Chuck Grimmett is the product manager at Crash. He joins Isaac to talk about how he launched his career through photography, internships, and a willingness to share his work.
Chuck Grimmett’s Personal Website
Welcome to Career Crashers, where we tell the stories of those who are not content to wait around following rules and hoping for good things to happen. Great careers aren’t found. They’re forged.
It’s time to crash the party.
All right, on this episode of Career Crashers, I’m joined by the one and only Chuck Grimmett, Product Manager at Crash, and a man of many, many talents. Actually, I would say Chuck, Chuck might embody the show your work, be your own credential, career crash mindset better than anyone I’ve ever met. So Chuck, welcome.
Thank you, Isaac. Glad to be here.
So I want to talk about your first, well, I don’t know if it’s your first I know you had some jobs before this. But how you broke into first an internship and then a job at a nonprofit organization that you were really excited about coming right out of college, I believe, or maybe you were still in college. You want to you want to set the stage and tell the story?
Sure. So this was my first full time job out of college. But I didn’t start the process immediately after I graduated actually started the process earlier, my junior year. So I gone to Fee seminars in the past and really liked them. One summer, I went to one and I had just gotten a brand new camera took my camera equipment along just for fun, shot photos in the middle of the seminars, mostly from my seat, I didn’t want to disrupt anything.
But afterward, I said this was back when you couldn’t, there wasn’t any really Dropbox, you had to actually put your photos on a CD and physically mail that CD. So I burned a bunch of photos to a CD, I mailed that CD to Fee with a nice thank you note. I said, hey, you know, really appreciate coming to seminar, here’s some photos I took, feel free to use them or throw them in the trash, whatever you want.
And a couple months later, totally forgot about it, I get I get this thing in the mail, which is advertising their summer seminars. And I look and all of the photos on it are mine from that one week. And so I thought, Oh, this is this is an opportunity. So around that same time, they opened up applications for internships. So I decided to apply to their internship.
And then immediately after I applied to the internship, I sent the internship coordinator an email saying, hey, just applied for the internship. But I noticed that you guys used my photos for your marketing materials this past year and said, in addition to doing the regular internship tasks, the bottom line here, I’d love to just be your official photographer, I have all my own equipment, I don’t need anything. I’ll do it above and beyond everything else we have to do for the internship. But I’ll just make sure that you guys have awesome photos for next year’s events.
And, you know, got ended up taking on an internship for the summer. Forgot about that, you know, it was a great summer. But moving on to the next year, I wanted another internship and called the people well, I was talking to people at Fee that I still knew there. Knew they’re having some issues with some of their websites.
So I contacted the director there and said, Hey, I did a little bit of work on your website this past summer when I was an intern. And I can do this again, I know you guys are having these issues, here’s how I solve them. I’d love to have a different style of internship, so not running the seminars, rather doing some behind the scenes operations type stuff. I’ll take care of this, I’ll take care of XYZ. This was up in New York. He said great come out. So I came out that summer. And I went back to school the next fall, not thinking anything of it.
My plan was actually go to grad school for mathematics, was going to go get a PhD in math. And, so started shopping around grad schools, etc. But then I got a call a week before finals, my first semester of my senior year, and they said, Hey, we just lost our web person. We have this big project going on. We really need someone right now. Do you want to take a job?
And I said, Well, I was actually thinking about going to grad school, but I was like, you know, this kind of opportunity doesn’t come every day. I can go I can try this for a year. If I want to go to grad school later after that I can. I haven’t been accepted to grad school yet, so why not? So I left school the first time at the end of the first semester of my senior year, I actually had enough credits to graduate. So I went ahead and graduated. And I moved to New York Two weeks later and started my full time job.
So I took a few notes while you’re telling your story because I love to kind of pull out some of these points. I think there are several amazing lessons in here that are really applicable to sort of crashing careers in a lot of different ways.
The first is that you were a customer first of the organization. So you went there as a fan, as a customer, as an attendee. And I think that’s really crucial. A lot of people miss this. Sometimes the best opportunities for companies or organizations to work with are places that you genuinely love and use as a customer. And being able to leverage that. So you went as a customer, and kind of enhanced your own experience by taking a bunch of photos. And then you chose to share that with them and give them something for free. Hey, I’m a customer, and not only am I a customer, I’m such a fan, I’m such a great customer, that I’m going to give you this stuff that I, you know, these photos that I did, and I enjoyed. I think that’s really cool.
