Mark Skallet is a Senior Product Support Engineer at OSIsoft. He went to college and double majored in Physics and Civil Engineering and minored in Biological Science at the University of California, Davis.
Right after college he began working for a civil engineering consulting firm and was there for about five months, but it was not quite what he had expected it to be. He then transitioned into biotechnology and worked for Genentech, in pharmaceutical manufacturing for almost two years. While Mark was working for Genentech, he became aware of OSIsoft because Genentech used software that was created by OSIsoft.
Now that Mark is working for OSIsoft as Senior Product Support Engineer, he is still gaining a lot of the skills that he wants. His job is to communicate with software users and developers in the process of working out bugs in the software. Essentially, he got into a software related role without a software background, so he is interested in transitioning into software development to build on his skills.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I decided to get into working with software after realizing that civil engineering was not the right route for me. When I was in college, I did take a couple program-related classes required for my degree in Physics and Civil Engineering, and I have always had a bit of an interest in computer programs. Computers run our lives nowadays, so it is a good field to get into long term. There is always going to be need for people that know how to code or how to work with computer networks.
Software development is related to engineering because you are creating things, but, you don’t need to deal with getting materials or environmental regulations. You create everything just on your computer. There is very minimal prep work needed to create something.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
On a typical day I am basically on call for specialists’ requests. We have people that interact directly with customers and essentially if they can’t answer their question or they don’t have the technical background or skills to answer the question, they can reach out to a specialist group for a certain product through various means. I investigate the information that they have gathered and their question and try to give them an answer. I reach out to the relevant engineering groups as needed on their behalf and provide answers and advice as the specialist for my product
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I get an idea, the first thing I do is research it to see if it is feasible from a technical point of view, a cost point of view, or a time point of view. I ask if there is a need for that idea. If all of those boxes are checked, then I research how I could carry it out or organize a plan for bringing it to life. Then I would develop subtasks for how to move forward and start working on the smaller tasks.
What’s one trend that excites you?
We are largely moving away from on-premise systems into cloud-based systems. There will no longer be an issue of our customers running software that is 10 years old anymore because if it is hosted in the cloud then we have more control to upgrade it and manage it ourselves. We will also be able to more easily investigate any issues that arise.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I like to run. Doing something exercise related that is difficult gives me a good feeling of accomplishment, and then I want to accomplish even more. It starts that snowball effect.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say to put in the work when you are young. It is much easier than trying to play catch up when you are older with added responsibilities and expectations that come with getting older.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
People need periodic resets from the modern, connected world by going without electronics for decent amounts of time.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Also, once I start something, I don’t like leaving it unfinished. I like to see it to the end even if it means working hours on end or days on end until I can see that it’s done.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Sounds cliché, but always putting the client or customer first. It’s hard to truly maintain that thinking for the long term, but customers really can feel it if they are put first in your business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have given clients the wrong information before because I was new and green and just went with the surface level solution which ended up not working. I overcame it by admitting the mistake and explaining, this seemed correct on the surface, but looking deeper I see that it is not. I investigated it deeper and here is what is correct. I try not to make the same kind of mistake in the future and to vet a solution more fully before providing it to a client.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
It’s hard to know if someone has already done any given idea, but I would say having a service that can answer, in a short summary, the types of questions that people put off looking into due to lack of time or intimidation in the topic or disinterest in the topic. So someone could contact this service by text or email or chat, and ask things like “this is my health insurance provider and plan, how does it work?” or “what steps should a beginner take to start investing?” or “what steps are necessary to install a new outlet in my wall?”. This information is all out there yes, but there’s so much of it that sometimes it would be nice to have a simple 0.5 to 1 page explanation to your exact question that someone else has sifted through all that’s out there for you. Then you can investigate more easily on your own if you like once you have that starting point.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently started taking flying lessons in a plane. It is an activity that I find fun and relaxing. It takes my mind off things and forces my to focus on only that. The view doesn’t hurt either.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft OneNote. I use it to organize all my notes and all of my to-do lists. My team at work uses a bunch of shared notebooks for projects that we are working on to organize who is doing what and so that we can track others’ progress.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Guns, Germs, and Steel. It gives you insight into the different cultures around the world and how they ended up at the level where they are at in terms of how modern they are. This is something that I tended to take as a given and didn’t consider the why factor. Hearing ideas for that why forced me to expand my worldview more.
What is your favorite quote?
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
• If I don’t know the answer, I will admit that to you, but then I will find the answer.
• I enjoy solving technical puzzles.
• if it were easy everyone would do it.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.