This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Eddie Boles, Microsoft Career Factor Idol Winner – The DIY IT Professional. Career Factor winners will be at TechEd.
Born and raised in Harlem, NY, Eddie had never traveled west of Ephrata, PA, until he attended UC Berkeley in the winter of 1987. While there, he developed a love for acting while performing in a handful of student theatrical productions. This passion led him into a career in the entertainment industry.
Eddie moved to Los Angeles in 1992, where he started as a Production Assistant on various video projects. These included commercials for Starter Hats, to feature films and TV sit-coms, including "In The House" and "The Steve Harvey Show." During this time, he co-founded Black Coffee Entertainment, which managed the Black Eyed Peas from 1994 until 2000. Eddie primarily managed the international tours for the group. Soon thereafter, he re-immersed himself into film and television at State Street Pictures as the assistant to director Tim Story, best known for the first "Barbershop" movie and the blockbuster hit franchise "Fantastic Four".
Eddie worked his way up from Assistant Director to Co-Producing, Writing, and Directing and has most recently directed films that have made their way through the festival circuit. His latest film, "Results," was named Best Short at the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival and at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. He also received the prestigious Melvin Van Peebles Maverick Award at the San Francisco Black Film Festival which honored him as "an emerging filmmaker with unique vision, singular style, and an uncompromising point of view."
Although filmmaking will always remain a passion, he decided to pursue a career in Information Technology after being laid off from his Production Coordinator job in 2008 to develop his other passion: computers. Although it has been a difficult transition, he looks forward to excelling in his new field as he gains more experience and completes more training.
Eddie, thank you for coming in today to share your insights and experiences with the audience.
A: "And thank you for affording me a platform to do so!"
You have this strong background in the Entertainment industry. Can you quickly profile this history and notable achievements?
A: "I became a part of the Entertainment Industry in 1992, and was fortunate to have some marginal success relatively early on. I am a co-founder of a company called, Black Coffee Entertainment, and back then we were primarily a music management company. Most notably, we were the Black Eyed Peas’ first management company and helped them land their first album deal in 1998. Through that relationship, I got to travel much of the world as their tour manager, as well as our company gaining a little notoriety. Unfortunately, that relationship ended in late 2000 and we have yet to attain that level of success again. During the early years of managing the Peas, the years when they made no money, and consequently, neither did we, we stayed afloat by taking P.A. (Production Assistant) jobs on any production we could find. Through that work, I developed a pretty impressive contact list, so when things went awry with the Peas, I was able to reach out to those I knew in the film and television industry in order to find work.
That led to my stint at State Street Pictures, which led to assisting the director, Mr. Tim Story, on "Barbershop", which eventually led to me writing and directing my own films. I again had some marginal success, winning some film festivals, and landing a writing contract with a company. The company eventually folded, so I was kind of back at square one. In need of work, I eventually landed the job of Production Coordinator at Motion Theory Studios in Venice, CA in 2007. But due to the financial downturn, I was laid off in 2008. That is when I decided I needed a new career path, and the most logical one for me was computers, given my love of them and my strong math background. I started my education at New Horizons Computer Learning Centers in San Diego, CA in August of 2010, with the help of a grant from the Employment Development Department. I soon became Network+ and A+ certified, and have had the incredible fortune of being selected to participate in Microsoft’s "Career Factor"! I haven’t looked back since!"
Why are computers one of your passions and what ignited this passion?
A: "The passion was ignited back in Junior High School, around 1982, when I would spend many of my lunch periods learning programming in this new DOS language on this thing called an Apple. I went on to pursue other passions in my life, but have always stayed abreast of whatever was the latest and greatest in computing. Computers are such a magnificent tool! They are like the wheel of the new Millennium! They allow us to do so much, but I know that this is only the tip of the iceberg, and I want to go along for the ride!"
What was the catalyst in applying for Career Factor?
A: "Honestly, it was at the prodding of my Account Executive at New Horizons, Ms. Tiffany David. I had no intent on applying for Career Factor, mainly because I didn’t feel I was qualified, but she insisted, saying that she thought I’d be perfect for it! She was right, as usual."
Can you describe your personal experiences for the challenges and process leading up, winning, and after winning Career Factor?
A: "The biggest challenge leading up to Career Factor was conveying my story well enough in a 2 minute audition video. I guess I hit the mark, because here I am! The biggest challenges I face now are balancing family (I have a wonderful wife and a rambunctious 2-year old son) and work (I just landed a full time position at Technology Integration Group), while still meeting all of my obligations with Career Factor. More importantly, it’s been a challenge maximizing all of the great resources being offered to me by Microsoft as a participant in Career Factor. I hope to walk away from this experience with as many MS Certifications as possible, but again, it’s been a challenge."
