Seth Mendelsohn, proprietor, Simply Boulder Foods
Seth Mendelsohn spent seven years creating clinical information systems for hospitals. At the end of his IT career, he was a senior analyst responsible for designing, developing, and building those systems, as well as the maintenance and training.
It was a good job, says Mendelsohn, but he burned out. The idea for a new career came from his avocation: He knew he always liked cooking and especially creating new sauces. "I knew that with my IT experience, I had the skills to start up a new business." That business is called Simply Boulder Foods, a maker of culinary sauces.
Like most IT analysts, Mendelsohn had spent quite a bit of time working in Excel creating complex spreadsheets models, a skill that came in handy as he built his new company.
Working in IT also taught him the importance of meeting deadlines, dealing with interpersonal issues, staying on top of milestones, and facing logistical hurdles. Today, Mendelsohn works 50 to 60 hours per week, but the business is growing -- with contracts from a division of Kroger and a deal in the works with Whole Foods.
The advice Mendelsohn offers is as simple as the ingredients in his sauces: "Just follow your dream and do what you want to do."
Mark Stone, freelance writer and novelist
Mark Stone was an IT prodigy who, at 13 years old, started programming for his grandfather's business using fourth-generation languages and building relational databases. Later on, he worked for IBM, started a computer consulting business, and in the early years of the PC industry helped to transfer data from minis to PCs. Stone is also a Certified Information Systems Security Professional.
But fate had other things in store for Stone, who is now a full-time freelance writer and published novelist. It all started a few years ago when he began writing articles about computer security for his local newspaper in Kelowna, British Columbia. He quickly realized he enjoyed writing even more than working with computers.
"I discovered I had a passion for it," he says. After writing for the local paper, he moved up, getting articles published in Winnipeg's major newspaper.
But he still had his day job working for a large insurance company and was assigned the task of monitoring e-mail. That gave him the idea for his first novel, Behind the Screen: Hacking Hollywood, a thriller about an employee in a financial services company who reads an e-mail he shouldn't have read.
Stone self-published the novel on the Web, but it got enough buzz for a traditional publisher to pick it up. And he was on his way. Stone's advice? "Take a leap of faith -- and a leap for your pocketbook, too."
Doug Tripple, paramedic and firefighter, Des Moines Fire Department
Doug Tripple started his IT career in the Navy. When he got out, he opened a computer store with a Navy buddy. Eventually, he started installing custom systems and networks for banks in the Des Moines area. He sold that first shop and moved into the corporate world -- where he says you either change jobs every year "or they change you."
He was making great money, but the work was too mundane and monotonous for his liking. "The stuff never changes; they just move it around," he quips.