Since this blog is new, I’m going to start at the beginning, and just assume you don’t know much about myself, or the site. So it seemed logical to make the first couple of posts an introduction. I’m not going to give you an entire life’s story (although it may seem that way), but rather will try to hit on the things that I think are relevant to this blog, and have shaped the person I am when it comes to running my Business.
My name is Philip Van der Vossen, and I was born and raised in Columbia, MD between Baltimore and Washington. I’ve lived my entire life in the same general area, and am the youngest of 5 kids. Our family never really had much money, but my parents were resourceful and worked hard, so I had a childhood that built character.
I did relatively well in school with minimal effort, enjoyed art and computers, and was very active in Boy Scouts. I never played organized sports as a kid, but loved organizing neighborhood games. All of the time that other kids were putting into their soccer teams, I guess I was putting into Scouts, as I earned the rank of Eagle, led training courses, worked on camp staff, and became a Vigil honor member of the Order of the Arrow. If you aren’t familiar with Scouts at all, I pretty much did everything you could possible do as a youth in that organization, and it has helped me immensely in my life.
In High School I began working as a Promotions Assistant for the local Shopping Mall. This was a job of much variety which mainly included events logistics and merchandising. Around this time I also began experimenting with online message boards, and even hosted a couple of my own. This was before the Internet really took off, but it gave me my first taste of running an online service. Through High School I was always interested in Computer Programming and Art. I was that guy who could program his calculator to do stupid shit. So for College I attended UMBC and was enrolled in their Imaging and Digital Arts program.
In college the Internet really began to emerge, and since I was living in a dorm, we had some of the best connectivity that existed at the time. This is when I discovered online games, which is probably the main reason I never finished my degree, but also taught me more than any of the classes I attended. The love of gaming forced me to learn more about computers, build my own, setup our own internal network in the dorm, create my own website to organize my “Clan”, and much more. I created graphics, 3d worlds to play in, hosted events, and then even began to handle PR for a game that I joined the dev team for.
At this time I also was working to pay for college, first at the mall, then at a couple of print shops. There I handled digital printing, graphic design, scanning, plotting, and some minor tech support. Between my work that paid me, and my work that didn’t (gaming), I ended up not having enough time for school and dropped out. I think ultimately what did in my college career is the same thing that happens to many students. I spent the first 2.5 years trying to knock out my general requirements and low level degree classes. It was mostly stuff I didn’t care about, and it really didn’t keep me interested.
I wanted to create Digital Animations like Toy Story, and they wanted to teach me about Geography, Economics, Philosophy, and Art History. When I finally did get started with some Digital Art classes, the teacher seemed to hold me to a higher standard, just because I already knew the software. I had two different professors tell me that my work was too commercial, and needed to be more expressive. I couldn’t handle the avant garde art hippies they had instructing me, and ultimately became frustrated and quit.
It was around this time that I was hired by an engineering company to be their Systems Administrator. My brother had been working there for several years, but really both of us were given the opportunity due to a connection we had with a former Scout leader. At the time that I was hired, I didn’t even really know if I could do the job. I hadn’t really worked with any of the systems that they were using, but my ability to problem solve and adapt was enough to get me in the door. In rather short order I was handling the Network, Servers, Desktops, Printers, Phones, and pretty much everything else that plugged in for a 100 person firm. I began taking classes again, this time in Information Systems, but focused specifically on courses that I thought would help me with my job, Project Management, Business Writing, and Finance.
I also handled Graphic Design, Websites, Databases, Presentations, and the list kept on growing. I took on every challenge that was presented to me, and grabbed many others that nobody even knew I was working on until they were done. Eventually I became involved with measurements, business processes, running meetings and even Human Resources. I had made myself indispensable by working my ass off, and handling a variety of different roles. I had two employees working under me, I was leading multiple improvement teams in the organization, and was honestly getting burnt out.
I had been with the organization for 9 years, handling everything and anything that came my way, and probably doing the work of 3 people. At this point I was looking to advance, and essentially created a new position for myself, Continuous Improvement Manager. I was excited by this new role, and had grand plans for what I could do with it, but unfortunately things didn’t go as I intended. I’ll spare you the details, but within 6 months I began thinking about how I could go into business for myself.
It was then that Gunaxin was formed as a side project. I continued working my day job for a very unhappy and frustrating two years, longing for the day that I would have the balls to quit, and make a go at this. That day came last fall, when I decided to go into business for myself, and cut my pay by 2/3. I don’t really know where this is going to lead me, but I believe in myself, and at 32, I think it’s time that I take my experience and make a go of it. If you’re reading this blog, then I guess you’ll be taking this journey with me.