About this Blog

*** Warning ***Dear Readers, a word of warning about my blog.  First of all, this website is senseless and random.  I will throw down a doughy thought or idea and not think twice about it.  If you find it amusing, fine.  If you laugh out loud, great.  If you get ticked off, sorry.  I know that opinions don’t satisfy everyone.  Let’s make the world a better place with humor.  My goal is to not offend.

My posts may seem insensitive, but I am not and the point I try to make usually involves sarcasm.  Some posts are ranty and angry, but trust me that is short lived and harmless.  I often read something that irritates me and feel the need to respond.  Welcome to the internet.

I love to share helpful tips.

I like Osceola Cheese (south on 13 hwy before you hit Springfield).

I am a generally happy-go-lucky working class guy.  I enjoy a pragmatic approach to life and try to find the logic of everything.

I like to be creative.  I despise reality TV (especially ones involving narcissistic women).  I like to observe politics through the prism of the normal citizen and discuss.

Oh… my wife is also writing stuff too.  You may find us arguing about something within the archives of this blog.  No matter how heated the argument sounds, we get along great.   Even though I don’t try to be right, it usually turns out that way.

Enjoy.

About me…

Who is Craig Hope? He is just an average guy with a family who built a website.

Why the narcassism? Here is a short answer. CraigHope.com has been reserved since 1999. I have owned Domain Name since that time. I grabbed the name after reading about squatters who grabbed Sammy Sosa’s name in the late 90’s (around the home run race with McGuire) thus a large lawsuit was being fought. I was curious if MY name was available, viola it was and here I am. I have learned there are many “Craig Hope’s” around the world and even here in the Kansas City area.

I started playing around with website design.  This interest grew into search engine optimization and now it has evolved into the leverage of social networking (web 2.0).  My website originally averaged about 50 hits a month. Since being on Facebook/Twitter, I have tripled that number so far.  Since posting more items on my website I can reach 1000 hits per month.

From time to time I will post products for sale from affiliate sites.  I do realize it is annoying, but it a way for me to attempt to earn some money.  I avoid pop-up ads.  Click through affiliate links and purchase if you like those products.  Affiliate marketing offers small commissions for any sales generated from my site, but it does not allow me to quit my day job.  I strive to maintain a good balance between good content and relevant products.  In other words, I try to not blast the pages with unrelated ads.

The Genesis of Craig Hope

I graduated high school in 1989 from Lee’s Summit High School with acceptance into the University of Missouri – Columbia with no idea of a career. Because I had no clue, I entered college declaring a plain Jane liberal arts degree. That summer,  “summer of ‘89” my father and I drove to Columbia for the standard orientation weekend. It was late June and we stepped on the Mizzou campus and followed the crowd in the typical tours of buildings listening to budding tour guides walk backward and talk about campus history and function. We ate dorm food (not a great recruiting tool by the way). We saw the meager rooms in which I would be living in the coming months. It was hot and all I could think about was the cold blowing air conditioner window unit in our luxurious room at the Red Roof Inn (My Dad was a big spender). I grew weary of the tour and didn’t want to endure any more time with my father on this college campus. It was time to cut to the chase. Time came to wait in lines to actually pick classes with the assistance of counselors. Let’s get this over with.

It was hot. It was humid. There was no air conditioning in the campus building in which the crowd of parents and students were amassed (again: not a huge recruiting point for your University). The metal folding chairs offered little comfort. The wait for the liberal arts counselors was long (Other Gen-X’ers with no clue). The computer science table was wide open and counselor seemed either offended or lonely that nobody was rushing to her table to sign up for geek 101. Remember that this was 1989 and “computer science” was too technical or “Math-y” for the American student. Computer Science was still the degree of the immigrant student. She announced to the crowd of 50+ people as if we didn’t hear her the first time that she was with the computer science and engineering school.

Guess who got in line? Me, that’s who. I had a tiny interest in computers. I took classes in high school and learned word processing and wrote code in BASIC. We learned to program a short animation. I got a taste but never equated computers to a career.  Computers were for geeks right?  I quickly got signed up for all the freshman standard classes and the base Comp Sci classes and couldn’t get to the motel room quick enough. College Algebra, Art History, French, CS 101. (note: looking back, geez that schedule seems simple with tons of free time).

