To help people make some sense of my eclectic background I have elected to describe myself and my experience in a much more informal format and discuss areas where I think I can be valuable and areas where I might not be a particularly good fit through lack of paid and/or practical experience but where I have very strong interests. For those interested in my regular resume, it can be found here: http://sol-biotech.com/resume.htm I have a bit less dry version on my LinkedIn page here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/keithoxenrider I try to keep both up-to-date every 3-6 months. At some relevant portions I enclose the name of the company and the period when I worked there that can be traced back to my resume.
Though an academic under achiever, I do feel I learn quickly and retain a lot of information. I do not do well with memorization tasks and traditional education seems to equate memorization with knowledge, so my academic marks are all over the place. It took me a while to settle into the academic environment (it took me nearly 10 years to get my BS), but I found it a very hospitable place once I got immersed. I also found that more senior courses tended to have a lesser focus on rote memorization and I felt I had a better gauge of my actual capability. During the years prior to my final effort to get my BS, I spent time doing a lot of things from delivering news papers (a job I started while still in middle school), working in fast food (despite a 2 year stint, I still enjoy eating at McDonalds), working in a small chemical plant, preparing chemicals for animal testing, selling Volvo parts and then later acting as plant manager of that chemical plant (Premier Chemicals: (1/87 - 8/88)). I was also in the USMCR (5/82 – 5/88) and later in the Virginia Army National Guard (2/89 – 10/92) so have a fairly good understanding of the military. I have also studied a bit of military history as well.
Though I intended all along to go into business, because I have a very strong interest in how biological things work I got a BS in Biochemistry (May '91) intending that education to act as a foundation for a life-long hobby and get me started in my business career. I wound up making a living (of sorts) via that education, though, as I worked as a laboratory specialist (Virginia Tech (5/91 – 8/93)) for nearly 2.5 years before settling on getting into the graduate program. I enjoyed the research quite a bit (combined with undergrad and graduate work, I have over 7.5 years of part-time and full-time laboratory experience, work that led to 4 publications). After trying my hand at some business development (one example: trying to get an ice arena built near Va Tech where I was on local TV and newspapers) I decided to get credentialed as simply telling people I had intensely studied business since I was 13 seemed to impress few. Originally I had intended to get a Ph.D. in Biochemistry whilst also getting an MBA, but due to limitations on the sources of funded labs I wound up entering in the Biochemistry Masters program instead (where I could work on whatever research interested me since I was not getting a stipend). For a year I pursued both degrees, but when I wound up in a road block in my research (to build a pyrophosphatase from first principles) and ran out of money (I was funding my research via my student loans and exchanging my labor as a lab specialist) I decided to focus on the MBA figuring that would be enough to get me into the world of biotechnology management.
One of the things taught in the MBA program is market research and I learned a bit too late in my education that the biotechnology industry attaches value zero to the MBA, at least when unaccompanied with a relevant Ph.D., so I had carefully crafted myself out of my chosen career. I sought to fall back on what I felt was my second strength, manufacturing, as I had been a plant manager and had worked on assembly line optimization software utilizing genetic and evolutionary algorithms as part of a graduate research project (work that led to a couple of abstracts and a paper in Decision Sciences) but it appears that I was too qualified for entry level jobs and under qualified for more senior level jobs. At first I was undaunted as I felt that I could extend my research in the assembly line optimization and assembled a team to try to market the product. I was a few months too late to convince the local Volvo truck plant to consider the product (admittedly slightly more than vaporware at that point, but I strongly felt that with the help of my team (a senior IT project manager for a Fortune 50 company and a professor at a top university) that could rapidly change), though it seems the company that won the deal was also using an evolutionary algorithm-based optimizer so I probably could have been taken seriously if I had got involved earlier in the process. I was in the middle of what appeared to be a promising series of meetings with another company that built reinforced buildings that were truck deliverable when it appears the company simply vanished (a visit to the plant location a few months later showed an abandoned building), but by this time was having lots of trouble paying my bills and had to opt for regular employment.
