Hello and welcome to Bradonomics, my name is Brad West. I write code. I play Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m enamored of Permaculture. I read books now and then. I pronounce gif with a soft g like you’re supposed to.
About Brad (The Long Version)
I grew up in Alabama. My formative years in the south of the state, my high school years in the north. Both places were rural. The town where I went to high school was about 30,000 people. I lived about fifteen minutes drive outside that town. I could see my neighbors house, but it was far enough I couldn’t hear them. It’s weird to write about this in the past tense. My parents still live there and it’s still where I think of as “home” since I’ve yet to buy my own place, but I haven’t lived there since 1998.
After high school I joined the military and was trained as a computer tech. I was very bad at it in the early days. I didn’t have a computer growing up so I didn’t know anything about them. It was a fluke I was even given that job. I’d requested to be an electrician. Ultimately I’m glad things worked out how they did. At my first duty station I was lucky to be mentored by a guy, who at the time seemed to have magical powers.
I was offered a job with a government contractor after I left the military and spent a few years working on the military’s messaging systems. Even though it paid well I didn’t particularly like the work. Computer systems support is a thankless job. Either the computers work …and they’re supposed to work, or they don’t and it’s all your fault.
I found Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in 2002 and started dreaming of professional fighting. I left server support and started doing desktop support as I thought it would be less demanding and allow me more time to train. In 2005 I had my first (and to date, only) MMA fight. I won the fight (rear-naked choke in the second round), but reflecting afterward I didn’t think professional fighting was how I wanted to spend my life. The training leading up to the fight was grueling. I thought there was no way I’d ever get tired, but when I went back to my corner at the end of the first round I was so tired I could barely stand. I was so tired couldn’t even hear my cornermen talking. I realized even as hard as training had been, it wasn’t enough. Being a professional fighter would mean getting beat-on every day in the gym and being tired for the next 10 years or more if I was …lucky?
About a year later I started looking for a different path. I moved to California, spent the summer taking classes at a community college, and spent a lot of time thinking about business. I didn’t grow up with examples of entrepreneurship. Everyone in my family had jobs so I had to look to the internet and books for examples and ideas. I had quite a few ideas, as most people do, but no understanding of how to execute them.
A friend called me at the end of the summer and said he knew about a job. This was the way it had been for years. I’d get feed-up with computer work and decide to quit; go back to school, change fields, something …but then I’d get a call. It was always more money so I’d say yes. This time the job was in San Diego and the money was more than double what I’d made in years. I was at that job for about a year and a half before being laid-off. Also, I hated that job. I was almost relieved to be let go. I decided this time it was for good.
I moved back to Alabama thinking things would be cheaper and I could go to university and pay my rent using the GI Bill—but I couldn’t. Alabama is cheaper than California, but not enough. I started looking for other options. Turns out you can use your GI Bill outside the US. With some completely illogical mental math, I decided Thailand was my place. There were half a dozen schools approved for the GI Bill and I sent all of them an email requesting information. Only one emailed back. That’s how I ended up in Chiang Mai.
I was running from computers for about five years, hoping to move into some other industry, some other profession. Finally I decided it might be a good idea not to throw all those years away. Maybe I should do something with computers—but not support. Perhaps software.
I got a job with a local software company doing project management and marketing. My GI Bill had run out and I was desperate. It turned out to be a good thing. I wasn’t happy doing the work I was hired for and circumstances allowed me to start developing WordPress sites for the company. I started coming to the office early every day to learn more about web development. I worked for them as a web developer for about a year and a half and after two years of working there, I was let go. I’ve continued my learning in the meanwhile in between freelance projects: bash scripting, Gulp workflows, Jekyll, and more recently Python.