Apr 07

Day 6 of Positive Impacts – Pat Dandridge

When I was a young man figuring out what things were going to work well in my life, I worked retail in a very rough neighborhood in Atlanta. How rough was it? I heard a shoot out in the parking lot. That kind of sums it up. I was desperate for a better life for my family, and I saw working at a chain office supply store as a segue into the IT field. It was calculated risk, but at the time I needed a calculated risk.

One day a man came into the store to buy, i think, a printer and related supplied. He was handsome, charming, and well-dressed.  After discussing his purchased, we talked a little bit about this new thing called the internet. He was Pat Dandridge, and he changed my view of what was possible in life.

He asked me what I knew about creating “web pages.” I explained that I didn’t have a computer myself, because it was an extreme luxury for someone making 9.36 an hour with a mortgage and three children. After talking a few other times about the emerging technology, he offered a compromise. I would work for him for 200 a months and do research, and he would supply a computer.  Within a week, I was connected to Mindspring, Atlanta’s premiere internet provider, with a 486 computer and 24K modem. Within two weeks he had a website to sell heavy equipment overseas. Neither of us knew what we were doing.  He found me a job with a family business, so we could work more closely together.

We continued to work together for nearly two years, not having any success. We both learned a great deal. I soon left for a tech support job, my first non-sales in computing, ended up having back surgery, and things were at their darkest when I found a job with a major computer hardware maker in front end content work.

I returned the computer to Pat, and we kind of lost track of each other. His faith in my skills, despite the results, set me on a path where I was able to build a career in computing, first as a content developer, then software engineer, and finally Project Manager.

The things I learned from Pat?

  • There is always a way
  • Risks are worth taking
  • Take care of folks who have potential
  • Focus on what you like
  • Look around and find the people you want to be like
  • Sometimes you have to break your back to stand your tallest

I am glad Pat is back in my life as a Facebook friend. His influence continues in the way I mentor younger people, encourage folks who are on the edge, and remember there is a way to get to my goals.

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