The ensuing period was a bit of a downer for me as my primary and back up careers seemed to be failing me and my efforts at business development were turning to naught but at the nagging of several friends I explored the world of professional programming. The assembly line optimization program I wrote was a mixture of C and C++ so I had learned the basics of programming (about a decade earlier I had taken a COBOL class, which at the time confirmed my supposition that I didn't want to do anything like that for a living), but was quite skeptical that I could find jobs as a nearly totally unqualified programmer when I was unable to find jobs I was qualified for as a biotechnology or manufacturing manager, but as I was then working for my brother-in-law in a nursery (I really enjoyed being out doors and got to do some mechanical work on a truck (as a starving student I learned to rebuild engines and transmissions to keep at least one of my Volvos road worthy over the ensuing years)) I figured it was worth the 'gamble' as I had nothing to lose.
Quite surprising to me I was able to get a job as a programmer (Eagle Design and Management: (12/95 - 3/96)). I was initially given a task with another programmer to figure out this programming language that no one had any experience with and add networking functionality in less than 2 weeks. We were able to accomplish that task despite the tendency of the IDE to (apparently) randomly overwrite our source code files. I learned to work on the UNIX command line (I had previous experience using a molecular modeling software package on a SGI at school, but that was all from the UI) and developed skills in SED and AWK programming to manipulate large data files for ingestion into a database. Unfortunately some of the work anticipated when I was hired failed to materialize and I was back looking for a job. After many months of fruitless effort, a recruiter took a few minutes to ask me more than a couple quick questions about my programming experience and suggested I instead focus on jobs in project management. Surprisingly I was able to quickly find a job as a project manager (Vector Research: (11/96 - 5/98)) and started what has been more or less continuous employment in the world of IT since then.
At Vector Research (the company has since been sold) I was brought in to take the place of a current project manager who was going on maternity leave. I had to quickly get up to speed on the project in preparation for her departure as it was slated for deployment, but shortly after she left issues came up and I had to develop a plan to retool the project to meet the new requirements. While with Vector I was involved in a couple of internal projects that I initiated, one to build an enterprise resource planning software package with a built-in optimizer based on my graduate research and another to formulate the rather substantial pile of code written by in-house programmers into a well-documented library suitable for rapid inclusion into future development projects. The first was triggered by the CEO asking for suggestions for how to diversify away from Federal contracts, but we later learned (the headquarters was in Michigan) what he meant was suggestions on how to get state contracts instead (there was a lot of enthusiasm for my suggestions at the local level). The second was triggered after I saw several implementations of essentially identical code in multiple projects and I was able to chair a committee of people within our local office to put forth a proposal to upper management. Unfortunately upper management indicated that any increase in efficiency would result in a net reduction in profit, so were against it. Desiring an explanation for what on the face appeared totally nonsensical, I cornered our local VP to insist on elaboration. The net result was something like this: Since Vector Research essentially charges the government by the hour, if we get our work done in fewer hours we charge the government less and have to spend time looking for more work. Since marketing and proposal preparation comes out of overhead, that leads to a direct reduction in profit, hence any effort to improve efficiency was contrary to the company's profit motive. It was at that time that I decided to seek my fortunes elsewhere.
I was able to more than double my income by leaving Vector Research and moved to a part of the country where the cost of living was quite modest, so effectively tripled my income. I went to work at a polyester fiber plant in North Carolina as a contractor (Computer Extension Professionals, Inc.: (5/98 - 4/2001)) where I was brought in specifically to come up with some solution for the aging software that was not Y2K compliant. It was without much difficulty that I convinced the plant engineers to go with a totally new system (the previous system was almost 15 years old, text-based, slow and nearly universally despised) and set about prototyping user interfaces and functionality (in Visual Basic with the database being Microsoft's SQLServer). Most of the engineers were strong supporters from the beginning, but a couple were convinced that I was trying to usurp their positions and it took some careful negotiations to keep them from scuttling the project. In addition, the skill level of the users ranged from complete computer phobes to hacker-wannabes so it was challenging to design a system that would accommodate that range. Though the engineers all approved of the system, eventually my boss was forced to issue an ultimatum to get them to adopt it because they kept tweaking the requirements. Since we had a hard deadline of Y2K, she said that the old software would be shut off on November 15th and not ever turned back on, so we finally got the system live on the 16th. There were a few teething problems but I am proud to say that the very first day that the software was put in charge it was able to identify a machine that had been improperly setup and as a consequence was making bad product. Because of various choke points within the plant, I was able to design the system to essentially force a validation of all product as it moved through the functional parts of the plant and could stop a lot of bad product from getting into down-stream processing (testing was done on a sampling basis so sometimes a machine could be making bad product for as much as a full shift before it was caught). That functionality lead to a work-force reduction of 8 and an annual savings of $300K. This, of course, doesn't account for the less easy to measure but no less real impact of not having bad product wind up ruining down-stream processing, so I am quite confident that the system I designed repaid its investment many times over.
