We are the sum of our experiences
In June of 1988, I became the second child born to Sandra and Michael Gorichanaz, though I have two older siblings. Yes, we are one of those families. That is to say, we are about as normal as can be expected of any modern American family.
Both of my parents worked for the Northwestern Mutual insurance company in Milwaukee for most of their lives. Dad started with several manual labor jobs right out of high school before ending up in Northwestern Mutual’s computer operations center, in a time when computers were room sized and operating one meant something entirely different than it does today. Mom began interning with the company at the end of high school and went on to complete her master’s degree in business administration and finance.
Family shakeup and renewal
Within a few years after my birth, my brothers Tim and Ben arrived. The three of us, along with my older sister Kim, attended St. Hubert Catholic school through eighth grade. My youth was probably a typical suburban youth, but when my parents disclosed they were getting a divorce, when I was eight, I felt like the world was collapsing. It sounds silly to think about now, but I remember crying and the anger I felt. We all got through it, of course, and I am grateful for how life found a way.
Mom got remarried, and then came Maggie, Selena, Ricky, Christina and Tristan. In what now seems like no time at all, my family doubled, giving me the lifelong privilege of having to explain that I have nine siblings and why I am not certain of all their birthdays.
Lessons in business and life
When I was 10, Mom franchised a dollar store in West Bend, Wisconsin, where we would eventually be moving pending a delayed house construction. That business was a defining moment in my life. I was involved from the beginning, first helping with stocking, but soon doing much more. Customers were surprised and delighted to see such a young boy cashiering, but for me the benefits went far beyond that.
In the years following, we doubled the first location’s size and opened another in a nearby city. Even before I could drive, I was traveling internationally (OK, just to Canada, but still) to order 50 to 100 thousand dollars in merchandise at various trade shows. Once I turned 16, I took on more of the management. I drove 80 miles a day to travel between both locations, high school and home. By 18, I was handling almost all of the inventory and finances. Finances that were becoming increasingly difficult with the struggling economy.
With my potential college career on the horizon, we opted to liquidate the stores. By the end, I had learned so much, I often wished I could go back and do things differently. Those eight years taught me responsibility and all the time alone made me an independent thinker. Especially in the last years, I learned to be resourceful, spend money wisely and operate efficiently. These foundations helped me use my time in college to become more well rounded, both in and outside the classroom.
University of everything
I started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in fall 2006 with a vague desire to pursue pharmacy, or perhaps become a doctor. As with most undergraduates, my plan varied considerably year to year. Upon entering the university, I was selected to be one of 15 students to join the Wisconsin International Scholars program. This encouraged me to pursue studies in Spanish and Russian, and maintain a general interest in world affairs that still shapes my thinking today.
After a week of classes, I began working at one of two student newspapers on campus in the web department. At The Badger Herald, an independent newspaper that published 16,000 issues daily, I had the opportunity to develop many aspects of my professional and personal interests. After just one year, I became the web director. My mission was to lead the newspaper into a new digital era. It was an exciting time, and a scary time. Industry wide, advertising revenue declines made tough cuts and drastic measures the norm. Working with an organization of ever busier students juggling coursework and extra curriculars did not help with resourcing. During my five years with the newspaper, I dabbled in everything from feature writing and copy editing to photography and advertising design. By the end, I was simultaneously in charge of the multimedia and web departments.
This was all while maintaining several other positions on campus.
At the end of my sophomore year, I was accepted into a research group in one of the world renowned researcher Hector DeLuca’s laboratories. Under Carol Kieckhaefer’s lead, we studied the therapeutic effects of a Vitamin D like substance in mice that were predisposed to Type 1 diabetes. I played an integral role in data management and analysis, as well as aiding in study design. The group went on to publish our findings.
I also spent a year in a technical support position where I assisted academic staff and faculty from most of the university’s foreign language departments. This was another interesting opportunity to interact with people from all over the world right at home.
By December 2010, I was ready to graduate with a bachelor’s degree of biochemistry. I maintained a connection with the newspaper doing remote consulting after moving back to Milwaukee for a while.
But on a whim, I decided, before starting my career, to fly to Buenos Aires for a month to visit someone I met on Facebook. It would be my third country and second continent, so I was excited! Days before my departure, I learned I could no longer stay with him, but that did not stop me. I made many friends and stayed in several cities during those weeks. My Spanish was not great, but I continued learning and got by just fine.
Once home, I decided to take up an employment offer to work for an enterprise publishing support company based in Denver. Aaron Bailey, proprietor of 601am, gave me the chance to make a living while staying close to my family for another year before my big move to San Francisco. I also bought a six week old puppy, Vera, to keep me company.
A year later, I got rid of most of my things and planned to take what I could in my small Saab to California. A month before my lease was up and after some research, I opted to sell the car and take a rental instead. The day came, and I embarked on the roughly 36 hour drive, making just one stop overnight in Denver to visit my coworkers. Vera and I arrived in glorious San Francisco May 1, 2012. She couldn’t have been happier!
Once settled, I began training for the San Francisco Marathon, which was in a couple of months. My mom and brother Tim flew out to compete as well, and that was the beginning of a long string of marathons for all of us. This, along with my job’s flexibility, I maintain are the reasons I didn’t immediately pursue a new career in the Bay Area, but I have no regrets.
Over the next year, I made friends, went camping and enjoyed the city. I also spent a month in Australia to visit a Twitter friend, and I went to Spain and France with my mom to visit Tim, who was studying in Madrid. Traveling was starting to become more of a passion, causing further conflict every time I contemplated a new job that would likely keep me tied down more than I was.
In summer 2013, I went on an entirely different kind of journey. I made my first trip to Burning Man with some close friends. It was an eye opening voyage across space and in to the soul, and absolutely the best experience of my life up till that point. Despite the breakthroughs, I knew there was much more I needed to do and learn. I promised myself I would go the next year, and probably for many years to come.
Life in San Francisco was great, and I loved my friends, but after another year, I felt a calling to see more. I decided to move to Tokyo to work for Six Apart as a product manager for Movable Type, the blogging software I used at the newspaper and then at 601am. I also snuck in a trip to Thailand before leaving. The first six months in Japan passed incredibly quickly, but I did manage to make some friends, go out a few times and even add a few countries to my travels: China, South Korea and Vietnam.
Though it was originally planned I would cease doing client work after a transition period, things got complicated when Six Apart bought 601am mid 2014. During most of my time in Tokyo, I had little idea how long I would stay, but now it seems I will likely be moving back to San Francisco at the beginning of 2015.
I’m suddenly wishing I had started studying Japanese earlier and realizing there is so much I need to do before I go. I plan to stay with the company, but the U.S. based unit, and see how some upcoming changes pan out. Hopefully I can continue studying the language and come back for some months next year once I know more.
The rest is yet to be determined!