I build websites.
Ugh. The dreaded “About” page. It’s always the toughest thing to do; explain your business in a couple paragraphs. Or, even harder, explain yourself. This page offers a personal view — If you’re looking for something like a resume you won’t find it here, but my LinkedIn profile comes close.
Me and Robert
When I was four I lived in Westwood, New Jersey. My best friend Robert lived next door. In the winter, Robert’s mother would put oven-baked sweet potatoes in our coat pockets to keep our hands warm. It was simple and it worked. That’s how New Jersey was.
We moved to Northern California when I was five and I never saw Robert again. I hope he’s happy and healthy somewhere, with warm hands. I enjoy the world a bit more believing he’s still in it.
I liked high school. I excelled at nothing, but was fairly popular. Surprising, since I had no car, no money, and no athletic ability. High school lasted four years, but seemed like ten. In a good way. When you get older time seems to compress, and just whizzes by. Every morning I get up hoping the day will seem like 24 hours. It never does — it always feels more like 11. It’s really annoying.
Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.
— Paula Poundstone
I went to college to study engineering. Not that I really wanted to be an engineer — they make you pick a major. Later I changed to psychology, philosophy, then botany. I finally settled on genetics because that’s what my roommate was studying. At 18 you’re expected to make the biggest decision of your life. Who made that rule? I should have gone to architecture school.
My first job after graduation was at a casual small-town restaurant. I didn’t have a burning desire to be in the hospitality business; I just wanted to spend more time with my college buddies before going to graduate school. That was the plan anyway.
That temporary diversion turned into a lengthy career managing restaurants across the Western United States. I loved the job, but at some point realized that a third of my life had vanished and I hadn’t really done much.
So, I got out of the restaurant business and, after a couple of mostly-unsuccessful ventures, landed at a country music radio station, selling advertising. This was my first exposure to an organized sales culture, but I learned quickly, rising to the position of general sales manager. I had a lot of fun until the station was sold, and I got axed for making too much money. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
My first website
After broadcasting, I was offered a job at a local mortgage company where I learned a lot and made some great friends. Because I wasn’t terribly successful at “originating” loans, I fumbled around for ways to market myself. I thought maybe I could build a website.
So I bought a couple books on HTML and made my first site using Notepad for Microsoft Windows. It was crude, but it worked. Then I discovered the website builder Microsoft FrontPage, and built my second site: Easierhomeloans.com.
The site wasn’t much of a lead conversion machine, but it did have a comprehensive online mortgage term glossary, which I eventually licensed to a few big banks.
Looking back at my introduction to web design, it was a little scary. There were no rules, no forums, no training videos, and no best practices. You just sort of made web pages, “published” them to a “server” on the Internet, then hoped for the best. In some ways, I guess not much has changed.
The information superhighway
It was in 1995 that Bill Gates of Microsoft became a rock star. Not only was he the inspiration behind the newly released Windows 95 operating system, but he had just published his powerful vision of the future, The Road Ahead. The book, all about the coming information superhighway, famously managed to avoid almost any mention of the Internet. Way to go Bill.
After my short career selling home loans, I applied for a job at a local community bank. Despite my lack of relevant experience, they took a chance and hired me as a marketing coordinator.
That entry-level job led to more web development responsibility, and eventually to the positions of marketing director and web administrator. From there, I was offered opportunities to help build websites for other regional and national banks.
As banks struggled to redefine themselves after the 2008 financial meltdown, I thought it would be a good idea to do the same. So, in 2010 I started my own web design studio on the side. It’s been a long strange trip. The first couple years were a struggle, then things got better, now things are changing again.
As usual, I’m always working on new stuff. Over time, I’ve started, managed, and closed a few businesses. I’ve failed a lot. The only consistent theme of this ride is that I’m easily distracted by new ideas. And, as long as I’m learning, that’s okay. To me, that’s what work is all about. And life too.
Thanks for visiting. You can get in touch with me any time.
Ern Berck Digital
Who the hell is Ern Berck?
Ern Berck is the blacksmith at an anonymous town shown in the opening scenes of the 1960 film The Magnificent Seven. You never see him, he never speaks. But somehow you know he’s there, with fire and iron, making stuff.
In case you didn’t know
The Magnificent Seven is a 1960 American Western film directed by John Sturges. It is an Old West-style remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai.
The movie stars Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Horst Buchholz, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, James Coburn, and Brad Dexter. They portray a group of seven gunfighters hired to protect a small village in Mexico from a bunch of marauding bandits and their leader, played by Eli Wallach. The legendary musical score was composed by Elmer Bernstein.
Sadly, all of the original seven are dead now. Robert Vaughn was the last to go in 2016, at 83. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. About time.