And then when they when you noticed that, and this is something I’ve noticed a lot of people who do art or photography, when they were using the photos you had given them. There’s two ways that people respond to that. Sometimes people get mad, and say like, well, how come? I’m not credited? How come they didn’t? And I know you told them, they could use them. But you chose to see that as an entry point, say, Hey, I noticed you use my pictures, great. And to see that as an opportunity rather than Oh, so they’re just going to use all my stuff for free, and that’s it.
I think that’s a that’s a subtle mindset. But that’s really important. Like, as somebody who does photos and stuff, Do you ever feel like, Oh, I got to make sure that I get credited and that I get paid or anything like that? Or have you always had kind of a more generous approach?
You know, generally a more generous approach. The only time in which I get a little irked is when I, say, I’ve worked for a newspaper, and other newspapers then take those photos, right. There’s just it’s a there’s a generally accepted rule that you always credit stuff in newspapers, right.
But when it comes to something on the web, I view the web as the Wild West, like I’ve been putting up photos on the web ever since I started taking photos. And I, I generally get a thrill when I see other people using my stuff, I might mention it to someone say hey, like this, these are actually my photos, but I’m not going to the person who posted them, be like you have to give me credit. I’m sharing it with other people and saying, Hey, this is cool. They use my photo for XYZ.
I think going into it with the mindset of, this is something I’m doing for free. I think it comes back later. And I think the this Fee story is definitely an example. When I got that pamphlet in the mail, there were maybe one or two photos on there that weren’t mine. But there were overall like 20 photos in there. So I had the vast majority were mine just from that week. So that I thought this is exactly the opportunity that I want.
During that time I had even I progressed even more my photography skills, and I was thinking about considering that as like an actual career option. But when I sent the photos, initially, I was still just learning my camera and learning how to take photos, there were probably 500 photos that I thought were garbage that I didn’t actually send them and maybe only sent them 50. Overall.
Yeah, I love the you know, early on your career, especially if you’re a creative person or whatever, if your orientation, I get people to ask me, so I’ve got a business idea, or Oh, I created something. But I don’t want to share it with the world. Everybody has to sign a nondisclosure agreement or make sure that I gotta go chase people down and make sure they’re not, you know, using my stuff. I think that mindset is really limiting.
When you when you’re first getting started, no one, no one has any reason to pay attention to you, you don’t have a ton of reputation or deep skills. And so if you can be generous with your stuff, hey, here you go, here’s some stuff for free. And if they use it like in that pamphlet, instead of getting mad, even if you wanted to pursue a photography career, you could have taken that and said, Great, now I’ve got social proof. And I can use this on my website and say, here’s some of the organizations I work with, and put feedback in and say, here’s an example of my work. And if they published it, you get to say that they’re using it right and or use it the way you did and say hey, I’m so glad you use my stuff, not not in a way that’s offended.
I think that’s I think that’s really important. And photography is one of those fun ones that it can open up access to a lot of things. I know a lot of people who have gotten into events and things by saying, hey, I want to come and do some photography for you. I’ll give it all to you for free.
And even if the quality is not great, everybody likes pictures of themselves and their organization marketing collateral. And you know, that’s a pretty fun door opener.
Oh, one more point on your story. Two more, I guess. You applied, but you did more than just submit an application with everybody else. You also contacted someone directly, and kind of reinforced that you had done these photos and sort of did something in addition to your application to stand out. And then I love that you added, Hey, I’m gonna do the basics that are required in this role, but I also want to do some additional stuff above and beyond there. I think that’s a really good way.
My idea there was that if I pitch something completely different, it’s easier for them to say no, they’re not set up for that, right? But if I said I can cover the basics and do a little more, which is putting the extra burden of work on me instead of them, then it’s it’s almost a no brainer, right?
Yeah. Because you know, they have the one pain point because they’re openly advertising it. You don’t know how much the pain point the thing that you want to do is and so if you can be like, I will solve your immediate problem, if you also let me do this other thing, that can be a really, really powerful combo.
All right, I’m gonna I’m gonna sneak a second episode out of you. You good with that? Because I know you got another story to tell.
Yeah. Let’s do it!
Like what you hear? Go to crash.co and join the career revolution. Do you want to share your own career crash story? Send it directly to me at email@example.com.
In the last episode Chuck shared his story of launching his career with the Foundation for Economic Education, and in this episode, Chuck talks about how he transitioned from his first job into his career working in tech.
Welcome to Career Crashers, where we tell the stories of those who are not content to wait around following rules and hoping for good things to happen. Great careers aren’t found. They’re forged.
It’s time to crash the party.
On this episode of Career Crashers, we are back with Chuck Grimmett, Product Manager at Crash.
Chuck told us his story about getting his first sort of professional job at the Foundation for Economic Education. Today, I want to hear a second career crash story from Chuck, because this guy never stops. How he moved on from that into the world of web development.
