Jim Rowland — whose career has included driving frigates, placing things in Earth orbit, and graduating from both the Naval Academy and law school — is, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, not related to Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners, and he won’t suggest, but should, that it’s time we stopped asking him.
Jim talks about testing OmniPlan and OmniFocus — and then we talk about his time catching satellites and, later, attending law school, taking the bar exam, and finding a home at Omni.
You can find Jim on Twitter @usna92.
Some other people, places, and things mentioned:
- Come On Eileen
- Greg Titus
- Tom Bunch
- OmniFocus for the Web
- Naval Academy
- Medal of Honor
- Dick Cheney
- Malcolm Wallop
- Alan Simpson
- Top Gun
- Empire State Building
- Faraday Cage
- G.I. Bill
- Denver, CO
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Tacoma, WA
- Foghorn Leghorn
- Barney Fife
- Fergus (formerly Declan)
- Tiki drinkers
- Eve Online
Brent Simmons: You're listening to The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind The Omni Group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. Music!
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Brent: I'm your host, Brent Simmons. In the studio with me today is Jim Rowland, software test pilot at The Omni Group. Say hello, Jim.
Jim Rowland: Howdy.
Brent: You have to say, "Hello, Jim."
Jim: Hello, Jim.
Brent: Thank you. I should've warned you in advance, but an unbroken streak, so...
Jim: These are the jokes.
Brent: Yes, yes they are. Y'know, it gets the audience warmed up a little bit. Anyway, so you're not at all related to the guy from the Dexys Midnight Runners.
Jim: I am not. Fan of his work, though.
Brent: Oh, sure. “Come on Eileen” is a great song.
Jim: It is a great song.
Brent: It truly is a lot of fun. If you had been related we would have used it as the theme music for the episode.
Jim: What else would you use?
Brent: Yeah, right.
Jim: So now I'm probably stuck with the rolling, rolling “Rawhide” theme.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you're kind of the utility infielder of the test pilots here. You move around a little bit. You go to where the fires are hottest.
Jim: I have tested just about... Well, I have tested everything that we've put out. My first product was OmniPlan, where I spent the bulk of my first two years here.
Jim: Then I got shifted to Graffle for awhile, for their Graffle 7 release. Then I was on OmniOutliner, Outliner 5, for about a year.
Brent: Oh, yeah. That was the last thing they let me work on.
Jim: Then I got moved to OmniFocus.
Brent: All right. So you've been on every single app.
Jim: And actually did some testing on DiskSweeper for a little while. I haven't really done anything on OmniWeb yet.
Brent: Okay. Yeah. But you've done all the big ones for pay apps. Yeah.
Jim: I've done all the big ones.
Brent: Plus DiskSweeper, which in terms of downloads, I mean it's free. I just sometimes wonder if it's our most popular app, without even realizing it.
Jim: Ken still puts a lot of work into it.
Brent: Yeah, that's true.
Jim: In fact, he just released a update for the beta work.
Brent: It's a great app. I'll make sure a link is in the show notes.
Brent: So you were on OmniPlan for awhile, and at first. I'm curious about that app, because it's different from our other apps. Like them, it's a productivity app, but it's also very much for a specific audience: product and program managers.
Jim: It's the most specialized thing I think we produce. It has its own vocabulary. It has a specific set of functions that only people who are trying to plan something would use.
Brent: Now is this an industry vocabulary? Or specific to the app?
Jim: I would say it's an industry vocabulary. That's translated in the Omni way to an app that we think gets the widest audience, for that specific use. But not everyone is a program manager, and the vocabulary is pretty specific.
Brent: So, education is a part of the OmniPlan experience for you, for us?
Jim: I think from both ends. I think we get educated by our customers, because while we have a pretty extensive use case library, there's always somebody who's coming up with a new way, or a new use, for OmniPlan, in a new environment. I think we learn every time we answer a support ticket, or add a feature, or plan a feature. We take all of that input into what comes next.
Brent: So it's interesting that a lot of PMs are self-taught.
Jim: Especially in the tech industry. I think a lot of people start in development, or in product design, and then as they... in larger organizations, that's to become more senior, they end up in program management because that's the next kind of logical step for them.
Jim: Without formal training, they're trying to absorb and create all this vocabulary, and learn it all on their own. That can be a big challenge. So I think the main goal of OmniPlan is to take that vocabulary and make it as approachable as possible, so people can get something they can use out of it.
