In a true fashion of 2020, we are switching things up this month for the Work-Life Balance in the 906 blog! We are featuring Keith Glendon, Founder of Lucid Coast, who also happens to be a current Marquette resident. From dropping out of Marquette Senior High School, to landing a position with IBM and traveling the world, and now coming back to deepen his homegrown roots, Keith’s journey is a prime example of manifesting the life you want.
He took an alternative approach to life and school early on, and states, “My timing was off…. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the Marquette Area Public Schools weren’t ready for that sort of thing. As we’re seeing now, with the rise of alternatives and transformational learning models, maybe I was just a little ahead of my time.” After dropping out of school, Keith obtained his GED, attended Washtenaw Community college, spent two semesters at NMU, and then enlisted in the Army where he also furthered his education. “During my time overseas in the military, I attended classes through the University of Maryland at Ramstein Air Force Base in Kaiserslautern, Germany.” Through all those years of school, he describes his chosen profession as an “entrepreneur, cheerleader and advocate for rural and underserved community economic sustainability” which is exactly what he has become!
Keith describes the Marquette culture as, “nature-centric, community-engaged, welcoming and creative”, but what really made you decide to come back home? “I’ve left and come back to Marquette several times. I didn’t choose it. It chose me. Having been all over the world, lived and worked in some incredible places, there’s still nothing like it. The community and the energy and the natural surroundings make it such an incredible balance of wonderful things that I just want to be here.” If interested in learning more about Keith and the journey he has embarked on, keep reading below!
So Keith, tell us a little more about your path to get there?
“I think a lot of the course was charted from early on in life. I was a non-traditional thinker, a kid with smarts and enthusiasm and passion and joy for life but also challenged to ‘fit in’ with the norms of life, school, society. Dropping out of school my Junior year was an early and formative experience for me. It created the seed of my personal purpose; to advocate for others, to help people find their path, to encourage those who think differently, and who look at the world differently. I think I was naturally a disruptor long before I really knew what that was.”
Brittany: Wow, good for you for following your own path! But you then came back to Northern Michigan University, correct?
“Once I returned back to Northern Michigan University, I majored in business and information systems and at about that same time the world wide web was becoming a publicly-known thing. I dove into tech alongside my education, got an internship at a local tech startup, wound up contracting to Northern Initiatives and NMU – providing tech support, training and advisement to NI and their clients and doing continuing education classes at NMU for adult learners in technology skills development.”
Brittany: So I think we’re all wondering… what exactly does a disruptor like yourself do after college?
“After graduation, I was recruited by IBM and joined them as a networking specialist in the midwest region. From there, my IBM career took me through a lot of different roles and industries, working my way from networking into enterprise systems management, autonomic computing, utility computing, and data center and network optimization technical roles. I spent a couple of years at France Telecom’s Equant where I helped launch their North American outsourcing business before returning to IBM. That was when my career took off in more of a management and technology business leadership direction. I became a practice leader, a services principal, then moved to New Zealand where I took on a role leading a $200M+ services business across more than 35 countries and almost every time zone from the Asia Pacific to the middle east and Latin America.”
Brittany: Wow, that’s quite the accomplishment to be proud of! When did you settle back down in Marquette?
“In 2010 I returned to Marquette to raise my kids and settle back down into my hometown community. I wanted to have a hand in making a difference. That passion led me into launching coding clubs for kids, getting involved with K-12 education and the school board, creating internship programs at NMU with IBM, supporting efforts to bring a cybersecurity talent ecosystem to the region, and more. Along the arc of those experiences, I also got involved with my good friend Jeff Nyquist who founded NeuroTrainer here in Marquette. He had deeply wanted to build his business here but found that the ecosystem was simply not mature enough to support him at the time. I was honored to be a part of his early-stage journey as a friend and a part-time colleague and advocate. That redoubled my desire to see our digital entrepreneurship potential take off here in Marquette.”
“Now fast forward to 2019, things kind of came to a head, and with the help and partnership of the Innovate Marquette SmartZone, InvestUP, NMU, and many others – I began to lay the foundations of LucidCoast. In 2020 I resigned from a 20-year career at IBM to launch the company, directly into the jaws of a pandemic and economic crisis. I’m a sucker for a challenge and an underdog story.”
