My life is a little different than most. I live in Lehi, Utah, 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. Known as part of Silicon Slopes, Lehi is actually one of the fastest growing areas of the United States. We've been there about 14 years now and really, really love it.
My experience coming into this company, and this career, is definitely an unusual one. My wife is Hmong. The Hmong people are from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and China. Many were hired by the CIA to help rescue downed pilots in the Vietnam War. But when the US pulled out, and the Communists took over, they began exterminating the Hmong people. Some were lucky enough to escape, and many ended up living in the United States, dispersed mostly in California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
When I was 19 years old, I went on a mission for my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While assigned to Sacramento nine months into my mission, I was asked to learn the Hmong language. As I learned about their culture and got involved in the Hmong community, I would take lots of pictures of the people and send them home to my family. On my first day back home, my mom picked up one of the photographs and said, "I think this girl looks so nice. Why don't you go back and marry her?" I immediately dismissed my mom’s idea.
It's too long a tale to tell, but two years later, Mee, the girl in the picture, and I were married.
Our first daughter, Sarah, was born while I was still in college studying Anthropology. I told my wife that one of the things I think will help us is if I can go to China or Taiwan and learn Chinese. She agreed. We moved to Taiwan, and I taught English classes there. That's where our second daughter, Angel was born. Hazel was born later.
We were supposed to be there for two years, but we ended up staying for five. We loved it that much. I did get to learn some Mandarin which was great, but I also got really involved in technology in the classroom. I set up computers, wrote a program for students to take attendance, and learned a lot about the world of education and training. When we came back to the states, I got a job with PowerSchool, Apple’s award-winning student information system (SIS) division.
I worked in support, moved into training and spent a lot of my time travelling for business. Then life on the road got pretty hard. I knew it was time to quit when at church one day, I sat down on the bench and started looking for my seat belt.
So, I went back to school and got my masters in Adult Education and began designing and building systems and curriculum for leaning online. Online education has been my world and my life ever since.
My title here at OTA is Director of Learning Experience Design which is a title I really like, rather than what we would call instructional design. That's because it shifts the focus from what the instructor does to the student’s experience. We're trying to create experiences where the student has to really think, develop skills, and then demonstrate how they can apply those skills. It's a lot of fun. My experience at OTA has been wonderful so far. I love my team and I love trying to figure out these things. It is great to be able to think in such an expansive way and work with such great people.