Brent: So like many apps it's essentially two things. So the under the hood, and then the user interface. So under the hood, I'm imagining it's just a whole lot of math.
Jim: It is so much math. Greg does a great job parsing the equations from the theory into something that OmniPlan can put into practice. The model which runs under OmniPlan is wide, and deep. It's kind of like the ocean. The UI and the UX work all float on the top with the waves, but the true depth of OmniPlan is below the surface.
Brent: That's the challenge then, is to get the user interface to make it possible to use that model without having to be Greg himself.
Jim: Yes. He and Tom work together to make a very approachable product for something that can be pretty opaque and dense. It's great to see what people do with it.
Brent: So lately you've been on OmniFocus. Any particular areas? Or just general testing on Focus?
Jim: I've been working on it almost since OmniFocus 3 came out. I joined the team about a month or so after it came out. Then lately we've been working on subscriptions for the native applications. So for iOS and for Mac, allowing people to access and purchase subscriptions for OmniFocus for the Web. And then dropped tasks, which has actually been really, really interesting to use.
Brent: Tell me more about dropped tasks. What's it for?
Jim: I like to think of dropped tasks as a record of the paths not taken. It's your map for the choices that you made, but didn't perform. One of the great strengths of OmniFocus is the review process. In the course of that review, you may decide I'm not actually going to do this project, or action. Now you have a way to capture the fact that you've looked at it, you've made a conscious decision not to do it, and then you've recorded that, when and where you've done it, and said, "I'm not doing this." So later, should you come up with the same idea again, you can add it back into your OmniFocus and look at your dropped tasks and say, "Wait. I've thought about this already. I'm not doing this. Let's move forward."
Brent: Right. Because your other options were: leave it there, delete it, or mark it as done. And none of those things were true.
Jim: You're right. There was no other real way to capture something you've decided not to do, other than deleting it which loses the history.
Brent: Yeah, right. Then you don't know.
Jim: Or completing it, which is false history.
Brent: I suppose you could edit the title, decide not to do whatever it was, the mark it as complete.
Jim: Yeah, a lot of people had several workarounds.
Jim: They would tag things as “not done,” or “not doing,” or “do not do.” Then using the Tag feature — and before that, Contexts — to do the same thing. But this is a much cleaner implementation. It really creates another status for your projects and your actions.
Brent: Right. One of the simpler uses for it, for me it's very useful, I have a lot of repeating tasks. Things I do every morning at work, for instance, I look at Ken Case's Tweets, because I'm in marketing and I need to know what the CEO is saying to the world. But if it's Memorial Day or something, I'm not actually going to do it. So I can just drop it for that day, rather than marking it as complete or whatever, and everything takes care of itself.
Jim: And it'll turn on your repeating task again, you can delete it, drop it for that day. Or drop it forevermore. You can go either route. But either way, it's recorded your decision.
Brent: So before you were at Omni, you started off at the Naval Academy.
Brent: Which was your rebellion, because your dad was in the army.
Jim: Yeah, my-
Brent: So you're like, "Yeah, I'm going in the Navy. Screw you, Pop."
Jim: No, both my parents were in the army, actually.
Brent: Oh, both parents. Yeah.
Jim: I'd seen their jobs, and I was like, "No, I'm not doing this." But I knew I was joining the military.
Brent: Is that a family thing basically?
Jim: It's something I felt like I needed to do. My family kind of has a strong sense of duty, and always have.
Brent: Okay. So public service, yeah.
Jim: Yeah, my mom's a nurse. My dad, before joining the army, was a police officer. When he left the army he was a police officer afterwards. My sister's a police officer. My other sister's a nurse. So the military seemed like it was going to be my option, and 24 years later, I left.
Brent: I never applied to the Naval Academy, but I do vaguely remember hearing that you had to get a congressperson to send a letter or something? Did you go through all that stuff?
Jim: Yeah. There are three paths, well technically there's four paths. Your father or mother could've won the Medal of Honor. That didn't happen in my case.
Brent: Not that common. Right.
Jim: Not particularly common. You can get what's called a Vice Presidential appointment, and that's usually for enlisted service members with exceptional service.
Jim: And then the other option is applying to your local congressman, or congresswoman, and/or senators, and they have 10 slots each, for each of the academies per year, to dole out. I was a high school student in Wyoming. So there were 30 slots.
