Mike Wall

The Ambitious Among Us

The person behind the job.

Their ambition, their strategy.


Meet the amazing business and technology minds of the Vancouver-metropolitan area and beyond.

PERSONALITY, CHARACTER, MOTIVATION AND ASPIRATIONS


The Senior Database Administrator of Great Western Malting here in Vancouver, WA, Mike Wall, is a wise guy.  He professionally manages data and yet facilitates learning through his own curiosity. Ultimately, Mike is working on a legacy to leave something positive behind.

That’s Wise

I had a professor in grad school who, when he was really impressed with an idea, would say, “That’s wise.”  The first time I heard him bestow that reaction unto me, I remember how it made me feel.

It wasn’t affirmation or even agreement.  That wasn’t the point. I felt an acknowledgement that I had practiced critical thinking.

Far be it for me to call myself wise except when it comes to acknowledging others who are.  Maybe that’s the requisite humility of honoring another with such a trait. That said, Mike Wall is a wise man.  He treats others wisely, too.

Fitness

Mike’s fitness for ambition is really interesting.

I realize now that I may have set myself up for some standardization.  My ‘Interviews of the Ambitious’ article on Sarah Cooke went into some detail to define ‘fitness for ambition’ – what it is and what works against it.

Fitness for ambition, I wrote, was “unique and personal…self-awareness, education, experience, resilience, talent, desire, etc.”  (Opposite of fitness for ambition were ‘restraints’ that “require what I called ambition currency, or a spend of energies and mental capacity that may otherwise be readiness factors to benefit fitness.)

I have no intention of grading my interviewees, and I will not do so here.  Suffice to say, though, the parameters make explaining one’s ambition more coherent.  

Curiosity

Curiosity is one of two points to be made about Mike’s fitness for ambition.  The other is mastery.

He says he “learns something from everyone.”  That takes critical thinking. For adults, objective learning is an activity that must be sought if not accepted.  In either case, objective learning requires independence and sober consideration (what can oftentimes be hindered by the spend of our ambition currency).  

How many times have we heard about a commonality between great leadership, rich diversity and collaboration?  If curiosity were a value–and for Mike I believe it is–then Mike has definite leadership qualities here. How so?  He sets ‘followers’ up for success given their own curiosity.

Epistemology

When I decided to seek out curiosity through research, I learned about epistemology.

Def. the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.

Oxford University Press, 2017

Epistemic Curiosity

In fact it was the adjective, epistemic, that came to me through reading an interview transcript.

Knowledge@Wharton is the University of Pennsylvania’s business school’s ‘online business analysis platform’.  Back in 2017 the folks at Knowledge@Wharton interviewed astrophysicist and author, Mario Livio. He said:

The digital age helps us because we can find…information, and that may drive us to look for something else about [it]. And that would drive perhaps epistemic curiosity, which is this love of knowledge and wanting to learn new things.

More A Custodian Than A Keeper

Superficially, Mike, the Senior Database Administrator, may strike others as the keeper of knowledge for his firm.  

He protects and secures, makes accessible, and guides data flow out to the rest of the company.  Mike’s colleagues’ curiosity is in fact his opportunity. Their fulfillment is ultimately the goal of his position.  

A critical point, a goal and a strategy are not one in the same.

Thus, all others in the firm are Mike’s customers, and he is their supplier.  Those custodial provisions of data are his inputs; Mike’s processes to architect and configure databases make data available for his colleagues to extract, retrieve, gather, sort, filter and analyze (output).  

See the SIPOC diagram below.

The Master

I know Mike from meetup groups to which we both belong.  He’s a learner. He asks insightful and compelling questions, and he shares what he knows.  He is anything but a keeper of knowledge. He both seeks it and doles it out.

Interestingly, Mike gives a talk about ‘mastery’.  I can’t wait to hear it in full. The summary he’s given me is that the talk expresses how three different personas handle knowledge.

  • The new professional.
  • The mid-career manager.
  • The Master.  

The new person attempts to obtain knowledge to elevate his or her career; the mid-career manager attempts to hoard knowledge to protect his or her career; and the Master gives away his or her knowledge to support others.

Masters facilitate learning.

Facilitating learning is in my opinion Mike’s true ambition.

Facilitating Learning

EvolvingDistractionSelf-Worth

These three words round out Mike’s values (the others being curiosity and mastery as described).

These remaining rudiments of Mike’s motivations seem a campaign to standardize (control) versus add what Mike called “spice.”  

Spice

Spice is the distraction portion, and yet it, too, is the evolution and self-worth. In fact, it occurred to me that spice is the most fundamental value of them all.

Why?

Spice relieves controls, supposition and that which is determined.  

Author’s note: Spice drove me to miss a deadline I had in mind to share my first draft of this article with Mike.  Why? I hadn’t figured “spice” out yet – or hadn’t justifiably figured it into his ambition. Why not? Controls, supposition and that which is determined led me too far down a road of standardization.  Like Mike, I needed a distraction from these grips in order to find a different truth.  

Setting Boundaries That Facilitate Others

Mike told me that he thinks the world is heading towards becoming one big database.  I took that to mean standardization, or guidelines for how we live. Standardization, especially in technology, may be a good thing.

