Biography – Byron Spinney
I started in the world of small business and technology in the mid-seventies with an extensive background in analog electronics design and repairs. I worked primarily on radio and television repairs (mostly tube and transistor) and audio equipment (mixers, soundboards, amplifiers, and effects) prior to my introduction to the world of computers.
My first computer technician job was with a small (there were three of us) company. I started this job before the first personal computers came to market. The company I worked for would buy used computer equipment for resale. My job was to test and repair all of the different types of equipment. At the time I entered the industry 64Kb was the maximum amount of memory for many systems. Cycle times for memory were hundreds of times slower than they are now and what now fits on a thumb drive was then an unconceivable amount of memory to include the disk drives. Eight inch floppy drives that stored 256Kb were commonly used for back up devices and for data transfer between systems. I as responsible for all of the varying types of computer equipment that came through the doors. I worked on everything from dot matrix printers, memory boards, tape and disk controllers and drives, paper tape and card punch/readers, to advanced analog to digital interface equipment.
This first job provided the opportunity to no only grow my expertise in electronics troubleshooting and repair, it also opened the doors to a whole new set of learning experiences. I learned to write diagnostics in binary code and later in assembler. This experience opened the doors to learn FORTRAN, COBOL, BASIC, and later C and PASCAL. The combination of hardware and software immersion provided by the small company environment lead to writing compilers, operating systems, modifying operating systems, and designing complex custom instrumentation hardware and software interfaces. Along the way I learned some other valuable skills like how to make coffee, properly clean an office building, logistics, and fundamentals of running a small business. As the late seventies arrived I was responsible for over $2M worth of the business.
In the early eighties I broke out into my first independent technology practice. My specialty had become systems and networking. I worked on a wide variety of systems from DEC to IBM and operating systems from UNIX to VMS. My networking specialty shifted from asynchronous communications to Ethernet. The business flourished as far as it was able as a one person shop. I learned many valuable lessons about business planning and scaling.
I closed my practice and took a job with one of my biggest clients. I was able to focus on the Apollo, DEC, HP, and IBM systems with all of the varying operating systems and the networking of a single business. The new job provided a rich learning experience. I learned about product research and evaluation. I learned the processes of planning for major maintenance and upgrades. I also hired my first full time staff and started to learn about management. In the late eighties the company was acquired by Hewlett Packard (HP).
I had become very comfortable in a small company. I knew all of the almost 200 employees, had grown comfortable with the business processes, and enjoyed the autonomy afforded in my position. The thought of working for a giant company like HP was terrifying. However, the new management team made me an attractive offer and encouraged me to stay on board. My role with the company grew and I took on responsibility for all of the technology in a second site. My role at HP taught me valuable lessons in management, processes, and business fundamentals.
In the early nineties I was offered a promotion from an HP business unit to a corporate position. The role required someone who could understand applications, systems, operating systems, and networks. I transferred and found myself working as an internal consultant. My job was to develop network security strategies, develop and deliver network security training for business units, and work with implementation teams. This position billed internal business units for my time. It was like having a consultant practice, only completely internal to HP. In this role I greatly expanded my understanding of business and operational management, training, security, consulting, as well as technical product research and evaluation.
In 2001 I was part of the extensive reduction in force that ravaged HP. I had grown very comfortable in my role at HP and loved my job and the people with whom I was privileged to work. I started a new consulting practice and landed my first contract two days after being laid off. The first contract was significant as it moved me into the world of the Department of Defense (DoD). I took all of the training from all of my previous jobs and rolled it into the new consulting business. The business double the second year and again the third and fourth years. I was forced to move out of my basement office to a facility where I could house employees, test labs, and integration space. We took on larger and more complex projects through the years. Projects included technology research and evaluation in a broad range from; radio frequency (RF), microwave, low and high energy lasers, information technology (IT) audio visual (AV), and counter improvised explosive device (C-IED). We also worked to design and implement the IT and AV in multiple advanced operations centers. In my role I learned a tremendous amount about branding, re-invention, research and evaluation, test, management, scaling, logistics, training, writing, business, and process.
In October of 2011 we sold the business to follow our passion. We started a non-profit disaster relief ministry. I volunteer my time writing, developing and delivering training, building and leading teams, and managing the day-to-day operations of the ministry. I now consult, speak, teach, and write on a part time basis. The demands of a small consultancy are manageable to keep in balance with the demands of running a non-profit.
If you have need for business, process, or technical consulting, freelance writing, a speaker, or training please consider my services. Please contact me to discuss your project.