Not everyone goes to a high school famous for honor, integrity, and creativity. Mike attended CPS in Oakland, California acclimating to intellectual rigor, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork through sports. The University of California recognizes CPS as an honors institution because all classes are taught at the honors level. Mike graduated with a 3.5 GPA. GPAs from honors high schools are calculated one grade point higher than the transcript when applying for admission at post secondary institutions and Universities. This means Mike's high school GPA is a 4.5.
Mike got his first job in Graphic Design for a small design firm in Oakland, California. Back then, computers were slower and relatively more expensive. Mike learned to design on a small black and white screen using Super Paint and ran the mail merge for the office's marketing campaign using Microsoft Word.
After deciding he would like to become better at Graphic Design, Mike left the workforce to focus full-time on education. He enrolled in Community College in Oakland, California majoring in Desktop Publishing. Mike transferred to the University of San Francisco to continue his education. He was elected Freshman Class President in his first year and won as a write-in after memorizing the names of 200 freshmen he had just met. He is the only one who has ever done that in the school's history.
Mike left the University of San Francisco for a once-in-a-lifetime internship at Skywalker Ranch with his idol, George Lucas. Mike became an IT Assistant at the George Lucas Educational Foundation where he improved his computer support skills while studying the convergence of education and technology in the Foundation's specialized education technology library. He also used Mozilla during its first launch and was excited about his future. Researching the Foundation's library revealed a computer animation school in Sunnyvale, California. Immediately following his internship's end, Mike moved to Sunnyvale and enrolled.
After feeling disconnected from the workforce for too long, yet realizing he needed to remain current with evolving technologies, Mike decided to take a new approach: to work while going to school. He took a job at a computer store as a salesperson and technician so he could personally build the products he sold. He also attended animation school to continue his pursuit of digital design. He learned customer service and technical support and then moved on to network administration, obtaining his Novell Netware Certification and earning $60 an hour doing network "house calls." Mike's boss called his computers "bullet-proof." It may have had something to do with Mike's 27-step preparation plan used on every computer he built.
When traveling between school and work became too grueling, Mike's high school friend invited him to move to New Zealand for a change of pace. There, Mike created an online video game retailer that received 1.2 million hits in its first year. He and his partner made the front page of New Zealand's largest newspaper and were featured on television as an innovative, technology-based retailer. At the time, theirs was the only website featuring videos of gameplay to overcome buyer's reluctance and give customers a preview of gameplay before purchasing. Click here to dig around Google and see some of the articles about Mike in New Zealand. One of the links reveals a little known fact about Mike: Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com cited Mike's website, Gamescape.co.nz in his Patent document. View the document here: Amazon.com Patent document.
During the time Mike was in New Zealand, the dot-com bubble started growing. Unemployment in the U.S. hit an all-time low of 4.6%. Tech companies were searching high and low for creative talent to fuel innovative start-ups. Mike moved back to the United States to leverage his experience in his New Zealand start-up and grow his experience in the larger, more competitive U.S. market. In Los Gatos, California, Mike learned the value of separating the front-end from the back-end so specialized talent can be more productive. Mike was promoted to Product Manager after creating a prototype to redesign his employer's software interface based on user feedback. Later, he was promoted to Director of User Interface Design. Mike's work helped sell their web application and their start-up for several hundred thousand dollars and won Mike an invitation to join the same executive team at their next start-up.
Shortly after getting hired at the new start-up, the tragedies of 9/11 led investors to pull the funding at Mike's new employer. With start-up funding ending all over Silicon Valley, Mike decided it was time to return to school. Feeling dissatisfied with the educational opportunities in California, Mike moved to the East Coast and enrolled in American University. There, he created a custom-made degree combining Graphic Design, Multimedia, and Web Programming. Mike graduated with the only Bachelor of Science in Multimedia Design and Development in the University's history. While going to school part-time, Mike also worked part-time to apply what he learned directly to the work world. He graduated on May 8th, 2011 with a 3.49 GPA but the school had him walk with the honors students.
After graduating from American University, Mike applied his education and experience to develop Phantom Records' website into a rich, multimedia, database-driven site. After updating the site to the most modern it can be, his employer, Phantom Records, moved the site into maintenance mode. Without a site to apply his talents, Mike negotiated the option to take on contracts that would allow him to remain current and broaden his skill set. Between 2013 and now, Mike completed several contracts building sites for the TSA, the Glenmont United Methodist Church, and a start-up government contractor.
Mike created an interactive "mini game" animation to represent the "Peace Process" in an interesting way. He bought a dance pad with a USB cable connection. The dance pad is three feet by three feet wide. He then designed a "cover" for the pad. His "cover" was also three feet by three, designed in Adobe Photoshop and created at full print quality: 300DPI. That is an extremely large file and it was very time consuming to work with but Mike believes in quality and flexibility so he did it anyway. He had the "cover" printed at FedEx Office on to vinyl paper. The then "stuck" the "cover" on top of the dance pad so that his "pictures" precisely covered the dance pad's contact points. In other words, a dancer stepping on his "pictures" would activate the "hotspots" beneath the "cover" and send a signal into the "mini game" he created. The "mini game" was made in Adobe Flash, and he used a small Mac OS X utlitity to interpret the dance pad's "buttons" to send keyboard keystrokes depending on which one was "stepped on" or "pressed." The keystrokes were then mapped, within Flash, to activate certain animation sequences. During his design process, it was told to Mike that moving within Flash from one "Scene" to another the way Mike wanted was impossible. Mike searched Google for three days and found the same claim. So what did he do? He guessed. Based on the "syntax" of ActionScript, Mike created an original code sequence and it worked! He still won't even share it! Because he wants to see if anyone else can figure it out. See his animation here. Fair Warning: His "Mini Game" was not made to be a full game. It was an animation that was supposed to "pretend to be an museume exhibit but then surprise a user who stepped on the nearby dance pad." So there are no instructions that popup. Simply click anywhere on the game's screen to make it start. You will have to figure it out, just like you'd have to figure out the "Peace Process" if you were a Diplomat. There are not manuals! Click here to see the artistic statment.
"Kinetic Type" is a type of animation with moving text. Movies that have opening sequences with elaborate movements, such as the Spiderman movies, where the camera moves around the web hopping from one text phrase to another, are using "Kinetic Type" or "moving text." Mike used Adobe After Effects to create this animation. But with this one, he also used his DJ-skill to "time" the animation to the audio in the attached sound file. An author read their famous passage from "Lenore," and Mike animated the entire portion. This is only a portion, as the project was split between Mike and others: Lenore Kinetic Type Animation.
After creating hollywood quality animations for this project, Mike received feedback that he only had to make very simply, slow-moving animations because the senior customers viewing the animations were likely only interested in that, instead of something too fancy. Mike created these to accomodate the Client's request. These are very easy to make and fun to make in various colors or to make various alternatives such as ones that play normally and ones that play on holidays with different animation that's festive. To make the Ads "aware" of the holiday, Mike uses PHP to detect the date and then swith the animation file to that holiday's version. Then it switches back when the holiday is over. See one of them here. NOTE: The animation is very slow!