Chucky, what you got?
Sure. So when I was at Fee, I primarily working on there to WordPress sites and doing a lot of their social media. So during that time, I was experimenting, doing a lot of different things trying to get traction. And we were working on an even bigger web project was combining three different sites down into once we had to hire another company to do this.
So we sent out a lot of bids, hired a company called e-resources, they had the best looking bid. And that was about a six month project. So over that six months, I met with the founder and some of their project managers. And over the course of our project, we got to know each other a little bit. And over dinner one day, I heard them talking about, hey, we’ve got working on XYZ project, what are your What are your thoughts on that? What What do you think we might want to do? How would you respond in this situation? So just trying to mock some ideas, see what kind of feedback they would get from their clients.
So I freely gave him a bunch of ideas, here’s some things you can do. Didn’t think anything of it, just happily went along. And then a couple months later, they had another project they were trying to work on, again, came out in conversation over lunch or dinner one day, and they said, Hey, we’re trying to find someone to build this WordPress site got pretty tight deadline.
And I thought, you know, my, my skills are probably 90% there, it’s going to be a stretch. So I said, look, I can get this done in a week, with whatever, I can’t remember what I quoted them. But I knew that it was something that was very easy for them to say yes. And I just cancelled my plans for the rest of the week, and worked all night, every night trying to pump this out. Knowing that if I do, this is really my entry point into doing side contract work.
And so this was in addition to your normal full time job.
Yeah, exactly. And so so during that time, I was a client of theirs. But then I was also separately a contractor of theirs. And so I knocked out that project delivered it, about a month later, another project kind of like that comes up. And then I start managing a couple of their clients doing these small projects, and eventually turned that in after earning their trust, delivering some good products in a good timeline. Turned that into getting a job offer.
And I know I turned down that job offer initially because I wanted to keep working at Fee. I was in the middle of a another project, pretty excited about that. And then there were there were some transitional events that Fee during that time. So I thought I contacted them again to see if the job offers still open. Of course it was, so just went ahead and switched jobs.
What was that when they kind of pitched you on that initial project, and you you had self taught a little bit through your stuff at Fee, but you didn’t have a lot of experience, you know, sort of working for a web development company?
What what helped you overcome the fear of like imposter syndrome of like, Oh, I don’t know how to do that kind of thing. That’s just a side thing. What made you willing to say I’m going to take a jump at it?
Well, they didn’t. They didn’t approach me as in like, would you be a contractor but rather, do you know anyone. And so I had an easy out there. But I was I was looking for an ability to add extra income, I had some student loans that I had to pay off. So I really wanted that extra income, knock out my student loans right away.
And I just thought, you know, like, if I, if I put myself in a situation in which I have no choice but to deliver because like, I’ll ruin my reputation, then I’ll just jump in and do it. And maybe it was maybe it was a crazy idea. I definitely still had imposter syndrome. I just put on my game face and said confidently now I can do this. I can get it to you in a week. Give me the specs. Give me the logins, and I’ll start tonight.
Man, I think that’s such a great example of how opportunities come at you sometimes from places you don’t expect and at times you don’t expect and if you try to plan everything and say okay, now I’m going to start learning web development on the side. And when I’m ready, I will unveil myself to the world and try to get my first paid gig there. You’ll probably never feel ready.
But when you see somebody having that conversation, they sort of pick your brain, you kind of smell something, they say, hey, do you know anybody. And you see, this is a chance, even though I’m not ready for it, I’m gonna put myself in a position where I have to become ready that idea of just in time learning that you and I have talked a lot about, that’s a really powerful thing to not run away from that and say, Oh, well, I’m not ready, but maybe I will be in six months from now, you know?
And so yeah, I think that going about this process, not by preparing yourself first and then looking for a problem to solve, but rather finding that problem that needs solving right now. And then figuring out how to solve that one problem. Having an existing problem or opportunity is like 80% of the battle, right? So once you have that, everything else becomes very concrete, you know exactly what you have to learn exactly what timeframe.
And you put some skin in the game by saying yes, so you have no choice but to do it. Otherwise, there’s some pretty ruinous consequences.
So go the path of trying to learn first, and there’s so much uncertainty, you don’t know if there’s going to be an actual problem that you need to solve for the things that you’ve learned six, eight months down the line. So say, I really like taking the approach of saying yes, now, learning what do I need to do, and then figuring out after that, what my next step is.
Man, I’ll never forget one of the earliest examples of this in my own life, it was not in the professional sphere. But I was trying to learn to play guitar, and I like to sing and whatever. And if somebody asked me through some series of events, if I would put a little band together and play some songs at this New Year’s Eve party, and this was a Y2K, the year 2000. And I had played a little and whatever, just by myself.
