Michael Miller (staff member) in a red plaid shirt smiles for a staff photo.

Full Circle Moments: A Spotlight on Office Staff Member Michael Miller

In April of 2009, Michael Miller started working at Visions as a Programmer I. Three years later, he left Visions to take a job in Silicon Valley, working for a gaming company called PlayForge.

“I was a back-end server engineer and worked on a few different games like Zombie Farm, Eat Eat Hooray, Tree World and Zombie Farm Battles,” shares Michael.

Saban Brands, an intellectual property company known for The Power Rangers, had bought PlayForge, but subsequently shut down the studio and sold off its assets. Michael spent another six months with the company, then went to work for a women’s apparel company called Tobi.

Working in order fulfillment and warehousing, Michael found that he didn’t particularly care for that type of work, or the people he was working for. So, after getting back in touch with some former colleagues, he returned to Visions as a Programmer II and worked his way up to his current role of Technology Services Manager.

Having worked in two different industries during his few years away, Michael saw some stark differences between companies like PlayForge and Tobi and organizations like Visions.

“At a game company, it’s about money. With the women’s apparel company, I said, ‘What am I here for?’” shares Michael. “It’s not like there’s anything wrong with those companies, I just didn’t find fulfillment in the work itself.”

Now, almost 10 years after coming back to Visions, Michael sees how impactful and important the work that we do is.

“Who and what we’re serving is much more localized,” he says. “My favorite part about working here is the mission, the projects, and the team.”

“The great irony of my life is that I’m working here.”

Believe it or not, Michael was not a good student. In his junior year of high school, he got sent to a continuation school, and, because it was framed so negatively back then, he did everything he could to return to his old school. What he didn’t realize at the time was that the continuation school perfectly fit his needs.

“I thrived at the continuation school,” states Michael. “They let me do a lot of independent work. I felt much more engaged and well-suited to that type of learning style, but, because of how the whole thing was presented, and my own 16 year-old immaturity, I couldn’t see how good it was for me.”

One year after Michael graduated from high school, Visions opened. Now, as someone who has worked at the organization for over 12 years, Michael sees how a school like Visions, and a program like our Independent Study Academy, was exactly what he needed in high school.

“I can see what we’re offering to kids and going, ‘That is what I needed’,” shares Michael. “Students can come here without the stigma of an ‘independent study’ program. I can still feel the shame I felt during that time, and I want to make sure the kids have the opportunity to experience this without those feelings.”

After high school, Michael joined the Marines and spent three years in Okinawa as a telephone switchboard technician. Then, he returned home to pursue a degree in Computer Programming, first at American River College and then at UC Davis. Despite his efforts however, he struggled to pass the, as Michael put it, “non-technical” classes, necessary to graduate and did not receive his degree.

“I’m actually really bad at school. The great irony of my life is that I’m working here,” he jokes.

But eventually, with the support of his manager and Visions’ HR Department, Michael returned to UC Davis and completed his degree while still working full-time at Visions. Now, he uses his “technical” expertise to lead our amazing IT team.

Projects, PCs & Pastries

Michael is most proud of two projects that he’s worked on here at Visions, the LPAD rewrite that took place in 2018 and the transferring of LPAD to Amazon Web Services over the summer.

“Our team looked at every aspect of LPAD and either rewrote it or got rid of it. We redid the entire system to be a more modern platform,” explains Michael. “We also transferred LPAD to AWS, [which was] taking the server infrastructure and putting it into Amazon’s cloud. This allows us to scale it a lot more and handle a larger load of users.”

Aside from his work projects, Michael likes to spend his time gaming on his PC – Starfield, Fallout, MMO, Skyrim and Subnautica specifically. He also loves cooking and is venturing more into baking, recently taking a five day pastry class in the South of France on an anniversary trip with his wife. He would also love to get back into an older hobby of his, scuba diving.

Whether it’s playing on computers at home or at work, Michael has found fulfillment again in what he’s doing, and credits his team and the organization for helping him get back to that.

“I’ve been here long enough that I’ve seen so much organizational growth and how much we’ve not just grown, but improved,” says Michael. “I want to call out the team. I can’t do it all by myself.