It’s fair to assume that a vast majority of the technical experts on Experts Exchange make a living by dealing with technology. John Hurst (thinkpads_user) is a rare exception to this rule. Today John works primarily as a financial accounting consultant, and although he has many years of technology experience under his belt, the fact of the matter is that he’s here for fun. Technology is his hobby and his passion, not his trade, and that makes him a unique member of our community.
With a degree in applied mathematics, the fusion of finance and technology made perfect sense for John’s career path. He worked for General Electric for 18 years, both in his home country of Canada and abroad, in finance and information technology. He went on to Black Photo Corporation as the Director of Information Technology, and eventually transitioned into a successful independent business consultant role. He’s worked for himself in that capacity for over 14 years.
From Asker to Expert
John came to Experts Exchange in 2008, when a client he was working with used the site to help solve a VPN problem. John decided it was a valuable resource for technology information, and paid for a one-year subscription a short time later. He discovered fairly quickly that he could answer more questions than he was asking, and earned free premium membership in no time.
“I still remember the first question I answered,” he says, “it was ‘How do I move from Windows Server 2000 to Windows Server 2003?’, and it so happened that I had just done that for a client.” So he outlined the process that he used and the asker found success, thanking him for a job well done. The “Good Answer!” email that came later was a bonus.
What Makes you Successful?
Although answering questions in a topic in which you are an expert may seem simple, John is a firm believer that you have to work hard in order to be successful on Experts Exchange. He prides himself on not only helping to solve the problem, but explaining to the person asking, “Here’s what the solution is, here’s why it will work, and here’s why the thing you’ve been doing doesn’t work.”
In a traditional full-time technology position, the majority of your time is spent on a single, focused area. “Consulting is [basically] holding a client’s hand,” he says, “so I’ve gotten really good at explaining things.” John feels that working as a consultant or freelancer provides you with a lot more opportunity to work with different technologies, which is why he’s been able to gain over 100 different certifications on Experts Exchange. He currently holds a Genius rank in the following topics:
- MS Legacy OS
- Windows 7
- Windows OS
What Keeps you Around?
As John states in his most recent article, “…it just plain feels good,” to not only help people find a solution to their problem, but to be able to help them articulate how things work to their co-workers and clients. The points are nice, too, but are secondary to providing real help. John also does volunteer financial consulting for several non-profit organizations, so it’s safe to say that altruism is a driving force in his life.
The sense of community is also very important to John. He has been around through three different versions of Experts Exchange, and has played a big role in making it what it is today. When John became a contributing member of the Product Advisory Committee, he came to the San Luis Obispo office and finally got to meet some of the other experts that he had been working with for years, and has forged some lasting friendships.
Since technology is a hobby for John, he spends a fair amount of his free time on the site helping where he can. Apart from that, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children at their fractional cottage, helping his five-year-old “puzzle genius” grandson build robots, and working in his electrical shop. He also has a rather impressive model train layout in his basement, where he enjoys tinkering. “Like most things,” he says, “It’s always a work in progress.”