects. I started my IT career building complex web sites and applications for businesses including Mesa Air Group and the Mesa Pilot Development program back in 1997. Before moving into a management role at my current employer I served as webmaster and led web site development, and have been actively involved in directing internal web application/content management projects and designs. Many of these projects are proprietary to the business and cannot be shared with the outside world, although I am glad to discuss them to the extent appropriate. I’ve included several other web/Internet projects I have been involved with, including a recent “weekend project” site created for Airway Science for Kids for the purpose of auctioning their TeenFlight airplanes, on the Internet Samples page. In addition, several recent photography and video examples are included on the Photo and Video Samples page.
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I look forward to hearing what Van’s has in store for the future and discussing the possibility of becoming part the team that makes that vision come true. There’s one thing I know for sure: I look forward to the day when I have the opportunity to work as part of the team at Van’s and grow in that experience – whenever the time comes!
Thank you for your consideration, and please feel free to call on me!