Perhaps the standard-bearer in the technology sector over the years has been Microsoft.  On the company’s ‘Legal Resources’ page, they exhibit their Standards Licensing literature:

Standards are an important element in Microsoft’s business. Microsoft believes that standards help ensure interoperability, data exchange, and portability across the widest range of products and services, and bring great benefits to customers.

Microsoft Corp, 2019

The Art of Technology

It was the Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, who in 1889 wrote,

Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.

To this day, Mike models boundaries through standardization for others so that they may extract something useful.  

Asked about his expectation for distraction, then, Mike told me it was analogous to “spice,” as in spicing things up.  Distractions are also a way, he said more conventionally, to get away from the day-to-day.

These were hardly the thoughts of a Senior Database Administrator, were they?  How avant-garde.

Breaking Boundaries

It turns out that Mike majored in college in Theater Arts with a concentration on screenwriting and production.  In other words, Mike was trained in setting boundaries for characters, scenes and even the environment.

………to figuratively break boundaries of the page and stage.

So how is it that Mike believes the world is becoming one big database?  When I asked him about that, he suggested an imposing order that relegates people to checking boxes in their lives, and determining rules on how things get done.  

It appears to me that Mike has a solution.  The spice of life is curiosity, and curiosity helps us learn, try, evolve and become self-aware – far beyond the boundaries of rules and scripts.

Extras

I had a lot of material for this article, much of which I cut out.  There was a portion of research I thought might interest Mike and other readers.  And, there was one more point to be made I simply couldn’t omit. That point comes later.

7 Principles To Facilitating Learning

The intention of reviewing research on facilitating learning is three-fold – to accentuate

  1. That Mike is a Master.
  2. How others can more humanly receive information in today’s digital world.
  3. That Mike so values information that he willingly if not eagerly pursues knowledge out of epistemic curiosity.

According to the virtual teaching resource at University of North Texas, there are seven (7) principles to facilitating learning.

Principle for Facilitating LearningMeaning
“Instructors give students more learning tasks to perform.”Prompt learners to explore new opportunities to learn on their own.
“Instructors do less telling so that students can do more discovering.”Learners might discover information as opposed to being told it.
“Instructors focus more on instructional design.”Enable learners to take charge of their own learning.
“Instructors model how experts learn.”Afford methodology for gathering information by instructing how an expert seeks, not explaining what’s found.
“Instructors encourage students to learn from and with each other.”“Preparation, facilitation, and guidance” to collaborate with one another.
“Instructors and students work together to create climates for learning.”Figuring, together, what establishes a setting and sensory attributes of ways to learn best and sustainably so.
“Instructors use evaluation to promote learning via feedback.”Reinforced or balanced exchanges with learners not only provides comprehension of learning that has or has not taken place, but provides the facilitator proper feedback to adjust instructional design.

Teaching Commons (virtual resource for UNT). “How To Facilitate Learning | UNT Teaching Commons”. teachingcommons.unt.edu, 2019, https://teachingcommons.unt.edu/teaching-essentials/student-learning/how-facilitate-learning. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.

Legacy

Several appointments on my calendar may have fatefully prompted me to keep this portion from death by edits.  A similar topic seemed to keep coming up in conversations unrelated to mine with Mike.

That topic was legacy.

Mike spoke about a song by the country star, Randy Travis.

The refrain:

There are three wooden crosses on the right side of the highway.
Why there’s not four of them, Heaven only knows.
I guess it’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you.
It’s what you leave behind you when you go.

“Three Wooden Crosses,” by Randy Travis, 2003

Legacy to Mike is less demonstrable than in Travis’s song and yet just as meaningful.  I do not know what Mike’s legacy is or will be. Frankly, I’m unsure if Mike can identify it at this point either.  He has taken enough notice of his life and that of others to want to leave something positive behind. Stealing a line from my old professor, that’s wise.


“Epistemology”. Apple, Inc. | Oxford University Press, 2017, Accessed 2 Mar 2019.

Livio, Mario. “The ‘Why’ Behind Asking Why: The Science Of Curiosity”. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 2017. http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/makes-us-curious/. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.

Microsoft Corp. “Microsoft’s Standards Licensing Programs | Interoperability”. Microsoft.com, 2019, https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/legal/interoperability/standardslicensing/default.aspx. Accessed 25 Feb 2019.

Various, anonymous contributors. “Life Imitating Art”. en.wikipedia.org, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_imitating_art. Accessed 3 Mar 2019.

Teaching Commons (virtual resource for UNT). “How To Facilitate Learning | UNT Teaching Commons”. teachingcommons.unt.edu, 2019, https://teachingcommons.unt.edu/teaching-essentials/student-learning/how-facilitate-learning. Accessed 27 Feb 2019.

Travis, Randy. “Three Wooden Crosses | Rise and Shine”. Curb Records, Nashville, 2002, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HPl9Dlox00. Accessed 23 Feb 2019.

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ABOUT DANNY

An expert at informational interviewing, my name is Danny Rehr of Rehr Consulting. I am a Genuine Consultant who supports the ambitions of others to meet promise and potential. My MBA is concentrated in Strategy. I have 20 years of work experience, most of which is in the field of organization development. Additionally, I informationally interview local professionals and write research-backed articles about their ambition. Rounding out my activities, I give talks on How and Why To Conduct Informational Interviews (for job seekers, networking and professional development), contribute guest blogposts, and I volunteer in the community. I love coffee and fountain pens!