Brent: Right. You're thinking, you're lucky to be in a low population state, at that point.
Jim: It helps. There weren't as many people applying to the Naval Academy, in Wyoming, as in—
Brent: I can picture that, yeah.
Jim: ... say Maryland or Connecticut or California where there's big populations, and water.
Brent: I grew up in Maryland, and the idea of going to the Naval Academy was essentially pushed on everybody, like this would be the greatest thing.
Jim: Well, you're right there.
Brent: Yeah, right?
Jim: So I applied, and then I interviewed with Dick Cheney.
Brent: Lucky you.
Jim: Yeah. Malcolm Wallop, who was the senior senator at the time, and then Alan Simpson, who gave me my appointment.
Brent: Nobody's ever heard of Malcolm Wallop.
Jim: No one. Really, yeah.
Brent: No, yeah. Going to be a fighter pilot? Was that the whole idea?
Jim: Oh, yeah. So I was 16 when Top Gun came out. You guys can all do the math.
Brent: Perfect age though, right? For Top Gun?
Jim: Yeah. Yes. I felt the “need for speed” something terrible, and I was going to be a Top Gun pilot. Yeah. Unfortunately, the Navy does not give fighter planes to people with bad sinuses. There is a thing. So my need for speed ended very quickly.
Brent: Right. Right.
Jim: So I ended up driving ships after the Naval Academy.
Brent: Okay. Did you study engineering at the Naval Academy?
Jim: I was going to be an aeronautical engineer. That went with the need for speed.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Actually.
Jim: So I became a computer scientist.
Jim: So my need for speed ended-
Brent: The need for really fast computers?
Jim: Yes. Ended at 16 MHz. Which was, I think, the bus speed of the computer at the time that I was using.
Brent: What's driving frigates like?
Jim: They're kind of like sports cars, of the Navy. They're… For a ship, they are very nimble.
Jim: But keep in mind that nimble means I can turn them in under half a mile.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.
Jim: So they tend to be fast to accelerate. They're a lot of fun if you're driving a ship.
Jim: But they're not very big.
Brent: What's top speed for a frigate?
Jim: About 30 knots.
Brent: Okay. So that's-
Jim: If it's doing really well.
Brent: What's that, like 35, 40 miles an hour?
Jim: Yeah, somewhere about there.
Jim: The seas've got to be great.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right. You need the conditions.
Jim: Not a lot of weather. Not behind an aircraft carrier, which is where I spent a lot of time on a frigate. Behind the aircraft carrier, trying to pick up Top Gun pilots out of the water, should something terrible happen.
Brent: Oh, well. Was that a thing that actually you had to do?
Jim: Yeah, it's called plane guard.
Brent: Yeah, okay.
Jim: So you generally use small, fast ships to do it. Frigates or destroyers. So you park behind an aircraft carrier, a little less than a mile away, at about their 190, so off their left and rear. You spend all day having airplanes dump gas on you before they land.
Brent: Oh, geez.
Jim: You're there in case something untoward happened, and one of the flying things ends up in the water.
Brent: Right. Yeah, because you can get there and an aircraft carrier can't.
Jim: Yeah. An aircraft carrier is not-
Brent: They're not going to-
Jim: ... it doesn't stop for two miles. So they're in another county by the time they can turn around.
Brent: Right. How long is a typical aircraft carrier as it is? I mean, you could measure that-
Jim: Nimitz-class run about 1,000 feet.
Brent: Okay. All right.
Jim: So think Empire State building on its side, doing about 30 knots. Making its own wind.
Brent: There's a bit of inertia there.
Jim: Yeah, it's not stopping anytime soon.
Brent: Yeah, right? So at some point you went from there to shooting things into outer space. How'd that happen?
Jim: So while I was in graduate school, the Navy generously decided that I needed an applied math degree. So they sent me to Monterey Postgraduate School to get a degree in operations research. Which is the mix between applied math, industrial engineering; primarily used for Optimization Theory. But while I was getting the degree, I decided that I would actually like to see my wife and children.
Brent: Novel idea.
Jim: Yeah, it's a thing. Being at sea a lot, and for a career, requires a lot of sacrifice. I admire all of my friends and classmates who did it, but I figured out early that that is not what I want to do.
