By Amber Archangel
What does one do when their career disappears? Maybe you or someone you know has experienced something similar. Returning to school may not be the first thing you think of — however, for me, it seemed like a great place to start. My previous college days took place before personal computers played the major role in business that they do today. So I had done a lot of on-the job training .
The first semester back in school consisted of business and computer classes. One of the course requirements in that first business class was a project to create a business plan for a simulated company and make a group presentation to an investing Angel. That was when the idea for my current venture came to me.
Back On Campus!
Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, California. Photo credit: Amber Archangel
My group of five students built a virtual solar photovoltaic manufacturing plant on the East Coast. Our business plan was so convincing that the Angel, who owns several cleantech companies, said it was something he would invest in. He also asked if there were budding entrepreneurs in the room who wanted to meet with him. That was my cue. He asked me three questions, “Is it Cleantech? Is it internet? Does it have social media?” That was easy; I answered yes to each question and his response was very simply, “I’m interested.”
Monterey Peninsula College (MPC) Administration Building. | Photo credit: Amber Archangel
One very helpful distinction of my school is that the class size is small enough that our professors get to know us individually. We get help with our studies, and because they have experience working in our community, they can also advise us on career choices. Professor Randy Smith, my computer instructor, told me that I was “very good with computers.” His consulting firm, Caliber Associates, has been established in Monterey since 1985. His observation caused me to challenge my path of education. I explored the different avenues to approach computer technology. Professor Randy spent time showing me how websites are built and I learned about the back-end and the front-end of sites.
Professor Randy Smith, Computer Technology:
Developing a successful online presence requires a broad and diverse set of skills including knowledge and passion for the subject area, sense and focus on business aspects, visualization of and effective presentation, and efficiency in coding or programming. Acquiring such skills can be fun, rewarding, and is almost always hard work. Amber started with a devotion to her focus on bettering a green world with her carefully crafted content.
Developing simple pages introducing coding/programming concepts allows us to explore options for display of information on the evolving media of the Web. A successful designer learns tradeoffs of style to interact with the widest relevant audience, and the new media-rich delivery presents challenges for sharing on our computers and mobile devices alike. Emerging sites like 1Sun4All.com are a testimony to dedicated pursuit of ideas and ideals offered to the world community.
During my second semester, I prepared the business plan for my web-based business. Professor Randy was one of my rocks in those intense days. He steadied me through the discovery process and, after my successful presentation, suggested how I could find my tech team. Josh Quintana and Nick Ullamn at Everyday Shuffle Marketing created an LLC with me and began the site-build.
Since I had a team building my site, I determined that I needed to learn graphic arts. The MPC Graphic Arts program offers many of the computer skills needed to run the front-end of an online business. So, after a great year on the technical side of the campus, I crossed the bridge to the art department.
Professor Jamie Dagdigian is the head of the Graphic Arts program and a very creative instructor. I told him what my goals were and he’s been very helpful in my choice of classes. He also critiques my infographics when I get stuck in the design process.
I asked Professor Jamie if he’s seen an increase in the last 5 years of people who are over 40 returning to school.
Professor Jamie Dagdigian, Art Department Chairman, Graphic Arts:
I’ve seen a constant stream of people in that age group. Some of whom, I understand have entrepreneurial goals. There are a myriad of reasons for people to take the classes, some of the students are artists and they want to learn more about the technical side of doing what they do. Other people have very specific ideas about the kind of skills they need for what they have in mind. Those might be the entrepreneurial folks who are, like yourself, fitting skills and asking questions along the way and adapting their course, moving around to accommodate what they can most use.
I think disclosure is very important, being very clear about what the course offers and how it might be used, or how it has been used. How the tool and the thinking can be applied to the widest range of possibilities.
Professor Jeanette Smith is amazing with Photoshop. She also has a San Francisco Bay Area design studio, Wild Horse Design. While she was teaching us how to use the software, she told us which skills could also get us employment.
Photoshop Class with Professor Jeanette Smith
Photo credit: Meredith Evans Photography. Meredith is a fellow student who also has a fun & creative photography business.
So, you’re probably wondering what my new business venture is. It’s the clean energy website 1Sun4All.com. My tech team are highly skilled, creative, and dedicated hard workers. I’ve become a writer for my site and others, including CleanTechnica.com and PlanetSave.com. I’ve been published twice in Scientific American. I enjoy making infographics using my new skills. My site is growing nicely and soon we will have revenue from advertising. It was challenging to lose my former career and if I hadn’t returned to school, I would not be doing what I am now.