By Court Rye (Mktg’06)
The year was 2006 and I had just finished my marketing degree at the Leeds School of Business and was getting ready to set out into the “real world.” Like many of my friends, I was eager to live the dream and go somewhere completely new. I had a strong drive to head west and work in high tech, and my passion for surfing sealed the deal. Four years have passed since graduation. I’ve grown a lot, surfed a lot and realized that my time and experience at CU really laid the foundation for how I’m living now.
It’s funny how a mentor or a good friend can change your life. When I look back at the start of my job, my major or my ability to drive across the country and start a new life, there’s a special person who made the difference at every turn.
One was Will Toor, former Boulder mayor, former director of the CU Environmental Center and current Boulder County commissioner. He helped connect me with a part time job as the webmaster at the Environmental Center center where I developed HTML skills and an interest in clean technology.
Then there was David Scully (Mktg’06), classmate and friend at the business school. He collaborated with me on several group projects, culminating in a hugely successful Microsoft-sponsored career event that expanded my network and rèsumè. David also helped me locate and apply for my first job as a consultant with Accenture in San Francisco while he was working part-time for CU Career Services.
Another was Laura Kornish, associate professor of marketing, avid runner and transplant from Duke University. She taught me the value (and fun) of undercover market research and encouraged me to stay open minded about careers and family. Her enthusiasm for continuing education has kept me involved at CU and inspired me to attend national conferences and new courses at Stanford University.
Finally there was Raymond MacFee, senior accounting professor and former businessman known for nerve-racking random audience member questioning in 100-plus-sized lecture halls. I paid the “MacFee” several times when I came unprepared for class but gained a lot of confidence and knowledge along the way. I also learned a bit about teaching from Ray, investing in people by holding them accountable and being patient but persistent. People live up and down to your expectations and Ray’s were always very high for us.
There are too many stories like this to really do the community justice but the point is, all of these people contributed something positive and remarkable to my life and I discovered them all at CU.
Well, my time at CU as a student is over now. I’ve visited the campus a few times since graduation. The views haven’t really changed much but something about the campus just isn’t quite the same. Beautiful new buildings and landscaping have sprung up, new future-focused curriculum is listed on the freshly revamped website and bright-eyed faces are cruising around on skateboards and bikes. As a three-year residential advisor during my sophomore, junior and senior years, I used to know quite a few of these young people. I’d get the “Hey Court, what’s up!” at almost every bend and it really felt like I had a role in the community.
With each passing year however, fewer familiar faces remain. I once read that every living cell in the human body is replaced over the course of a seven-year period. Somehow we keep our memories and feelings alive but we literally aren’t the same. CU isn’t the same place for me anymore either – it isn’t a place at all ― it was an amazing moment in my life. I really don’t think it can be described with words, just acknowledged and appreciated. My CU experience is something that can never be lost or devalued. It is a part of who I am and it’s something sacred.
The flip side of my four-year formal education at Boulder has been my four-year endeavor into the “real world.” In the two weeks following graduation I sold or gave away all of my extra stuff, attended a few parties, said goodbye to my family and drove my Subaru across the country to San Francisco with a fellow graduate named Kristin Burkholder (Mktg’06).
Before this I had never visited northern California and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The roads had interesting, bright, reflector bumps that I hadn’t seen in Colorado, the traffic was quite a bit heavier and the gas pumps had these cool exhaust sucker things that kept pollution down. Pretty soon I was noticing signs for Ebay, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Stanford, Hewlett Packard and Google. I remember the amazement and wonder of exploring this new place.
The first time I saw a Tesla Roadster in real life, it was parked along the side of the road on University in Palo Alto. I spent a few minutes oogling the car and was approached by the owner, Martin Eberhard, who ended up being one of the original founders of the company! Or there was the time I was introduced to my friend’s girlfriend and found out she worked for Facebook. Just two weeks later I saw its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, walking along the street with a friend. Nothing out of the ordinary in these parts… right!
While the new position I had gotten with Accenture kept my days full of work and learning, it also provided a structured way for me to explore the area. Many of the projects we took on were in different parts of the Bay Area and I decided that rather than spend extra time in my car commuting to work each day I would simply move to each new work site. In the first six months I changed location four times and made a ton of new friends following this method.
Aside from work I surfed a lot. I had bought my first “steamer” wetsuit and booties and lost my first surfing competition. Well, better luck next time! That first winter I got to see the world-famous big wave surfing event in Half Moon Bay called Mavericks. I’ve continued the tradition with each passing year; narrowly escaping rogue waves that injured dozens of spectators at this year’s event.
As my knowledge of the Bay Area grew, my network expanded and my mind started filling up with entrepreneurial ideas reminiscent of my time in entrepreneurship classes with Frank Moyes at the business school. After work I would spend time with new friends I had met at networking events. We would build websites or go swimming or bike riding and talk about startup ideas. I eventually decided I wanted to create something of my own and started blogging about clean technologies.
I was learning about new online marketing methods and thought I could both grow my knowledge of an interesting space while trying my hand at business. Over the past few years that single blog about solar energy has ballooned into a whole network of websites and blogs including Cleantech Authority, Solar Power Authority, Wind Power Authority, Electric Vehicle Authority, Green Home Authority, Biomass Authority and Green Job Feed (supporting sustainable careers). In tandem with the blog network, I made friends with the founders of a startup green advertising agency in San Francisco called Matter Network; they now place exclusive banners across each one of my sites pertaining to green products and services.
Today my Clean Tech Authority network attracts tens of thousands of visitors a month and has inspired me to continue my formal education by becoming a certified nanotech clean tech professional through a series of courses in San Jose. I have also taken energy resource engineering and clean tech entrepreneurship at Stanford University.
When I’m not writing for blogs on my own time, I’m working with CU student interns who contribute articles and learn about online marketing for school credit. Many of these interns come through the CU Environmental Center where I was working as a student just five years ago. I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring other students who are considering a similar path as mine and found a passion for for leading and managing.
I’m settled in now, living in a small town called Mountain View, Calif., and working for a consulting firm called ROI Communications. I manage updates and design for Hewlett Packard’s corporate intranet and continue building my own websites and interests on the side. I’ve taken an acting course at Stanford and had the opportunity to star in a corporate training video for HP. I’m still learning a lot, reading books about spirituality and life, making new friends and keeping my dreams alive.
I’ve really only shared a sliver of my new life in this article but maybe the message is that descriptions are all we can share with mere words. I can’t really let anyone know the answers but I’m always excited to speak with a new student or share where I’ve been. Inspiration is what got me here and I’ve always been excited by the innovation and freedom the world has to offer. I think many of the tools that have helped me succeed in this new place were developed during those first few independent years at CU. My choices haven’t always been perfect but the support and values I’ve been blessed with have made all the difference.
Court Rye (Mktg’06) is a consultant for ROI Communications in Scotts Valley, Calif., working as a lead webmaster for a global technology company with over 300,000 employees. He’s the founder of the Clean Tech Authority Network as well as indilean – Indie Music. Lyrics. Meaning and Sustainable Online Solutions. He earned a project management professional certificate in 2007 and received a certified nanotech clean tech professional certification in 2009. He’s pursued continuing studies course work at Stanford University and is chief technology officer and member of the board at Evolveit Motors, an electric vehicle company.