Brent: It does seem like, it's not exactly going into space, but you're leaving ground. You are-
Jim: Yeah, you are gone.
Brent: ... and you're leaving everything. Yeah.
Jim: When you're at sea, the mission is everything. Sleep is an afterthought usually, and you are constantly working and constantly busy. It is an all-consuming lifestyle. But it wasn't going to be mine. And so I applied for a transfer to cryptology. Which now is called, in the Navy, information warfare. And started down that track. While I was working as a computer programmer for a bunch of mathematicians, they can write algorithms, but they can't write programs. While I was doing that, I got a phone call that says, "Hey, do you want to go volunteer for this thing? We can't tell you what it is, but do you want to go volunteer for it?"
Jim: I said, "Sure. Let me go to the meeting, at least."
Brent: Right, okay.
Jim: So went to the meeting and then 12 years later it turns out that the meeting was about doing things that put satellites in space. It was a pretty incredible career change. There is nothing like working in aerospace with vehicles and the space launch, and everything about it is an order of magnitude different than anything I had done before.
Brent: Yeah, I'm trying to imagine and, yeah. I can't. But-
Jim: Yeah, it's such a... the industry is so crazy because there are always problems. Yeah, there are always challenges. It got to the point where the joke was, that it didn't matter what the problem was, but if you quickly apply $25 million to the problem, you could make it go away.
Brent: Uh-huh (affirmative). All right. Yeah.
Jim: There was a spate where in the middle of my career, where a contractor, they would come to us with the week's challenge, but they had a plan. The plan was, if you paid $25 million right now, we could fix this in time. After the fourth of fifth time, we began to wonder, is it really a $25 million problem? Or just all problems are solved with $25 million? Then I thought about my own life and figured out, you know what, all my problems would just about be solved with the quick application of $25 million.
Brent: Or maybe a few.
Brent: So you were not on the rocketry team, you're managing the actual satellite?
Jim: Yeah, the rocketry team, those guys are great. It's a challenging problem-
Brent: It's literally rocket science.
Jim: It is literally rocket science. And it has catastrophic bad day points. But in the end, it's chemistry and physics. You put enough things that go boom together, something is going to leave the ground. I was on the actual, what they call the vehicle team, which was otherwise known as the catch team. So once it's in orbit, it was our job, and the team's job, to figure out: Did it survive? And is it doing what we think it's going to do? And then getting the satellite ready for the people who would eventually operate it.
Brent: So are you waiting kind of cinematically in a room just for a ping from the satellite after the launch?
Jim: Yeah, it's crazy. It's that whole Apollo 13 mission control thing where we're all sitting in a room around the big computer monitor, everyone's sitting around the table, and you're waiting for this telemetry signal from a far-off station. It could be Hawaii or California or somewhere overseas that receives the signal, and then it's telling you the satellite, yes, it did its thing and left the upper stage. Or no, it didn't leave the upper stage and then you're going to have a bad day.
Brent: Yeah. Did you have any bad days?
Jim: Everyone has bad days sometimes.
Brent: Okay, all right. But you had good days, too. So-
Jim: There were a lot of good days.
Brent: Yeah. Yeah. Right
Jim: But there were some bad days.
Brent: Yeah, sure. Sure. And then once it's up, the satellites basically go right to work? Or you have to run through some checklists or something?
Jim: No, there's a, yeah. Satellites, it's like a specialized Ferrari or a Formula One team. It takes a massive effort to make sure that they're ready to do what you tell them to do. The cartoons are always like, and the movies are like, "Oh, I'm just going to put a satellite in orbit. Then the solar panels come out, and it immediately gets doing what it's doing right away."
Brent: And they take like three seconds to deploy. Just... [whooshing sound]
Jim: Yeah, it's not like that. It's one of those situations where each of those things is highly scripted. The software that's written for these things is planned and tested and executed months in advance. Then each command that is sent to the satellite is verified, and checked, before it's sent. Then the receipt of message, as well as the execution of the step, is then checked against telemetry and then verified before you proceed to the next step. It's a very time-consuming process. You're talking about a significant investment by the country, in both time and treasure. The last thing you want to do is make a mistake.
Brent: Right. Sure. Yeah. No need to cut any corners there. Yeah.
Jim: Yeah, because the repair time for those kind of things is next to infinity.
Brent: Mm-hmm (affirmative). How do you test these things without actually sending them to space?