And I said, Yes, knowing I had like two months. And I was like, terrified. But I knew if I could get just good enough to not be a total embarrassment, because I have to deliver. And that was like the greatest thing that ever happened. It was I’m sure it was a terrible performance. But doing something before you’re ready to do it, is like the best way to get ready to do it, paradoxically.
So it gets rid of everything, like all the distractions, all the noise, and you then you focus exactly on what you need to do. And the exact timeframe, it’s like, it’s the best gift you can give yourself.
So one final example from from your career journey that I obviously love personally, when you came to work for me over at Praxis a few years ago, the way that came about, you know, you were doing some contract work with us and like helping us solve some little tech problems on our website, and doing a great job.
And I had seen, I had followed you and seen the stuff you were producing all the time, CookLikeChuck.com, ChuckGrimmett.com, where even your hobbies like cooking, or Oh, I want to, or photography, or like, Oh, I want to learn data visualization. Even though we didn’t need a cook or a photographer or a data visualization specialist.
Seeing you learn out loud and put together these amazing projects. Hey, I just learned to use this program. And I modeled Steph Curry’s three point percentage, here it is. It was so impressive. I was like this is a guy who’s relentlessly learning and solving problems. And we just have a whole mishmash of stuff. It wasn’t even like a clear job description, we just had a lot of loose ends and various problems floating around.
I was like, imagine, because because we weren’t hiring for a role. We weren’t hiring anybody at all. But I thought, Imagine if we had somebody who can do that, focusing that attention on our company every day, imagine the problems they would solve that I don’t even know about, let alone the ones that I do. And it was purely an example of like, you putting your work and your learning process out there creating projects, and this body of work that got you an opportunity that you didn’t even expect coming, you know?
So that, I’ve gotten so many side gigs and contract jobs, just by having put stuff on my site on a regular basis. I’ve been putting things on the internet since about 2006, is when I really started. I started uploading photos to a site called Flickr. And I had this really cool long exposure project was kind of getting kind of big at the time.
You’re just a generous guy, you are just giving resources to everybody on the web, and in return getting opportunities.
We actually wrote a guide about how to do that, and put that out in line and every now and then I do a search that guide is used in like hundreds of schools. Right now, on just, how to do long exposure photography. It’s pretty cool.
And then I’ve been regularly blogging since 2008. So it’s been quite a long time. I think if you’re getting started right now, even if you don’t have one specific idea of what you want to do, start putting your work out there and build that body of work over time.
If I, if I tried to build the body of work that I have now, from scratch, that would be like, an overwhelming daunting task, right? Because I’ve just built into my life, usually, once a week or so, I’m putting something online for the last 11 years now. You just got to build that habit, build it into your week. And before you know it, you’ll have so much, so many posts, so much traffic, do you know what to do with it?
Yeah, it’s the simple things that you do in a day or in a week or in a month, that when you document, I mean, let’s say you read a book, you probably talk to somebody about the book, why not just write up an Amazon review about the book, why not tweet at the author and tag them in the review.
And you’re such a great customer, Chuck, the number of companies who would probably hire you in an instant, based purely on like, let’s say you use a new marketing tool, and you got to figure out how to make it integrate with WordPress, I’ve seen you do this before. Once you figure it out, you don’t just say I figured it out. You go create a YouTube video or a blog post saying, here’s how I figured out how to integrate these tools. And then you tweet and you tag the company. And that’s a free promo for them. They love it. And they’re like, Wow, this is great.
Sometimes they use it and they share it with their customers. And it’s just a really cool way to kind of be grateful and be very open and generous with your stuff. And then you create fans everywhere in addition to that body of work.
So anytime that I would just write something down for myself, just like that, how do you integrate that with WordPress, I would like to take notes on that because chances are off to use that in the future.
It’s only 10% more work to then create a publicly facing YouTube video that the company can use. So I’m doing the work anyway, might as well make it really good, make it shareable.
Like last night, I actually did this as well. My computer crashed for the weekend. I had to reboot and restart, reinstall everything. So I created a list of here’s everything that I want on my machine right now, in case, this happens again, from scratch.
That’s a perfect blog post. I’ve linked every one of those things, wrote why I like each of those applications I installed. Boom, and put that up this morning. I’ve got some traffic to that post already today. And I’m sure it’ll become useful for me in the future.
Absolutely love it. Chuck. Thanks so much for joining us again.
Thank you guys appreciate it.
Like what you hear? Go to crash.co and join the career revolution. If you want to share your own career crash story, send it directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.