Sunday, February 1, 2015

SAL Case Study: The Jason Miner Story

Having already shared Nat William's Story in a previous blog post, today I am going to share another story today of another self-action leader: Jason Miner

"Do your homework. It’s a simple message, but it is what has gotten me where I am today. I don’t just go to a job and leave it there. If you want to be really good at what you do, you have to give up some hobbies and/or free time and you’ve got to really study, because there is only so much you can learn when you are on the clock. Whether it is pursuing continuing education, taking online courses, subscribing to a blog of someone really smart in your industry, or reading books, the way to become an expert at something is to put in the time to learn. Find some time every day to just learn something. You are going to get ahead if you do a little extra homework or read a book."

– Jason Miner

In this chapter, I share the story of a young father named Jason Miner, who used Self-Action Leadership to advance his career and become very successful. With a keen eye for opportunity, and the attitude and work ethic to back it up, Miner was able to gradually write his own ticket in his workplace.

Jason lives with his wife and three children in the Houston, Texas area. He was born in a smaller community in Northern Utah, and was raised in a middle-class home.

In high school, Jason developed a love for woodworking. He learned he could be more productive if he woke up early and went to the shop before school started. He typically arrived at school by 5:45 a.m. each day throughout high school. His efforts earned him awards and the collection of professional-grade furniture that adorns his home today. He graduated from high school in 1996 and earned a vocational scholarship to a local state college, which he attended for two semesters before serving a 2-year mission in Maracaibo, Venezuela for his Church. After his missionary service, he continued his studies at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. His mantra in college was, “just get smarter, and work hard in my classes.”

After moving to Salt Lake, he got a job to pay his way through school. After proactively seeking out employment opportunities, he landed a job at Cardon Health Care. He had zero experience in healthcare, but Cardon liked the fact that he could speak Spanish, and they were willing to train.

Cardon specializes in providing financial counseling to uninsured hospital patients. As a Cardon representative, Jason would interview people who had recently been in the emergency room, talk to them about their options, and communicate with them over the phone. He worked part-time at Cardon for 25-30 hours a week while he attended school. In time, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in Spanish.

Over time, Cardon began to significantly expand their clientele. Jason worked hard, demonstrated dependability and integrity, and expressed interest in working full-time after graduation. He was given an opportunity to represent the company at a particular hospital (Cardon’s relationship with said hospital wasn’t going well at the time) his mission being to reverse Cardon’s troubled circumstances. He recalls being “really excited” about the chance to “right the ship.” 

Going to work in the hospital was challenging, but satisfying. He was on a first-name basis with many doctors and other important hospital employees. Since patients had no way of getting treatments they needed without Cardon’s help, Miner found the work to be meaningful. During his time there, he helped people get heart transplants, liver transplants, and walk again after serious accidents. There were times when he felt instrumental in saving people’s lives.

Miner enjoyed his work, and ended up supervising Cardon’s work at the hospital for about three years. In the process, he successful turned things around.

“I like getting stuff done.”
– Jason Miner

By working hard and diligently applying himself, he became an industry expert. His expertise and track record of success opened up another opportunity, this time in management. His new position had him supervising 10-20 people. It afforded him the opportunity to travel and gave him the responsibility to hire and fire employees. He excelled at his new position, and continued to attract positive attention from his supervisors. He also got a raise.

A few years later, he was promoted again, providing him with another leadership opportunity, and a salary increase. He was now running an entire office, managing 30-40 people. In addition, he was responsible for training and tasking an entire team of supervisors.

For many years, Miner’s long-term ambition was to attend law school. As his hard work and diligence continued to reap rich dividends at Cardon, however, his original goal of law school looked less and less attractive. And this is where the story takes an especially inspiring turn.

Jason had always been a hobbyist when it came to computers; he was a self-taught troubleshooter with a variety of computer issues, and had even built his own computer from scratch. His team worked on about 60 different computers, which presented a problem because the IT department was in Texas, while Jason’s office was in Utah. He increasingly got involved with the IT side of things because he could solve computer problems.

If his office got a new shipment of computers, Jason was the one who set it up. If something broke, he fixed it. When network and Wi-Fi issues cropped up, he repaired them. He did so much IT work outside normal business hours that he ended up getting quite a bit of extra pay. As word of his track record spread, members of his team started coming to him with their computer issues.

