By Taylor Martin | June 29, 2013 10:28 AM
Pocketnow Insider isn’t just about video. It’s a collection of posts that offers a glimpse behind the scenes of Pocketnow – and a brief look into the lives of the people behind it. This new recurring text series offers you the opportunity to get to know our editors better, outside the scope of their work here on the site.
A few weeks ago, we learned the background of mystery man Stephen Schenck. Before that we got to know the many faces of Michael Fisher, the busy and exciting life of Adam Z. Lein, and the life story of Managing Editor Anton D. Nagy. For our fifth installment of this series, we’re turning our attention to Senior Editor Taylor Martin. You’ll find out about his background, interests, and activities – and a bit about his duties here on Pocketnow as well. We hope you enjoy this new series documenting the lives of the people who keep the site running!
I just re-read all of my colleagues’ bios. Man, does my life sound boring, unadventurous, and mundane compared to theirs. It makes me wonder why I should bother writing about my comparatively short and uneventful life. But I wrote a mini bio at the turn of the year following some exciting changes in my life and it turned out to be one of the most popular pieces I’ve ever written.
So who am I to question the Internet and its demands?
I am Taylor Martin, smartphone connoisseur and one of the wordiest people you will ever e-meet.
The early years
My journey began on April 26 1990. I was born in Winston-Salem, NC, and spent the majority of my childhood in a quaint farm town about 30 minutes outside the city, a place I still call home and visit regularly: Pinnacle.
My family leased the land around my house to tobacco farmers, so I grew up playing in red dirt and clay, and spent most of my early life riding dirt bikes and four wheelers from sunup to sundown. The rest of my free time as a child was spent spreading my endless supply of miniature toys around the house and “helping” (and sometimes actually helping) my father build things: shelters, barns, cabinets, tractors, bulldozers, etc. In fact, around the age of eight, I built the cabinets we used in our kitchen, and they stayed there until two years ago. DIYers, get on my level.
My parents separated when I was 11, and I moved to the neighboring city, King, a tobacco town suburb of Winston-Salem. I spent the rest of my grade school years bouncing back and forth between Rural Hall (another Winston-Salem suburb consisting mostly of retirees), King, and Pinnacle.
And at the ripe age of 14, I retired the bass guitar, picked up my first microphone … and started screaming. My friends had a hardcore band that needed a vocalist. So I showed up one day for practice, started yelling at the mic, and proceeded to play the local bar scene and various venues for the next two years. We played with bands such as Alesana, My Hero Is Me, Yearling, and Scapegoat (some larger bands of the eclectic NC rock scene).
At 14, I also got my first cell phone, a hand-me-down from my mother, the Motorola T720c. Not long after, I carelessly snapped it in half at the hinge and upgraded to the Kyocera Strobe. Next was the Kyocera Slider Remix. Just before turning 17, I upgraded to a Motorola Q, which I quickly returned for the BlackBerry Pearl 8130. A few months later, I traded with my mother for the Curve 8330, and it was all downhill from there.
I picked up soccer my sophomore year in high school, and I skateboarded every day until I landed on my head and suffered from temporary blindness, a severe concussion, and minor brain damage. (Yeah … seriously.) Towards the end of my high school career, I joined a death metal band as the front man and played a total of two amazing shows before the then eight-year-old band decided to part ways.
During the short time I was a vocalist (not a singer), I gained some (read: a very small amount of) local notoriety and received several offers to become the vocalist for several other local metal bands, but I politely declined and decided it was time to move on.
And that’s when my life went stale for a while …
Work and school
I started my first job the day I got my license. I worked at a mom and pop shoe store a few days per week (just enough to cover the gas expenses to and from school, to shows, and back to work). I graduated high school in spring of 2008.
Three days before graduating, my father bought me a motorcycle – nothing too fancy, a Kawasaki Ninja 250 – as a graduation present. I’d been riding motorcycles since I was seven, and I was ready to take it to the asphalt. Let’s just say that adventure only lasted a day before another close brush with death.