My freshman year at Mizzou was great. My first real disdain for computer science came in the second semester when I had to complete a programming assignment by midnight of the due date. The finished and working program had to be submitted “online” (note: again… 1989, online means within the confines of the VAX system on the university and not wireless/cell phone/or even modem). It was my own fault. I had put off the assignment and underestimated the difficulty. I started at 10am on a Sunday (when the lab opened). I finally finished by 11:59pm that night. 12 hours straight in the computer lab under fluorescent light, with dusty tile floor, and among obese mouth breathing dungeon and dragon enthusiasts who would wax on about their level 42 Elf. After all, I played sports and didn’t really have a history of hanging out with these guys. This was my first indication that I was not a programmer or an IT professional. Not so much the quality of colleague but moreso the time and effort to create a simple programming project.

I spent 1 year at Mizzou and transferred to UMKC where the University system focused the “Engineering and Computer Science” program. I was a commuter student during my years at UMKC.  I drove in, attended class, went to my job.  I graduated UMKC with a BA in Computer Science in 1994.

I was the second person from my family to graduate with a college degree (my older sister being the first). We came from a blue collar and farming family tree and college wasn’t historically emphasized. (I could get into another side story of how nurture over nature will encourage you to do bigger and better things. Social surroundings have influence. But I digress…)

I Started working in “The Real World” that summer for a law firm making a meager $22K a year.  Since then I have steadily moved onward and upward and gaining valuable experience with each stop.  I have not only learned industry knowledge but I also learned from the people I worked with and worked for.

Fast Forward to today…

After working in IT for 16 years with 6 at Cerner and recounting that MU programming assignment story, I know that it was appropriate training. Many hours and much sleep deprivation are often part of successful projects.

My degree was mostly a programming and logic focused education. I worked with obscure programming languages like pascal, scheme, assembler languages, but never object oriented languages like Visual Basic. Microsoft was just becoming a big player in corporate IT. The reason for employing these arcane languages and technologies, we were told, was so that we could construct and understand data structures instead of pulling from pre-constructed libraries. It worked. I learned the basic components to programming. I feel strongly that I could become a solid programmer in any language.  Oddly it hasn’t been the path I have pursued.

My first “real” job out of college was with Morrison & Hecker law firm in Kansas City. I was not employed to be a programmer. I was a Software Specialist which really means I was a jack of all trades. It was a small IT dept of 5 people. I learned more mainstream computing technologies in my first year working than all my years in school. I was introduced to Novell, Microsoft (windows for workgroups), AIX, and a long list of linear market (law) applications. We implemented Microsoft Team Manager (precursor to Microsoft Project). I was introduced Citrix (Winframe in 1996) for the first time. I saw a future in that technology. Citrix was still young and most business applications were still running over expensive frame relay and modem lines. I saw the benefits of the technology and how it would revolutionize computing and end users ability to access business applications. This was a moment in my career that I felt good about my education and saw the future in IT.

Law firms are generally conservative (translation: “cheap”) when it comes to their IT staff, they didn’t value our skills with respect to compensation. It was 1997. I spent 3 years with low pay and an extremely nice office facing the KC skyline just south of Crown Center, but I needed to move on. A recruiting head hunter landed me a position with St Lukes hospital in Kansas City. I spent 3 years with St Lukes working mainly in desktop support but worked my way upward into a network administrator role. St Lukes was amidst a paradigm shift from green screens to PC’s. During my years with St Lukes, I dealt with network printers, servers, and desktop deployments. I didn’t leave the Citrix technology behind. Citrix was chosen to host an application (DOS based and character cell interface) for a remote office within the system and I was the main analyst working on the project. It was a success and my manager lobbied to expand the use of Citrix technology. This was 1999 and the world of IT was focused on Y2K (Armageddon was approaching). St Lukes was too busy moving off of mainframes and green screens to McKesson applications on which, at the time, did not run on Citrix. After Y2K, I wanted to leave St Lukes from someplace that I could really impact with my ideas. I moved onto Truman Medical Center where they needed direction and expertise in their IT department. I left St Lukes for Truman in spring of 2000.

I quickly hit a wall with Truman. They had a culture problem. They were adverse to change. They were disorganized. Any new ideas were met with “that’s not how we do it”. I didn’t fight it. Instead of wasting my time and energy, I looked into Cerner. Before I could proceed with any interviews with Cerner I had to get Truman management approval. This was a risk I was not comfortable with so I stopped that pursuit. However, my resume landed in Kent McCallister’s hands.