How does social media accentuate what you are doing in Career Factor?
A: "The ability to create somewhat of a fan base through social media has been a bit shocking to me! I have people following me on this journey from India, the Middle East, and even Australia! I don’t think any of this would have happened without the leveraging of social media."
From your experiences with Career Factor, what tips would you provide to those transitioning to a career as IT professionals to help them in their journey?
A: "The tip I would offer has very little to do with Career Factor, only because this is like a once in a lifetime experience that unfortunately can’t happen for everyone. What I would say is talk to people already in the industry, ask them, "what are employers looking for?", "What would make me most marketable?" And armed with that information, get the best education you can afford! And that doesn’t necessarily mean studying at a 4-year university and achieving a BA. I discovered that certifications were most respected in the areas that most interested me, so that is what I went after. Do your research! Formulate a plan of attack! And then go for it!."
What are the most exciting opportunities you are working on with Career Factor?
A: "I very much look forward to achieving Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS). There are other certifications I hope to achieve before it’s all said and done, but I’m going to focus on this one right now. I also really look forward to finally meeting all of my co-participants for the first time at TechEd in Atlanta this May!."
What are your future career aspirations? What are you most passionate about?
A: "Being new to the industry, I’m a little unsure about what I want to pursue in the future. So far, I really enjoy Networking. The idea of being able to make computers, devices, or any other types of nodes, communicate with one another over vast distances, or even just across the room, really intrigues me. I’m a natural communicator, so I guess it makes sense for me to have an interest in networking."
What drives your passion for Microsoft and Microsoft technology solutions?
A: "Microsoft is the King of the Hill, A Number One when it comes to the world of computers! There is no way to be a part of this world and not have an interest and a passion for Microsoft!"
What are your tips, lessons, and best resources for those wanting a career in computing?
A: "Again, being new to the industry, I feel a little unqualified to best answer this question. But what I will say is that your best resources are the people who are doing it. Be it your co-workers, your IT instructors, or the guy you met in an IT chat room, one of them is bound to know something you don’t, so don’t be afraid to ask."
Why or how does your entertainment industry background meld with your IT career plans (or will it)?
A: "Filmmaking is becoming more and more technology based. Be it 3-D, or just shooting everything digitally, no film at all. If I’m able to make a career from the melding of my ability to tell interesting stories through pictures, with my ever growing knowledge base of technology and all things computers, than I’d be the happiest person on the planet! I’m open to the possibilities."
In all that you do, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions?
A: "As I mentioned before, balancing my family life with work and the pursuit of an IT career. Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ve found a solution for this dilemma. What I do know is that having an understanding and encouraging wife helps tremendously!"
Provide your predictions of future IT trends and their implications/opportunities?
A: "I predict that as we get closer to 100% of the world’s population owning a computer, or at least a device that allows access to the internet, that the exchange of information between all cultures, all walks of life will be so transformative, and I believe transformative in a positive way, that it will be mind-blowing. And we will have technology to thank for it….the very thing that many predicted would destroy the world. How’s that for irony?"
Please share 3 stories (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your studies, work, or time with Career Factor?
A: "There aren’t three that I can come up with, but one unexpected thing that has come from my experience with Career Factor is my even stronger interest in international affairs. There is a participant from Tunisia, Rabeb, who was in the midst of a revolution during the early days of Career Factor, and she shared much of it with her fellow participants via Facebook. Also, Steve, in Australia, was going through some of the worst flooding the country has seen in decades. Being able to communicate directly with these people who were experiencing major world events was a powerful and humbling experience. I hope to be in touch with all of the participants for many years to come."
If you were doing this interview, what 3 questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
A: "Again, three are tough, given that you have asked so many good questions, but I do have one: "How would you use technology to better the lives of people?" And my answer to that would be by trying to come up with ways for people to help themselves through the use of technology. For example, I heard a great story on NPR’s ‘The World’s Technology Podcast’ discussing how some IT people, along with major companies, have come up with a way for people to use their mobile phones for all of their banking needs. This is having a profound effect on the survivors of the Haitian earthquake. Most of the banks in Haiti were destroyed so for people to be able to pay for things, make deposits and withdrawals, and most importantly receive money all through their mobile phones has literally changed their lives for the better. That’s the kind of stuff that really interests me."
What three lessons have you learned from your life experiences?
A: "People are your greatest resource. Finish what you start, and don’t start things you’re not sure you can finish. Be the best person you can be, everything else will take care of itself."
Eddie, we will continue to follow your contributions with career factor and more broadly. We thank you for sharing your time, wisdom, and accumulated deep insights with our audience.
A: "Thank you again for the opportunity!"