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An Obsession With Impact: The Inspiring Journey of a Dreamer That Led to a Career at Microsoft

“Avatar of Bruce holding a camera in an office”

Bruce’s story unfolds in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a young boy, he had an ambitious dream of one day becoming the President of the United States. This aspiration remained his guiding star until he began his professional career after college. His mother, amused by his lofty ambitions, recognized Bruce’s unique interests. At the age of five, she enrolled him in Chinese language classes, which soon ignited a deep passion within him. However, Bruce’s early years were far from easy. He experienced homelessness and spent a significant portion of his childhood in a women’s center before his family found stability in an apartment. His journey, though challenging, shaped the person he became.

At the tender age of 11, Bruce’s mother brought home a discarded computer from her workplace. She saw potential in everything, and this broken machine was no exception. Like any child of the ‘90s, having a computer in his room made Bruce feel like he had struck gold. His elation was short-lived when his mother revealed that the computer was broken. However, Bruce was not deterred. He was determined to breathe life into this machine. He completely dismantled it, guided by a supportive 5th-grade teacher who provided him with some extra computer parts. He pored over computer books, learning about complex processes like switching the motherboard. He knew the screen worked, and he leveraged that knowledge to design a program that allowed him to create pictures and play games.

This computer became a cherished possession, one that he held onto for a decade. The sense of ownership and accomplishment was immense. His initial success spurred him on to build another computer, this time a gaming one. Since then, Bruce has continued to build computers tailored to his needs, like his photography computer. He even merged a gaming computer with one that had ample storage, showcasing his evolving skills and passion for computers.

When Bruce turned 13, his mother thought it would be a good idea for him to go to China by himself to hone his Chinese skills. Despite growing up in tough neighborhoods and never having been outside of Cincinnati, he raised enough money to spend his 8th-grade year in China, staying with a family arranged by a customer at the bank where his mother worked. The experience was mind-blowing for Bruce, who spoke fluent Chinese and expanded his cultural influences beyond Cincinnati.

After returning to the US, Bruce was inspired by his experience in China and believed that his dream of becoming President was within reach. He pursued his studies with determination, majoring in political science and East Asian studies at Wittenberg University while maintaining his interest in the computer world. However, when the recession hit, Bruce’s undergraduate advisor cautioned him against going to law school, warning of a surplus of lawyers and a lack of jobs. Instead, Bruce followed his passion and pursued a Masters in Chinese, heeding his advisor’s advice that if he followed his heart, the job would follow. Despite his efforts, Bruce found it difficult to secure a job as native Chinese speakers were often preferred.

Bruce’s journey took a turn after graduation when he secured a security role in the federal government. It was here that he realized his childhood dream of becoming President had evolved into a new path: Global security. After working for the federal government for almost two decades, Bruce sought to broaden his horizons in the security field and transition to the oil and gas industry as a Chief Security Officer in 2020.

The shift from the public to private sector was fraught with challenges. Bruce had to discard old habits, adapt to new communication styles, and navigate a different work culture. Despite being warned about the difficulties of this transition before leaving the government, Bruce faced mental hurdles he had to overcome.

In the private sector, Bruce found the focus was on profit, a stark contrast to his government role. He had to unlearn ingrained behaviors, adjust his expectations, and embrace a new way of working. Even the language was different, with unfamiliar terms and acronyms. Culture was another significant shift. The trust and camaraderie he experienced in government work was not always present in the private sector, requiring patience and understanding to navigate.

After a few years in the oil and gas industry, Bruce seized an exciting opportunity with Teamalytics, an organization specializing in leadership, coaching, and team building. It was a unique opportunity to provide coaching and training to Fortune 500 executives and industry leaders.  Though it was a departure from his security focus, it was an area he was passionate about and allowed him to make a meaningful impact.

A year ago, Bruce joined Microsoft’s Bounty team. Here, he found a role that combined his passion for teaching and learning with a more hands-on approach. As a bug bounty program manager, Bruce serves and protects others, finding fulfillment in the clear, immediate, and long-lasting impact of his work. He values the relationships he’s built with researchers, which is something he believes is often overlooked in the industry. His role is not just a job, but a platform to serve others.

Bruce cherishes the knowledge shared by the security researchers who work with Microsoft, viewing it not merely as information, but as a gift. The researchers’ expertise and insights are invaluable, enabling the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) to accomplish things that would otherwise be impossible. The contributions of these external researchers are instrumental to the success of MSRC. Bruce also emphasizes the importance of the human service aspect of their work. These researchers aren’t just security experts, but leaders who share Bruce’s commitment to service. This shared dedication forms the backbone of their collaborative efforts in securing the digital world.

Bruce is a man obsessed with impact. The ability to serve and protect others, to ensure their safety in the digital age, fuels his passion. The impact of his work is tangible and immediate, from preventing a cyberattack on a hospital to ensuring a community’s lights stay on. The satisfaction derived from this work is profound and long-lasting.

Bruce’s personal interests are as diverse as his professional journey. He is an avid gamer, a hobby he now shares with his two young sons, budding gamers themselves. His love for sports is also evident, with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cincinnati Reds, FC Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan teams among those he supports.

Photography, however, holds a unique allure for Bruce. His journey into the world of photography began during his undergraduate years when he embarked on a semester-long study abroad program. The university saw the potential of a video/photography journal that could be published on their website and provided Bruce with a camera. Every week, Bruce would submit his journals along with the photos he had taken, documenting his experiences and learnings.

This opportunity allowed Bruce to learn how to take pictures, and at the same time, receive feedback on his work from classmates and other photographers. This experience ignited a passion in Bruce that has endured for over 20 years. He was, and remains, captivated by the art of photography. He always has a camera in hand, ready to capture the world around him.

Bruce’s photographic interests lean towards street and landscape photography. He enjoys capturing candid moments of people in their natural environment, as well as the beauty of natural vistas. This preference reflects Bruce’s own approach to life - genuine, unscripted, and full of rich experiences.

Beyond his professional pursuits and personal hobbies, Bruce has a deep-seated passion for leadership and mentoring. He immerses himself in a world of knowledge, reading as many leadership books as he can find, engaging in online training, and tuning into insightful podcasts. Teaching leadership courses is not just a hobby for him, but a personal passion that he cherishes.

Bruce’s philosophy of life and learning is beautifully encapsulated in a Chinese proverb that he holds dear: 活到老,學到老. The Pinyin translation, Huo Dao Lao, Xue Dao Lao, translates to “Live until you’re old, learn until you’re old.” This proverb underscores the importance of lifelong learning, a principle that Bruce firmly believes in.

For Bruce, learning is not a phase but a continuous journey. It’s not confined to acquiring new skills or knowledge but extends to understanding oneself better. He believes that the pursuit of learning, especially self-learning, is probably the best thing one can do to better oneself and, by extension, the world. This belief underscores his approach to life and leadership - a journey of continuous learning, growth, and self-improvement. It’s never too late to learn, and it’s never too late to grow.

Fun fact:

Bruce’s first job was delivering pizzas for Papa John’s. His career trajectory then took a turn towards the corporate world. Bruce landed his second job at the Wonderful Company, a conglomerate known for its diverse portfolio that includes brands like Wonderful Pistachios and Fiji Water. He spent a year there, gaining valuable experience in the corporate sector.

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