Things really got interesting when Jason started programming. He originally began dabbling in the science because twice a month, he had to complete a pay review. This was important, but tedious and time-consuming work that was well below his pay grade. It also required that he spend many hours on the weekends outside of regular work hours. So, he began to think creatively about writing a software program that would complete the pay review electronically.

He had already studied a book on Microsoft Office’s programming language (VBA). He was fascinated by VBA, macros, and scripting, so he got an even bigger book on the subject and read it. In the course of his studies, he figured out a lot of shortcuts that made his job easier. Eventually, it dawned on him that he could write an entirely new program that could do the pay review for him. He figured if he succeeded, he could get his weekends back.

After long hours spent coding, he succeeded, and cut 8-12 hours of work down to 30 minutes (25 of which he could be doing other things while the computer completed the pay review on its own). The difference in efficiency was staggering. When people around the office learned what he did, the demand for his skills increased.

Others had similar problems they were dealing with, and were excited to learn that Jason had a solution. He ended up spending all of his extra time writing code for other people. In the process, his office became far more efficient.
About this same time, Cardon needed to replace their outdated computer systems. When Jason heard the news, he was proactively vocal about his desire to participate. At every available opportunity, he put forth excellent suggestions and provided much needed input based in his hands-on experience with making IT systems better in the office. It was challenging to get his voice heard at first because he wasn’t officially part of the IT Department; but he was pleasantly persistent. Eventually, as the IT director learned the things Jason had done, word of his skill and qualifications made it to the CEO. Subsequently, the CEO personally informed the IT director that he wanted to include Jason in the discussion.

As a result, IT headquarters created a new position and told Jason that if he was willing to move to Texas, Cardon would make him the project manager of the entire system conversion. He would work with computer programmers and developers to make sure the system was correctly built and properly tested. Jason accepted the promotion, which came with yet another raise. At about this time, he was also offered another management promotion, which likely would have paid him even more money than he was being offered in Texas, but he chose the IT opportunity because his heart was in computers--not management.

Jason and his family moved to Texas in 2007 to prepare for the system-wide conversion, set to take place in August of that year. After moving to Texas, he realized the extent of gaps in his IT knowledge. So he went to work to learn. He got a bunch of books and in his spare time, he studied. He made valuable use of his study time to enhance his knowledge and improve his skills—going so far as to set up a test server in his house so he could practice coding.

“At night, after the kids were in bed, my wife would read novels, and I would read books on how to program.”
– Jason Miner

The system conversion went really well and firmly established Jason as a competent IT project manager. After the conversion was complete, he and his colleagues began tackling a long list of enhancements scheduled for the new system—with Jason in charge of the system patches and upgrades. As he continued his work, his bonuses kept getting better and better each year.

A year or so after the conversion, a falling out occurred between the two founders of the company. The director of IT ended up going with one founder, while Jason stayed with the other. The company split created the need for a new IT director. This led to Jason’s eventual promotion to director of IT for the entire company. This promotion led to another pay raise—and he’s had several more in the meantime. Over the past several years, he has gone from managing five to six people and outsourcing their tech support to managing a team of 30 with in-house programming capability.

As the Director of IT for Cardon, Jason has hired almost everyone that currently works in his department. He has also overseen the acquisition of two smaller companies, and retains several people from those company’s IT departments. At this point in his career, he is set for long-term success. For the time being—and the foreseeable future—he is happy right where he is. But should anything change, he and his family have the peace of knowing Jason can easily be hired elsewhere because he has paid the price to obtain so much knowledge and develop a valuable skill-set in a field where such knowledge and skills will always be in high demand.

“This is like my dream job.”
– Jason Miner

Jason Miner if a fine example of what it means to utilize Self-Action Leadership in a rise to the top of his field. From a middle-class kid from a small community in Utah to a poor college student with inner drive and the will to work hard to the director of an entire department of a company headquartered in a major metropolitan area, Jason has exemplified the great truth that in the long run, we each write our own story. How our individual stories turns out depends on how hard we are willing to work, and how diligent and disciplined we are willing to be.

Next Blog Post: BOOK the SECOND, Chapter 10: Universal Laws, Tues. Feb. 3, 2015

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