Entrepreneurial Instincts; How Chad Warner’s Career Path led him to Greenville’s Tech Scene.
Note; Entrepreneurial Instincts is a new series on the Kopis blog highlighting other entrepreneurs in the state of South Carolina.
I’ve been interested in electronics, computers, and the Internet since I first encountered them as a child (remember dial-up?). In high school I became increasingly interested in cybersecurity and digital privacy. It didn’t surprise anyone when I went to college for Information Systems. That path included a business minor, which at the time I saw as a waste of time. In retrospect, however, it’s been beneficial in working as an employee of businesses, and in running my own business, and working with my business clients!
During college I worked at Circuit City (a defunct Best Buy competitor, if you’re not familiar), starting in computer sales and moving into computer services (in-store and in customers’ homes). I then worked in IT for an automotive supplier and a recycling company, doing a mix of systems administration and IT support. In my spare time I built and experimented with computers and networks, and went wardriving with friends (looking for unsecured Wi-Fi networks). During these years I learned important skills that have served me to this day, including using technology to solve problems, collaborating with non-technical people, empowering people with the technical tools and knowledge they need, and predicting and avoiding problems.
Two years after college I founded OptimWise. I started with what I knew: selling, installing, repairing, and securing computers and networks for individuals and businesses. After engaging conversations with local geeks, I transitioned into web design. During college I had taken a couple web design classes, but other than those, I’m self-taught when it comes to building websites. I soon realized that I although I could recognize good design, I couldn’t create it! That led me to bring on my first teammate, a graphic designer friend who’s still on the team. I’ve added other team members as I’ve needed them, so we can keep improving the results we deliver to clients. Managing a team involves a different set of challenges than the technical challenges of projects, and I’ve learned the importance of communication and following the Golden Rule.
At OptimWise we help businesses with two main problems: they don’t look professional online, and they’re not finding enough clients online. We help by designing and developing professional WordPress-powered websites, and bringing leads to those websites through search engine optimization (SEO) and Google Ads. There are many agencies who do the same, but our clients say they choose (and stick with) us for our soft skills: our reliability, communication, and overall professionalism. Even in a technical space, humans desire human touches to build trust.
Two years ago I moved from Michigan to the Greenville area for its more appealing climate. In our research, my wife and I learned that Greenville is a great place to raise a family, an entrepreneurial area, and an area with many nearby hiking and camping opportunities. I moved OptimWise with me, and that was relatively easy because almost all my interactions with clients are online, and all my interactions with my team are (they’re distributed across the US). My team didn’t need to be uprooted, and our clients have continued to receive the same service they’re used to.
Start with lead in about what led you to add Defending Digital to your plate.
I see a great need for individuals to defend their digital lives. Businesses can protect themselves with in-house staff or outsourced cybersecurity firms, but individuals and families don’t have such resources. So, a few months ago I launched DefendingDigital.com, a site that gives everyday people peace of mind about cybersecurity and digital privacy. Through the site you can learn how to protect your devices and accounts so that you and your family can avoid hacking, malware, identity theft, and other digital dangers. As a parent of young children, I’m committed to staying on top of digital security and privacy, to teach them security and privacy principles. I share with followers what I know and learn, and I invite you to join in!
The future holds many opportunities in the IT space, in fields such as cybersecurity, AI (artificial intelligence), the Internet of Things (IoT), mobile devices, big data, robotics, augmented reality, and virtual reality, to name a few. There’s never been a better time to consider a career in IT! Some roles require formal education, some require certifications, and some require experience. Try to find someone in the role you’re interested in, and ask them how they got there. You can also talk to career counselors, employers, or recruiters about how best to pursue a particular role.