I was riding on some winding back roads with my now ex-girlfriend’s parents. I hadn’t worn the wax off the outer edges of the tires and was caught off guard by a sharp curve … and I may or may not have been speeding. Instinct told me to hard brake for split-second, gear down, and hit the throttle – exactly what I should have done. I hugged the yellow line for a second, completely lost traction, and hit the white line halfway through the turn. As I slipped into the dirt on the shoulder, the bike stood up straight, and I hit a ditch head-on. I was catapulted and stopped bouncing and rolling just shy of 100ft from where my bike landed.
Somehow, I walked away practically unscathed. I broke my left arm in two places (I assume, since I walked out of the hospital before they had a good look at me), had a few, small scrapes on my left arm and lower back, and some gravel in the palms of my hands. Oh, and since I was scooting across the ground on my butt at about 60mph … let’s just say I opt to stand when I can these days.
I went back to work the next week at Lowe’s Home Improvement, pulling steel doors, loading wood and concrete for customers, and all my other regular duties.
The following two years after graduating, I jumped through several retail stores, such as The Shoe Dept., as a sales associate, worked in a paper accessories (paper towels, napkins, toilet tissue, etc.) factory as an assembly line worker, worked as a pin runner in the back of my step-father’s bowling center, and sold cell phones for Best Buy Mobile.
I was never quite content with working in retail. While I was always great with people, I was never happy, and I hated what I was doing. I would work a job until I couldn’t take it any longer, quit, and move on to the next job.
I went to the local community college immediately after high school for two semesters, before I decided it was time to leave the small town behind and move to Charlotte. Once in Charlotte, I worked several jobs and continued to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
Four semesters in, when I should have been finishing up an associate degree, I decided it was time to change majors to computer science. Suffice it to say, that wasn’t the most timely or bright decision I’ve ever made.
Fortunately, it was only a minor setback.
About a year after I had moved to the Charlotte metro area, I had been working at Best Buy Mobile for about six months. It was just another day at the box when a man walked in, shook hands with my boss, and walked into the managers’ office. A few minutes later, they both returned, shook hands again, and the man walked out with several brand new smartphones.
Curious, I asked my boss about it and learned the man was Aaron Baker and he worked for a tech site called PhoneDog, who had an ad partnership with Best Buy Mobile. (To this day, Aaron says my description of how this went down sounds like some sketchy drug deal, but this is exactly how I recall the events. At the time, it was rather odd.)
I reached out to Aaron on Twitter later that evening and introduced myself. Long story short, Aaron returned a few weeks later and asked for my help with a new site called BBerryDog.
At the time, I spent what little free time I had between two jobs and a full schedule at school tinkering with BlackBerrys and perusing the forums of the only tech site I cared about at the time, CrackBerry.com.
No, I didn’t read Engadget, TechCrunch, or any other tech site regularly. In fact, I didn’t even know they existed. I spent very little time on the Internet outside pillaging in some forums, Facebook, and homework.
During that time, I became quite knowledgeable about any and all BlackBerrys, and was everyone’s go-to tech guy, so an offer to be a volunteer forums moderator for a BlackBerry-dedicated site didn’t seem all that outlandish. I accepted and piled playing sheriff in an already fairly tame forum to my tight schedule.
Fast forward a couple months, and I was asked to write a short news piece. Never having written anything outside essays and research papers, I was hesitant, but I muscled through it. Soon enough, I was asked to write more. It grew to the point I was writing BlackBerry news every spare moment I had – between classes, during classes, in the midst of homework, during crazy hours of the night, etc.
A few months later, I accepted the role as Managing Editor of BBerryDog for a small paycheck, and started supplementing with a weekly Android column for PhoneDog. Eventually, I was spread so thin, I had to make a choice. A big choice.
I was in school full-time, the ME for BBerryDog, a contributor for PhoneDog, a part-time employee for Best Buy Mobile, and a part-time employee of Foxfire Lanes. I quit working for my stepfather, and backed down from the Managing Editor position at BBerryDog. As a result, I was asked to take a full-time position at PhoneDog, barring I quit my job at Best Buy Mobile (conflict of interest). I took a leap of faith, accepted the position – not fully convinced it would pay the bills – and cut back my school schedule to the bare minimum.