Jim: Two ways. Most satellite programs have what they call engineering samples. So satellites are built kind of like a modern PC. There's individual components that are built by multiple manufacturers, and they're integrated to one bus. Usually developed by the prime contractor. So you put all the Lego pieces together, and then you have a satellite. So as the Lego pieces are being built, there's what's called engineering verification boxes, or pieces that are not flight-worthy, but are the design of the satellite.
Brent: All right.
Jim: Our program chose to hook all of those things together to pretend to be a satellite. Which actually worked out really well, because we could send signals to that and get responses to it that would behave, or we hoped would behave, as much like a satellite as we could. And reduced a lot of risk on the vehicle, and gave us a lot of testing ability that we wouldn't have had otherwise. Because testing on a expensive satellite is not encouraged all the time.
Brent: Yeah. Right. But are you actually putting pieces into vacuum somehow?
Jim: Oh, yeah. There's a-
Brent: Or bombarding it with gamma rays, or whatever?
Jim: ... the contractor I worked with, had a ginormous box. They had several of them. There's both a vacuum chamber, there was an RF chamber, so you're shooting all sorts of radio waves at it to make sure there's no adverse effect. Then there's the absence of radio waves, so kind of a RF Tesla Faraday cage thing that you do, to make sure that the satellite can respond as you expect. But there's also a ginormous thing that looks like a paint shaker, that you put this thing on for a little while and it's the most stressful time, I think, in anyone's life, bolting this really expensive satellite down to essentially a giant shaker table, and hoping nothing comes loose.
Brent: Yeah. Right. Wow. Yeah. Yeah, and you're testing millions of dollars of equipment right there, I assume. Yeah.
Jim: Yeah. Yeah, it's real expensive to make a mistake there.
Jim: I only know of one case where they actually dropped one of the satellites. That was another contractor, it was a weather satellite, they were in a bad way.
Brent: They were liable, I assume. Terms of the contract?
Jim: Contracts are interesting things.
Brent: Yes, they are.
Brent: Which brings us to, after all this you went to law school.
Jim: I did go to law school. After I retired from the Navy, the ethics policies of the government required that I go do something else for two years. I couldn't work in the industry with the people I had worked with before.
Jim: It's prudent, because otherwise you have industry capture with government officials and that's not a good thing. So this was kind of a cooling off period, if nothing else. I had been a legal officer on the first ship I was on, and I'd always be interested in the law but just didn't have an opportunity to go before retirement. So since I had a vacation anyway, I thought, "Let's go to law school."
Brent: Yeah, you're thinking, "Let's just take it easy, and do something kind of fun for a little while."
Jim: Yeah, why not?
Jim: My wife was already an attorney, so I'd kind of lived it vicariously through her. But it's different when it's you.
Brent: So I assume, GI Bill kicks in here, too?
Jim: It did a little, that helped-
Brent: A little help, yeah.
Jim: ... but student loans are still-
Brent: Still a thing, yeah.
Jim: Yeah, law school is an expensive proposition anywhere. Despite what Hollywood says, the salaries coming out are not what they would have you believe.
Brent: I'm sure. Right? So you went to law school, and that's got to be an intense experience. Just as the Naval Academy, and then driving frigates and launching satellite are all pretty intense activities. You just walked right into another one.
Jim: Yeah, it's the things you don't think about. They're always intense once you're done with them, because you're like, "Oh, wow. I can't believe I actually did that. What was I thinking?" Law school was the same way. “Wow. Done with that. What was I thinking?” The Hollywood tropes are true. The whole think like a lawyer thing. That is a sad fundamental aspect of law school.
Brent: So your brain's permanently damaged?
Jim: Yeah, you are brain damaged out of law school. Because you never look at anything the same again.
Brent: Oh, yeah?
Jim: Amusement park rides, broken sidewalks, it's like, "Who's liable? Who would pay if someone sued?" It changes, it warps how you think about everything.
Brent: Right, because often attorneys are there because the worst-case scenario, or something close to it, has happened.
Brent: Right? Like someone tripped, somebody committed a crime, whatever it happens to be.