It was rumors that the plant was going to be closed that lead to a decision to look for work elsewhere (as it turns out, the rumors were false and that position is still in existence). The local area was quite rural and unemployment was already running at 14%, so I figured that I should see what other jobs were available. Also, most of my wife's family lives in the DC metro area, so she also wanted to move back to that area. I found what I initially thought would be a perfect job working for the National Center for Biotechnology Information (a contractor through Management System Designers, later Lockheed Martin (5/2001 - 4/2003, 2/2004 - 6/2008)) where I would do C programming for biological databases. It turned out my enthusiasm was misplaced as I wound up doing Perl programming and decided that despite the dot-com implosion I was going to take my chances in the job market. My boss, though, scrambled to get me some C++ programming (something I was very interested in) and I wound up staying there 3 years.
Because I was not feeling challenged at NCBI and after all really wanted to be self-employed, I was able to convince my wife to allow me a year to try my hand at starting a business and took what turned out to be a 9-month leave-of-absence attempt to start a software company. While I didn't manage to generate any significant income during my hiatus, I did learn a whole lot more about C++ and began to feel that mastery was within my grasp. I spent a lot of time on a developer's forum (http://forums.devshed.com on the C Programming forum with the handle 'mitakeet') and really enjoyed mentoring other people. I believe it was my efforts on that forum (with nearly 5,000 posts so far) that lead to my being asked to be a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional from 2003-2005 in the Visual C++ category. While I was an MVP I tried my hand at leading an on-line class on C++. The results weren't terribly satisfactory as I wound up having all my students drop out before the class ended, but it seems that is not unusual as of the other two teachers at that time, as I recall, only one had a single student take the course to completion. I enjoyed the attempt at teaching and have made efforts from time to time to find a teaching job, but it seems that without a Ph.D. one is not even considered as a candidate no matter how much practical experience one has.
Starting with my time in North Carolina I developed a strong interest in secure programming (it began with the realization that embedded usernames and passwords could be easily read if one simply opened the executable as a text file) and felt I could take some of my allotted time to develop some expertise in information security and shift my career somewhat into secure programming. I studied to become a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and took the exam in December 2003. I passed the first time and felt I was well on my way to my new career choice. Alas, I ran into the typical Catch-22 situation as without any paid experience I was unable to even get interviews. Fortunately my boss at NCBI said she would take me back and I picked up there like I hadn't even left. I worked a lot with Microsoft's SQLServer and Sybase and built on the experience I had with SQLServer I developed in North Carolina and became quite an expert in SQL. My skills with C++ developed to the point where I was on the edge of considering myself an expert and my wife and I successfully became parents and built a 2,600 square foot house on some land we bought in Shenandoah. Our plans to move to our new house and my being able to take a 50% pay cut in order to find a job I was really interested in was scuttled by the housing market crash and since I wasn't feeling particularly challenged at NCBI I decided to look for more interesting work (and a bit more money; we had spent a lot building that house that we expected to pay back with the equity in our current house).
I took a job as a contract business analyst at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (http://www.finra.org I don't list this on my resume due to the brief time I was there) thinking it would be a perfect job. It was business related, something I hadn't put to use in a very long time, they got billions of records every day that all needed to be processed and analyzed, and the interview I had was the best I ever had. I was warned during the interview about the red tape at FINRA, but because I was having such a great time (I really enjoyed being asked to solve complex SQL queries) I failed to pay attention. After just 6 weeks I decided to resign, much to my wife's chagrin, as we were leaving for a month-long trip and I didn't want to give notice after getting back. Fortunately, I signed a contract to work at Fannie Mae two days before we left so my wife could have a relaxing vacation (I was rather looking forward to some time unemployed).