Kent was a Cerner associate working at Health Midwest as the CIO. It was an unorthodox relationship between Cerner and Health Midwest, but he saw my resume and hired me to assist with Health Midwest’s Cerner Millennium implementation. They were a 12 hospital, 800 user beta (err…alpha) site and building a large deployment of Citrix servers and thin clients. I not only worked with the frontend technology (windows infrastructure, citrix, etc) to support Millennium applications, but I also worked on a team to architect and execute the migration from Novell to Microsoft technologies by implementing windows 2000 servers, Active Directory, SMS, MOM, and other Microsoft servers that supported clinical applications. I was enjoying my work at this time. I was touching many technologies, working on creative projects, and had the freedom to architect. We were good at solving problems. Not just problems of daily break/fix, but how to get from point A to point B in a deployment.

In 2003, Health Midwest was sold to HCA and Cerner was kicked out the door. The core of IT was moved back to corporate headquarters in Nashville. Each hospital in Health Midwest maintained some autonomy but was still part of a division in Kansas City that took orders downstream from Nashville. My job function was reduced to more of a support role and had to follow the bland cookie cutter methodologies from corporate.  HCA was more focused hospital business health and less progressive about IT. Meditech was the HCA clinical application and it was a remote hosted solution. I didn’t see a future with HCA unless I was willing to relocate to Nashville.

I knew I would eventually work for an IT company instead of being part of a companies IT staff. I enjoyed my time with Health Midwest and HCA and they valued their IT employees, but I was not an integral part of the IT process. In early 2005, I got a call from a former St Lukes collegue, Todd Jones. Todd was a desktop support analyst and project manager with which I worked at St Lukes.

Todd was now working for Cerner in the newly formed Cerner Manageed Services (CMS). CMS (now called CernerWorks) was growing and he thought of me. I wasn’t looking, but I was wise enough to listen to the opportunity. I got an interview and here I am. I often think objectively about my resume and see 3 years at one job and 4 years at another and think that a potential employer may look negatively at that. But then I remind myself that I was moving in a positive direction with each job. I also remind myself that this is a new generation of workers. Workers today no longer stay with a company for 30 years. My father worked for AT&T for 30 years in the same plant where Cerner now hosts the systems for our clients from Cerner. He managed a manufacturing line where they made transistors for telephones. It is a different time now.

My time with Cerner thus far has been productive. I have grown with Cernerworks and watched the numbers of System Engineers grow by leaps and bounds. As I have gained experience with the internal workings of Cerner and Cernerworks.

My main responsibility is to deliver systems for the many clients who are new footprint or “Flip” (move from client hosted to our data centers) clients. I was an SE who entered Cerner with experience and quickly hit the ground, but I have seen many people enter Cernerworks with less experience in IT.  There is a need to get people quickly acclimated to Cerner and Cernerworks processes. I enjoy working with clients and have seen where my experience has benefited the projects by giving the clients confidence that we can deliver. I hope my interaction with fellow SE’s is positive for them too and they benefit from it.

In my years at Cerner, I have earned 6 Stars. When I receive my first, I had no idea what it was all about until someone informed me.  When a client communicates to management that they are pleased with you or your team, you earn a token of recognition known as a “star”.  I do appreciate that Cerner takes the time to recognize associates when clients and colleagues offer kudos.

During my third or fourth project, I saw a gap between implementation and production. I crafted a knowledge transfer document that informs the production team of the detail surrounding a clients systems. There are many details during implementation and I felt it would be beneficial to report them to the production team so that they are not blindsided by any issues that may arise. This document is to be completed by the implementation associate and handed off to the production team for the purpose of a smooth transition of the client systems between teams. I have also been holding knowledge transfer meetings with my production counterparts to impart my knowledge and understanding of the technologies and solutions that I learn through the implementation process.

There are many opportunities within Cerner. I have learned that Cerner is not a place to be complacent and I thrive in this environment where creativity and innovation are welcome. The workload has never left me bored or uninspired.

Cerner has afforded me an appropriate work/life balance. I appreciate the ability to work from any remote location.  I take appreciate that freedom and leverage it to be productive (after hours, sick kids, etc).  Between work and family sometimes work is asynchronous and hours are spent in the evening and early mornings.

Throughout my career I have taken training classes where new knowledge was needed and related to current technology projects. I have taken classes in Windows NT 3.51, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Citrix Winframe, Citrix Metaframe 1.8 and 4.0. IIS 5.0, SQL 2000 and 2005. I have also taken an interest in web design and graphic design. As a result, I have also taken to photography as a hobby.

Most of this biography thus far has been career related. I should also mention that I have been married to the same wonderful woman since 1994. We had our first child in 2000 (Cooper) and our second in 2003 (Mary Elizabeth aka “Emmie”).   I enjoy the outdoors, golf, fly fishing, and try exercise as much as I can.

Well, that’s me. For more recent entries, you can see the contact page and visit the various online blogs and social network sites.

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