A Brief History of Dan Keller Technical Services (DKTS)
In 1979, I started a business. That hadn't been my intention; I just needed to earn some money while completing grad school. Moonlighting as a programmer, I did what needed to be done: got a business license, paid quarterly taxes, did bookkeeping, hired people, built online resources on the nascent Internet, ran an office, developed business processes, and maintained a set of quality standards. And lots of selling! Lo and behold, over the next two decades, a small company emerged.
The content of my work evolved, too. I found English more interesting than code and people more interesting than machines. I went from programming to training, teaching as a subcontractor to training vendors. I grew my own client list, developed my own courseware, hired subcontractors, and the business thrived.
The aspect I enjoyed most was training new trainers. Many of the techniques attributed to "born teachers" can in fact be learned. Applying the technology of effective training and making it routine earned extraordinary evaluations, rave reviews, awards and -- the highest praise -- repeat business.
The topics of the courses we wrote and taught were Unix, HTML, Java, software design, Perl, and XML. A process refinement of which I'm particularly proud was using the Web as the delivery medium for courseware; we called it the paperless classroom.
The business lasted 22 years. My client list was stellar and included AT&T, Apple, Genentech, HP, Schwab, Silicon Graphics, Sun, Texas Instruments, Wells Fargo, and more. Toward the end, my fees had climbed to $2K/instructor/day and the business was grossing $.5M annually. But it was grueling work -- endless travel, perpetually in "marketing mode", legal squabbles with sub-contractors (attempted theft of clients and of my intellectual property) -- and I was ready for a change.
I shut it down in November of 2000, coincidentally the time of the bursting of the dot com bubble (crash of Silicon Valley technology funding). I was 46, exhausted, and wanted at least partial retirement to enjoy my growing kids and to focus on a new career as an acoustic bass player. This is largely realized, now that my kids are grown and I am gigging regularly in the Bay Area jazz scene.
A challenge that now intrigues me is bringing a business notion of quality to academia. Given that we have a mature body of techniques that immensely improves what we accomplish in corporate classrooms, it's absurd that we don't also do this in colleges and universities. This is a project for a future career.
Nonetheless, my heart remains in technology and entrepreneurship. I have gone back to school, gotten another degree and a nursing license, and launched another startup, this time in health tech.
A new story is just beginning.
-- Dan Keller, 2017