When I was growing up, prospect research was not even a concept, much less a possible career path. Like many people, I backed into this career and rarely looked back.
I fell in love with technical theatre 1 as a freshman in high school. In the first weeks of school, I went to the man who would become my friend and mentor for the next several years and asked if I could help out with the fall musical. From that moment on, I spent most of my non-academic high school career backstage as a carpenter, electrician, and stage manager. Much to my parent’s chagrin, I decided to pursue technical theatre as a college major.
I went to Ithaca College where I earned a B.F.A. Theatrical Production Arts degree with a technical concentration. I left there as a technical director and electrician working primarily in educational institutions. It’s hard to put into words the pride that I felt watching my students grow not only in their skill levels, but in their sense of accomplishment and increased confidence.
During the last few years of my theatrical career, I had colleagues have their first children. I watched them leave the building at one o’clock in the morning after a tech rehearsal and come back seven or eight hours later, bleary-eyed and sleep deprived from taking care of their newborns in the interim. As much as I loved the theatre, I felt that as my wife and I started our family, I wanted to work in a job that let me come home at 5pm and didn’t require me to work nights and weekends.
In 2010, we moved back to Dallas and I looked for ways to pivot my theatrical experience into a 9-5 job; I ended up working in special events for a small, community nonprofit. It was there that I learned that I enjoyed philanthropy, data, organization, and structure. What I didn’t enjoy was front-line fundraising and volunteer management.
I left that job and spent some time as a stay-at-home dad trying to figure out what I was going to do next. Harmonie knew my passion for structure, computers, and organization2, and suggested looking at data management and prospect research positions. What I found is that while I felt I had the skills necessary to do the work, my resume didn’t exactly scream ideal candidate. 3
In what I have to think of as a divine plan, I came to interview here at Southern Methodist University and found out my future boss was a former stage manager. She understood the training and experience I’d had and during my interview told me, “I can teach you how to do research. What I can’t teach you is how to think.” She understood what skills I could bring to the table and took a chance on hiring me.
The rest, as they say, is history. Today I can’t imagine my life doing anything else. I love this field and I love helping my clients succeed in their work.