Eventually, I took another leap of faith and walked away from college. I realized I was wasting my time – not because college and a degree isn’t worth it, but because I wasn’t committed. My heart and mind were elsewhere. So, after realizing just how massive the opportunity beating my door down was, I decided that taking a step away from school was in my best interest.
The crazy part? I seemed to have the support of everyone around me – friends, family, and colleagues.
In the three years I worked for PhoneDog, I wrote over 1,400 articles – over 1,300 were editorials, while the rest were press releases, reviews, and some news pieces. I went to CES 2012, CES 2013, and a handful of one-off press events during my last year with the company. But in February, my time with PhoneDog came to an end. After some irreconcilable differences, I decided it was time to move on.
(No, contrary to popular belief, I was not fired or forced to leave. I left on my own terms, because I felt it was the right thing to do. And I still talk regularly with my former colleagues … my friends.)
While writing editorials day in and day out at PhoneDog, I made an unexpected friend on Twitter, Michael Fisher. I would write an editorial, and a few days later, Michael would unknowingly write practically the same exact article and, naturally, I would jokingly call him out on it. In the following days, I would write an editorial Michael had already written, and he would return the favor. It eventually turned into a weekly occurrence we came to expect.
Michael and I would run into each other at trade shows, joke back and forth, and I would wait for him in the rain while he took forever to taxi across Manhattan – you know, the sort of things practical strangers do for one another in a foreign city.
Naturally, we met up at CES 2013, which I went to as a lone ranger for PhoneDog. Michael introduced me to Jaime and Brandon. And being the stand-up gents they are – even as competitors – they helped me at every turn throughout the hectic show, offering me hotspots several times. Jaime even uploaded video footage for me. (Whadda guy!) We even went to dinner at 2:30 … AM after a long, crazy day of running around the insane 1.9 million square foot show.
We stayed in touch after the show. And once I became a free agent, I really didn’t have to think too hard about where I wanted to go. However, I almost got cold feet when Brandon told me he wanted the majority of my work to be YouTube videos. Me? I thought he’d gone mad. Have you seen my first few videos? Had he seen them?
No less, I accepted the offer and immediately (literally) started teaching myself the ropes in all things video, with some help from Jaime and Michael. I still haven’t graduated to Michael or Jaime status yet, but I can live with that. I strive to make every video better than the last, and I’ve haven’t even been a video editor for five months yet. I’m happy with myself.
I officially joined the Pocketnow team on February 11, 2013, and I’ve been having the time of my life ever since. I make several videos each week, write a handful of editorials, review new products as they become available, and work with a stellar bunch of dudes. What more could I ask for?
Now … and later
The guys here at Pocketnow have helped me in so many ways. One unexpected advantage of joining an elite team of tech guys was also joining a team of gym junkies. I’ve let myself go a bit since being a soccer player in high school, though I was never really a small guy. I’m stocky, and I will always be that way. That’s the Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish) in me. But with the encouragement from Anton and Jaime, I’ve spent the last few weeks shrinking my gut and rediscovering that I actually have a jaw line.
I’m finally happy with the work I do, and am lucky enough to have a hobby that also pays the bills.
As for non-Pocketnow stuff, I’m working on a few side-projects. I’m finally beginning to put some of my ideas into motion –any of them, most of you wouldn’t care about. They’re not directly related to technology or subjects I’m even passionate about. But unlike this bio, it’s not always about me. I’m building a publication for my mother and sister, where they can write about something that matters to them the most, where they can share their own stories.
Other than that, I’m finally taking the plunge and moving into the Charlotte city limits in the next month. And I’m making a move I’ve wanted to make for over two years now: working from a remote office. Working from home is awesome … for a while. It’s one of the many benefits of writing for a tech site. But I’ve longed for the separation of work and home for as long as I can remember. (Be on the lookout for a new video set in July!)
In the little time I have left over from everything, you can find me on Twitter and Google+, on a disc golf course, cruising some curvy roads in my car, or trying new restaurants and bars with friends.
My friend Casey Hendrickson also deserves a giant shout-out for her excellent photography! Go check out her Facebook page and give a thumbs up! Tell her Taylor sent you.