Growing up I was told to major in a STEM field because that's where the money is. Anything based on math is hard to do and people will pay well if you can do it. So I decided to tackle what I thought was the core key to success—mathematics.
I was taking Master's level courses in math as an undergrad, went to California and got a Ph.D. by writing a thesis on cancer models, and got a professorship. I discovered math doesn't pay, published work is written in unreadable academese, and there are politics even in science. By the end of my third year I was feeling bad about our department over-charging and under-delivering for the students (it really costs them $3k just to sit through my calc 1 class?) so I started looking for industry jobs.
In 2016 I joined IXL Learning as a curriculum designer. I used my expertise in mathematics ensure the educational content was sounds. I went through a writing workshop to learn how to write for children and learned to communicate visually—many of our users hadn't yet learned to read.
The higher-ups wanted to keep much of the same underlying functionality the site had in 2001 and I saw many great ideas being rejected. Keep in mind this was my first non-academic job when I mention that I got frustrated and wanted to see if I could start my own ed-tech company. I switched to working as a contractor and started building my own math content which you can find at minstem.com/math. However, I had no idea how to market or sell.
With my project failing and my money running out I started looking for jobs in marketing in hopes I could learn skills I lacked. The owner at Sunfish Cellars was looking for someone with a math background who could run analysis on their marketing campaigns. In other words, I got really lucky.
It is a job but there is a lot to love. When the owner saw my programming skills, he let me manage all the websites. I've saved the company thousands on contracted developers (what they were using before). I've been given access to Photoshop and have taught myself how to do some creative work for the company. I create all the website banners, Facebook posts, and Google display ads. Of course, I also monitor the data. Good campaigns get more funding, poor performing campaigns get cut, and everything gets monitored. I create new ads and test them against what we have. I'm always learning new things—technology, copywrite, Photoshop—and have determined marketing is the field for me.
Sunfish Cellars — July 2018 to Present
Spec Writer — November 2017 to July 2018
Curriculum Designer — May 2016 to November 2017
Assistant Professor — July 2013 to May 2016
UC San Diego
Ph.D. in Mathematics — 2012
Master's in Mathematics — 2009
Oklahoma State University
Bachelor's in Mathematics — 2007
I professionally run websites for three companies that all operate under the same owner. We have a wine cellar, an Italian deli/grocer, and a high-end Italian restaurant.
This site is for the wine cellar but it also functions as our only online payment portal. It runs on Shopify. Shopify has SEO tools and product management tools that make managing the site convenient. Moreover, we are able to accept online payments through their integrated payment system. I am proficient with Shopify Liquid, Shopify apps, and general management of Shopify sites.
This website is for the high-end restaurant. It existed on a platform with limited functionality when I was hired. I transferred it to our own servers and built out the functionality that the owner wanted.
One of the most complicated Shopify projects I have worked on is the multi-page order forms for Buon Giorno Deli. The forms allow customers to order items with their choice of toppings and add-ons for extra costs. I could write more but I thought a video explanation would be best.
We use MailChimp for our email marketing campaigns. Usually the sommelier or owner will write the content. I edit the text, style it, format it, and add images. Here is an example of an email I created at the end of October.
I use Adobe Photoshop to create images for content and advertisements. This includes content for Facebook posts, Instagram posts, Google display ad campaigns, websites, physical flyers, and physical signs in the store.
This image of a zoom wine bottle is one I created for a zoom wine meeting hosted by our sommelier:
This is one that went out in an email. I used a Fresco filter on the background to make it appear like a painting since I only had generic pictures of vineyards to use. I split the bottle into multiple layers and added drop shadows at different distances to give the appearance that a 3D bottle was casting a shadow on a 2D painting.
We sell over 1,000 wines through Google Merchant. I used Python dataframes to create a .csv file we use as our data feed. I refresh the feed on the 1st and 15th of every month. I've included the entirety of the code here.
This website (minstem.com) hosts many of the projects I have worked on in my own time.
At one point time I had an idea for creating math education content. Every lesson would come with video explanation, written content with hidden sections so students could quickly find the important information, interactive questions, and direct links to prerequisite material. You can find that project on the math page.
When I was first learning to program, I created a graph theory application in Java. I have since converted it to the web and occassionally add functionality. It has a circuit simulator, form builder, and epidemiology modeler. Those projects can be found on the graph page.
I have drafted a novel (it's bad!) and a novella (marginal improvement). The first drafts of each can be found on the writing page.
My faith in God has motivated me to work on a Sermon Bible. It is a digital Bible in which Bible verses are links to sermons or talks that discuss that verse. That can be found on the faith page.
When I was a professor, my students wanted everything to be gamified as much as possible. I created a couple math games. I've also got a 2 year old and have created a few games that allows him to bang away at my keyboard. All that and a few really simple games such as tic-tac-toe can be found on the games page.
I have not had the opportunity to create a messenger bot for any company I am working for so I used some of my own money to create a ManyChat bot. I build a Choose Your Own Adventure game using the ManyChat developer tools. My goal was to generate interest in the game. I only created about 5 minutes of story.
ManyChat was $10.00 per month and I spent $10.00 on a Facebook ad. This was the ad I ran:
As shown below, my COA was $0.38 and I had 26 conversations. I was happy with the result and know now that if I create a CYOA game I can build an audience of free users quickly. Here are the results:
A few of my friends subscribed and I subscribed using my personal account for testing purposes Here is the ManyChat graph of subscribers:
I wonder how quickly I could build a following if I tried to monetize. I would need more content to justify charging money. Most of the feedback I got from users was that the game was fun but too short, even though it was free. I have not spent the time creating more content but it's a project I may take up one day.