At Fannie Mae (contracted through Technology Ventures (8/2008 - 12/2008)) I was called upon to do heads-down programming again, but this time it was more business related as it was all about bonds. During my MBA program I hadn't learned much about bonds (instead focusing on stocks) so spent the couple of weeks it took to get all my accounts set up (they were slow, but much faster than FINRA) learning the basics about packaging mortgages into bonds. I found the subject quite confusing and was hard pressed to understand the logic that allowed you to take sub-prime mortgages and turn them into AAA related bonds, but just figured that it was brain atrophy (my finance classes were quite a bit in the past). Of course it shortly became plain that no one really understood the subject and you really couldn't turn a pig's ear into a silk purse. In my short time with Fannie (I joined before they got (re)nationalized and was cut with the budgets at the end of the year) I am most proud of being able to resolve a long-standing bug that they had that had been keeping them from migrating from Solaris to Linux. It seems like the bulk of the program was designed and written by an old-time C programmer learning C++ on the job (having been one of the same, it is easy to recognize the style). Because everything was done in constructors and global variables, the entire program had completed executing BEFORE main was even entered, making debugging a bit of a nightmare. In addition, the actual order of execution depended on the linker rather than the compiler so switching compilers naturally led to a change in the way the program executed. The bug turned out to be the use of varargs (something that even most C programmers try to avoid and a clear sign of an inexperienced C++ programmer) and reading arguments that didn't exist. Though the actual read caused no problems, because the read was of stack garbage, the subsequent use of the values therein could lead to substantial problems, including 'random' crashes. My solution was fairly simple: sanitize the values retrieved from the vararg processing and put in sane values when out-of-bound values were detected. They opted not to make a comprehensive fix (e.g. replacing all the vararg processing with string vectors) as the code base was already supposed to have been replaced 2 years prior and my fix at least allowed the programs to execute with acceptable results without crashing.
It took me about 4 months to get a new job after I was laid off at Fannie. I really enjoyed that time off and was able to accomplish a lot on some personal projects, but my wife (rightfully) was quite nervous about paying the bills. I had been told to expect an offer for a Top Secret job in Chantilly, but due to the uncertainty surrounding the administration change (Obama was taking office at the time), the government agency wouldn't commit to the contract. During this time I worked on prototyping an on-line educational game system a friend and I had been developing over the years and tried to get him to market the business plan we had written, but while he is a good friend with lots of good ideas, he lacks the follow-through gene and wasn't able to contact any investors. The educational game business plan was just the latest in a number of business plans I have written over the years. Earlier I mentioned the ice arena at Virginia Tech, later when in North Carolina I wrote a business plan to develop molecular-scale computing devices (I had already founded my company, Sol Biotech Inc. to further my interests in de novo protein design) starting with molecular memory, but chose the height of the dot-com hysteria to try to market it. The feedback I was able to get indicated that the main issue with my proposal was its relatively long payback horizon (projected to be 7 years) when investors could reasonably expect to get 10x their money back in 12-18 months. Later I put together a couple of small business innovative research grant applications (one to develop a machine-learning based algorithm for protein fold prediction and another to extend earlier lab work I had done with synthetic anti-freeze proteins), but it seems that without a Ph.D. and an extensive track record of relevant publications, it is challenging to be seriously considered. While still working at NCBI I conceived of what appears to be a novel way to directly sequence DNA that could ultimately lead to sequencing the entire human genome in as little as an hour, all for $100 or less. I invested a lot of time and energy into producing a business proposal, but never got any interest, likely to my predicted astronomical ROI. I have continued that research, though in a rather glacial manner. It is tough to make time to do the research as in absence of having my own equipment, the equipment I can make use of at a local university is only available to outsiders during the day during the week (the rest of the time the equipment is dedicated to graduate students), so at this pace it could be another couple of years before I even know if the research is feasible. I was temporarily excited about the prospects finding funding through the intelligence community as I interviewed (and later got an offer) with a company that does biological modeling. I figured that they would have an in with the appropriate agencies and since the product (if successful) would work on samples as small as a single molecule and would work equally well without any previous reference sequence, that they could leverage that into some funding. Unfortunately we were unable to come to an agreement regarding the offer and I continued looking elsewhere.