What would you say makes the U.P. such an optimal place to live?
“In LA I would frequently spend literally hours stuck in traffic. In China, the air was so thick with smog and exhaust some days you could see the sunlight in beams of brown, and in New Zealand – I loved almost everything about it, but it was an incredibly long way from family. I’ve been to so many places but nowhere else in the world is there this incredible confluence of uniqueness. We have a vibrant creative community, theatre, opera, tech companies, music scene, yet just minutes away we can find utter solitude. I can surf, ski and fish on the same day… and still, manage several hours of work. “Traffic” – even during the heaviest of the tourist season – is nothing compared to every major city ever. I can kayak in my front yard. My backyard is thousands of acres of state land. I can go for a walk in the forest and come back with dinner. Yet I can still access global markets and do business internationally. My family is here. My history is here. My community is here.”
Brittany: I think we all can agree that the community in Marquette truly is like no other! Yoopers help Yoopers no matter what.
“Over the past decade, there’s also been the emergence of a new kind of community as well. Returning Yoopers. Diverse and interesting people – kindred souls looking to get to a simpler, more natural, more restful, and purposeful life. I’m holding hope and faith in a vision that the combination of that community, intermingled with the history and richness of the Yoopers that have been here making this place all that it is for nearly two hundred years will bring about an example of sustainable living and conscious capitalism that might hold answers to the challenges of humanity’s future.”
You’ve had an extremely successful career, so how are you able to maintain that here?
“Up until February of 2020 it was pretty straightforward; I’d built a 20-year career with a global company that I could manage from anywhere. More and more, that’s the case… and Covid-19 has demonstrated for us all that ‘work where you live’ instead of ‘live where you work’ is a really long overdue that technology has opened to us.
Since I launched the company, the answer is less clear. I self-capitalized my company betting my family’s future on the vision I’ve been pursuing. This has been an incredibly challenging time to launch a company. That said, we’ve built a great team, a lot of momentum, have a small but growing client list and revenue stream, and a lot of exciting things moving. I feel optimistic.
The bottom line in terms of a successful career up here: Either tie that career to a company who recognizes that remote work is not only possible but actually better for all involved – or join those of us who are intent on building this local and regional economy, take a risk, start a business and let’s create the future together.”
Brittany: Of course working remotely comes with some new challenges, but COVID-19 showed that many of us are capable of having that freedom, myself included!
But, now on to the really fun part! What are your hobbies and do they change seasonally?
“For the past several years my hobbies have been community building, economic development, entrepreneurship, and advocacy for others. In amongst that, I try to spend a lot of time with my wife and kids and my hobbies are pretty simple, basic time with family. I’m a surfer, a skier, a runner, a photographer, a writer. I love to hunt and fish and kayak and canoe and camp, too.”
Any last comments for our readers?
“I’ve probably told you more than you’d hoped for already… but I’m always happy to share my story if it’s of interest or benefit to others. The other thing I’d like to share is that Campfire CoWorks, a physical innovation hub of LucidCoast, has become a key passion project for me and for my family. The community that’s been growing at the Campfire exudes creative energy, entrepreneurship, collaborative value, family, and support. It’s an epicenter of business, technology, and creative energy from which a lot of great things are already growing. We’re looking forward to continued collaboration with Innovate Marquette, MATI (The Masonic Art Theater and Innovation Company), and the rest of the community’s ecosystem to continue planting the seeds of our area’s future when it comes to entrepreneurship, innovation, and community impact.”
Thank you Keith for participating in this blog series and sharing your inspiring story with us and our readers! There’s truly no place like the U.P., and Keith is proof that you can continue successful careers here or work with other Yoopers to launch the business of your dreams! If interested in learning more about LucidCoast, click here!
We have expanded this series for future interviews to more than NMU alum! So with that being said, stay tuned for other interviews in the near future on how residents of the Upper Peninsula live a sustainable and balanced lifestyle, both when working and not working.
If interested in reading about our past participant of Work-Life Balance in the 906, click here.