Jim: Yeah. You can become jaded fast as a lawyer, because in many areas of the law you see the worst of everything. Whether it's criminal law, either prosecution or on the defendant's side. Either being accused of committing a crime, whether you're the prosecutor trying to prove someone committed a crime, or the defendant trying to show that it wasn't me. Both of those areas are challenging, and they're difficult. It's a tough aspect of the law. Even transactional attorneys, where they're used most often are unfortunately the darker side of human interaction. There's lawsuits for someone being injured, divorce cases, child custody cases. Very rarely does someone call a lawyer for a happy occasion.
Brent: Yeah, that's right.
Jim: I imagine lawyers who do adoptions, that's probably pretty happy generally.
Brent: Yeah. I imagine they run into things that are kind of ugly from time to time.
Jim: Oh, I'm sure. But-
Brent: But the outcome is happy.
Jim: The outcome should be happy. But that's a rare example.
Brent: Yeah, sure. Yeah, the last lawyer we had to use was an estate lawyer. Important things had to be done, but nobody wanted to be doing those things.
Jim: Yeah, no one calls a lawyer because they have money to burn and they want to call a friend.
Brent: Right. Yeah, I think our lawyer, and this is probably standard, billed by the quarter hour maybe?
Jim: Yeah. It would not be an unusual practice for a personal lawyer for trusts and estates and that kind of thing, to bill on a quarter hour. For paperwork and things like that, many lawyers will flat fee. A lesson that many lawyers need to learn, and learn quickly, is that the law is a business. So unless you are in a public service field, you got to eat too. The problem is, you have to convince people that you're worth paying, so you can eat. So it can be challenging to be a lawyer in practice.
Brent: So after law school, did you jump right into the bar exam, become an attorney right away?
Jim: You have to take the bar exam if you're an attorney. I say that. You don't have to. You could go to law school, graduate, get a JD, and never take the bar exam. You just can't practice law anywhere without it. Except the law school professors, surprisingly enough, don't have to be lawyers.
Brent: Wow. Well, sure, why not.
Jim: Craziness. Yeah, you have to plan for taking the bar exam.
Brent: Is there other jobs you can take, after law school, before you've gone through taking the bar exam?
Jim: I was an intern with our prosecutor's office. But you are under the supervision of all the attorneys that you work for. But you can't be a lawyer, or really work in the law, with a JD, without being licensed. You could be supervised while you're waiting to take the bar exam. And many firms will hire a prospective graduate based on them passing the bar, because there's a lag. The first bar exam of the year is usually in February. So if you are a December graduate you would take the February exam. If you're a May, June graduate, you take the July exam. It's only given twice a year. You can't get a license without it.
Brent: Yeah. Right. Sure.
Brent: So how'd you end up at Omni? This experience is maybe not as intense as law school. Not that it... we're busy, we work hard. And software releases, they can be kind of intense. But...
Jim: Yeah, it's not bar exam intense, but few things are. You would not want to live your life long-term like you were prepping for the bar exam. I have the benefit of only having to take and pass one. My wife has taken two.
Brent: It's two different states? Is that the idea? Yeah.
Jim: Yeah, she's licensed in three states but she had to take it in two different ones. I would not want to do that. I'm avoiding doing that, let's say that.
Jim: I was studying for the bar, I was using OmniOutliner to take my notes, because I had shifted to Outliner after the first year of law school because another long-time Mac app folded on me. Circus Ponies Notebooks went away.
Brent: Oh, sure. Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jim: I had been trying out both Outliner and Notebook for a while—
Brent: And living in Denver at the time, right? That's where you went to school. Yeah.
Jim: Living in Denver. And then Circus Ponies made their announcement that they were no longer. Outliner became my full-time note-taking app. But I was writing up my notes for a criminal procedure, and the update notice popped. It said, "Hey, update your Outliner." I think I had to buy a version upgrade or something, or change my license or find my license or something, because it was acting squirrel-y on my computer. But it took me to Omni's webpage, and at the top of the banner was, "Hey, would you like to come work for Omni?" And I thought, in the middle of prepping for the bar exam, "I'd like to work anywhere, but Omni seems like a lot of fun-
Brent: Well, it would make a great app. Yeah.
Jim: ... because I'm using the heck out of their app." I had been in government computer space for awhile, building government apps and doing government programming tasks, and it was like, "I don't really know anything about commercial applications, or commercial work." I was like, "Well, let's see what they're looking for." They were looking for a software tester, and they wanted one that knew things about program management. I have a certification from the Defense Acquisition University in software testing, and I know something about program management.
