Scott Skinger is the founder and CEO of TrainSignal, a Chicago-based company that makes computer training for IT professionals. Founded in 2002 it has grown to exceed $7 million in revenue after being bootstrapped on personal credit cards. Prior to founding TrainSignal, he was the president of SAS Technology Advisors, and prior to that position he worked with Computer Learning Center. He studied psychology and graduated from Northern Illinois University.
Sramana: Scott, let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where were you born, and what kind of environment where you raised in that led to your entrepreneurial journey?
Scott Skinger: I was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois. My parents got divorced when I was five. I lived with my mother for most of my life and then moved in with my father when I was in high school. I went to college at Northern Illinois University and graduated with a bachelor of arts in psychology. After I graduated, I decided not to pursue a doctorate. I really struggled for six years trying to find myself and find a career I could be passionate about.
I did all kinds of odd jobs. I did sales, I waited tables, and I struggled to find myself. That was ultimately very helpful because I gained a better appreciation for not having that passion. I definitely understand what a blue-collar job is like. I also had good success in sales which was very beneficial for my entrepreneurship in the long run.
Sramana: The one thing I would like to pin down is the chronology. What time was this?
Scott Skinger: I left Northern Illinois in 1992 with 10 hours left on my degree. I worked a lot of odd jobs until 1996. I commuted for three days a week to complete my degree in 1996. Between 1996 and 1998, I lived in Chicago and I spent a lot of time waiting tables and enjoyed being young. When I was 28, in 1998, that is when I took a sales position at Computer Learning Center. That launched me into my IT career.
Sramana: What was Computer Learning Center?
Scott Skinger: It was a for-profit technical school that is now out of business. I worked there initially as an admissions rep. I sold a network engineering program, and I fell in love with the program itself. After selling that program for six months, I decided to attend the course myself and went through the network engineering program.
Sramana: What happened after that?
Scott Skinger: I really developed a strong passion for IT. I found something that I could latch onto. I studied Novel NetWare 4.1. I started taking a lot of certification exams and I landed a job as a network administrator while I was still in school. I continued to education myself, and I studied a lot of Microsoft and Cisco curricula. I achieved over 30 certifications and fell in love with the process of learning more. Within IT, there is unlimited learning. It is a profession of lifetime learning. From there I decided to go back to Computer Learning Center and start teaching. That is how I got my first exposure to teaching. My first course was a Windows 2000 course in late 1999.