After my 4 month 'vacation' from work due to being laid off from Fannie Mae (though I probably did programming more than when I was employed full-time) I was able to get an offer from AT&T Government Solutions (4/2009 - 4/2010). I thought I was interviewing for a heads-down programming job like with Fannie, but there was a lot of talk about business development and what I later learned was systems engineering. The work at AT&T sounded interesting and the prospects of getting a Top Secret clearance interested my wife with its rumored guaranteed life-time employment and in any case I didn't have any other offers, so I took it. Initially I was quite unhappy as I was left doing what I felt was meaningless work (when I had work at all) for the 4 months it took to get my clearance. I was twice frustrated because the project itself was unclassified (its use is not) and I could have been working on the project from the first day. What I did learn about the project (an intrusion detection system novel primarily due to its intended capability of handling multiple 10 Gbps streams) made me think it was poorly designed and my complaining lead to my being assigned as systems engineer for the project to try to get the requirements nailed down. Since the product was also being 'marketed' to the in-house AT&T networking people there was plenty of non-classified interaction I could engage in and I started to try to establish lines of communication. I was told that I was very successful because prior to my becoming the SE they weren't even able to get the internal people to join in meetings, let alone define requirements, but I didn't consider it a successful period because I could never get anyone to settle on a list of requirements. My boss and his boss knew I wasn't terribly happy with the work I was given and were keeping their eyes open for additional work that might interest me and I got involved in some proposal development.
Over the Christmas break I was asked to provide technical content for a proposal my boss had been working on as he was going to be out. Since I had already done some proposal work by that time I felt that would not be a big issue and besides, I didn't have any plans to be off. As such, I didn't look too closely at the proposal request (a Broad Agency Announcement as it happens) and just started providing content. Later I became skeptical that the proposal being developed was correctly targeted toward the request, but most people involved were on vacation and I couldn't express my concerns. When everyone was finally back to work we only had 5 days to submit the proposal and I was quite trepidatious that my suggestion of basically tossing the entire proposal as written and retargeting it would be met with something along the lines of 'it is too late to change direction and we will go ahead and summit a known unacceptable proposal'. However, to the great credit of the proposal lead, my suggestions were taken to heart and I was allowed to rewrite the proposal based on my understanding of what was being requested. I immensely enjoyed that process, though it had long days and lots of meetings, and asked to be involved in more of the same. Unfortunately things move slow at AT&T and I started to be bombarded with contacts by recruiters (evidently via my LinkedIn profile that I had updated to reflect my clearance) and that lead me to considering alternative employment that might actually be intellectually interesting and challenging as well as well paying.
I was contacted by Lamont Price who was recruiting for MasterPeace Solutions Ltd (4/2010 - Present) and he proved that he had actually read my LinkedIn profile and my resume, so I actually listened when he made his pitch. MasterPeace was (is) a startup and was offering stock options and the ability to get paid extra for bringing in work or developing intellectual property, things I was very interested in. I actually wound up working on a job I had interviewed for as an AT&T employee (but had been turned down). What I was able to learn about the project made me very interested, though the reality, once I had been briefed, turned out to be a bit less than what I had hoped. However, I had gone from being mostly unhappy at AT&T to not being unhappy and had got a nice raise in the process (my commute only got longer by a couple of minutes, so that was neutral). I have made several suggestions for R&D efforts in the intelligence community to the princples of MasterPeace, but as yet it seems they are too busy to pursue them.
In addition to the flood of information supplied above, I have additional interests that might be relevant to someone considering me for employment. I have studied integrated circuit fabrication for many years with the intent of melding biological processing with integrated circuits (one implementation is the afore mentioned DNA sequencing chip). While I still fail to grok circuit diagrams, I have read a lot about the capabilities of application specific integrated circuits and know where substantial performance gain could be had if the up-front costs can be justified by the resulting utility. I have also been studying electron beam lithography (the technique I am using to build my DNA chip) and know that prototyping chips can be done for thousands of dollars, not hundreds of millions like is the common consciousness.
I began studying programming for embedded systems because I have a passion for program optimization and as hardware gets faster and faster every year, there is less and less call for that sort of ability and in the embedded world there is always a need for speed and efficiency. I have yet to do any actual programming, though I have a developer's board as part of my DNA research and expect to get to that point in the next year or so. I have studied FPGA programming as well and like the challenge of the inherently simultaneous execution of each 'instruction' as well as the potentially huge increase in performance if done properly.
I am interested in a wide range of subjects that vary from nuclear energy to space exploration, plant tissue culture to housing construction and alternative energy production to aquaculture. I learn very quickly just about anything that interests me (and I have a lot of interests) and feel I can develop a near-expert working knowledge base in a very short time. I believe I am very good at getting to the heart of a problem and identifying the elements in a project that will be the most pivotal and critical to success. I consider myself very creative and able to synthesize new information from the wide knowledge I have of a plethora of subjects. I am very capable of taking complex subjects and communicating them in ways that have the greatest impact for audiences ranging from senior business executives to technical implementers to sometimes-naive users.