Brent: Uh-huh (affirmative). Well, yeah. You've put satellites up into space.
Jim: So I thought, "Why not apply?" One of the requirements, at the time of the application, was not use Microsoft Word and have your own D&D books. I could write up a resume and not put it in Word, and I did have my own D&D books.
Brent: Oh, geez.
Jim: So I applied, and got called in for an interview-
Brent: Meanwhile you're still studying for the bar exam.
Jim: Still studying like crazy for the bar exam.
Brent: And this is just a background kind of thing happening?
Jim: Yeah. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the wheels were turning at Omni about setting up interviews and things like that. I was below the waterline in contracts and court law and getting ready for the bar exam, and got called in for an interview, and interviewed. And then three days before I sat for the exam in Tacoma, got the call that said, "Hey, come work for Omni." And I was like, "Well, I could not take the exam. And just-"
Brent: Oh, got a job now.
Jim: Because I got a job. What do I need this bar exam thing for? Yeah, that would be crazy. I took the bar exam. I am licensed in Washington.
Brent: You passed the bar exam!
Jim: Passed the bar exam.
Brent: A licensed Washington state attorney.
Jim: But surprisingly, even though I had a job, I remember, because the results came out in September, I just remember the morning before, I was coming in to work and just my hand was shaking, just checking the results. Solely because I didn't want to have to study for it again.
Brent: Right? But you were ready to do it?
Jim: I would've done it. I wouldn't have wanted to do it, but I would've done it.
Brent: No, no, no. Yeah. Oh, man.
Jim: Then started work at Omni, September 1st that year, 2015.
Brent: 2015. Okay. So it's-
Jim: Almost four years.
Brent: ... almost four years, yeah. Well, congratulations on passing the bar exam.
Jim: Yeah, I'm done. I try not to think about that.
Brent: So do you do any lawyering? A little on the side here and there?
Jim: A little on the side. My wife's the big-time lawyer. I would be the small town-
Brent: The Foghorn Leghorn?
Jim: The Barney Fife of lawyers.
Brent: Barney Fife, right.
Brent: Got any cats?
Jim: I do have cats. I have Cleocatra.
Brent: Cleocatra. Of course. You've shown Cleo on our page before. She's been featured.
Jim: We have Declan, well now Fergus. He started out as Declan. He was Declan on the blog.
Brent: Perfectly good name, yeah.
Jim: But he wouldn't answer to Declan. And so we had to come up with a different one. So we came up with Fergus.
Brent: And he answers to that? Because-
Jim: He does answer to Fergus.
Brent: ... because that's his name.
Jim: Well, that and he's a ginger.
Brent: Cats are enough, but maybe you have hobbies too? Are you one of those knitters? You a rock climber?
Jim: No, I am-
Brent: We've got tiki drinkers.
Jim: Oh, I do go to Mark's tiki parties.
Brent: Yeah. That's true, yeah. That's a good party. Yep.
Jim: They tell me to dress for the job you want, so I wear a lot of Hawaiian shirts.
Brent: There you go. Professional beach bum.
Jim: Because beach bum is my ultimate goal.
Brent: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim: But I'm an avid EVE Online player.
Brent: Oh, okay. And what is EVE Online?
Jim: Internet spaceships.
Brent: That's just perfect, yeah.
Jim: It's a sandbox space game, and known to be the most cut-throat and unforgiving of internet MMOs.
Brent: Sounds like fun.
Jim: Well, I play with-
Brent: Cutting throats and not forgiving people.
Jim: No, actually I play with a bunch of pacifists.
Brent: All right.
Jim: We kind of chart a different path.
Brent: Yeah, that's cool. So you put cutting throats in your dropped tasks?
Jim: Yeah. It's definitely in the dropped tasks areas.
Brent: It makes sense.
Jim: We rescue people who get trapped into wormholes, and help get them out.
Brent: See? Serving your nation.
Brent: Well, thanks Jim. How can people find you on the web?
Jim: You can find me on Twitter @usna92.
Brent: Which is US Navy '92?
Jim: United States Naval Academy, class of '92.
Brent: Nice. I'd also like to thank our intrepid producer, Mark Boszko. Say hello, Mark!
Mark Boszko: Hello, Mark!
Brent: And especially I want to thank you for listening. Thank you. Music!
SFX: [MUSIC PLAYS]