My name is Aaron Todd Sherrill. I am the author, developer, and publisher of Chinese Toolbox software. This page describes my work history more casually than my resume. In doing so, it provides more information for certain times, and it may fill in some apparent gaps. The writing is in reverse chronological order with the most recent events in my life described first.
In October 2015 I flew to Fort Lauderdale to visit extended family and begin scouting out the job market in the US. In December I returned to Raleigh, North Carolina where we lived years ago. I am currently beginning a transition back to the US, both for our kids' university studies in the US and to establish a home for vacations and retirement.
On January 8, 2016 I accepted a software development position in Asheboro, NC.
Once I’m well settled into my new job (it has first priority now), I’ll resume development of Chinese Toolbox in my free time. Much effort has already gone into Chinese Toolbox since the 2013 release, and at least a few more months of development is needed.
Our school in Taiwan continues to grow and do well. My wife (Bethany) does a great job of managing it, and she’s got two fantastic helpers. I can’t praise Mary and Grace enough. They are so supportive and helpful to Bethany. It seems that whenever I step away from BCS, Bethany innovates and grows the business in ways that I wouldn’t expect. This is one of my favorite recent pictures of the two of us.
For most of this period, I lived in Taiwan with my wife and two sons. My wife and I own a cram school in Taipei, where we teach English to children after their regular school day. The business has since expanded to the teaching of other subjects (math, physics, biology, Chinese literature, etc.) with several employees and partners.
We moved to Taiwan in 2003 to start our own business and to expose our kids to the Chinese language and culture. The language goal has been achieved; both boys are fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
Besides our school, I spend a great deal of time developing software. My first product is Chinese Toolbox, software to make reading and working with Chinese a little bit easier. I am also developing software for our school and for the kids that study with us. It will eventually be released as Language Toolbox for Schools and English Toolbox.
In 2010 boys and I were back in North Carolina for a year and a half. Andrew finished high school at Apex HS, and Aaron attended Salem Middle School. In the summer/fall of 2011, Andrew went to college at UNC in Charlotte and Aaron and I returned to Taiwan.
On my first day as an Apple employee (Nov. 10, 1997), I attended a press conference in Cupertino where Steve Jobs introduced the “Think Different” campaign: new store, new tools, new, new new. That was a great time to be at Apple. I accepted a position in Raleigh, North Carolina as a consulting engineer on “the Postal Project”. Not many knew of Apple’s professional services division. It was a great job, though a little odd: we developed software for the US Postal Service that ran on Windows. We used OpenStep and WebObjects development tools to create desktop and web-based software than ran on PCs in USPS call centers.
My main project was Signature Confirmation, the same service currently provided by the Postal Service. Initially, only the development (coding) of the software was my responsibility, but eventually, I took on the job of Signature Confirmation analyst as well. In this role I met with the Signature Confirmation customers (Postal Service managers) in Washington D.C. to gather and work out the service and software requirements.
In 1996 I moved on to NetObjects, a software startup in Redwood City, California. I was very eager at the time to transition into a position where I could work in product development. My first assignment was in support, albeit, very technical support. I handled the support questions that involved the programmable and database aspects of NetObjects Fusion: the component interface. From there I transitioned successfully onto the NetObjects Fusion development team.
In the summer of 1995 I moved from Taiwan to Fremont, California to work with Addtron, a Taiwanese network hardware company, a subsidiary of Delta Electronics. They manufactured network expansion cards, hubs and switches. Though I had no former experience in marketing, I was hired to be the marketing manager in their west coast sales office. This job turned out to be a very positive learning experience for me. I oversaw their support operations, handled all advertising (including meeting and negotiating with advertising agencies), and managed trade show appearances, including designing booths, coordinating shipping, manning the booth during shows, meeting with customers, explaining product details, etc.
Eventually, my interest in software development led me to NetObjects, an Internet startup.
I began my career in 1988 with my first full-time job at a company called Chaplet. They were one of the early laptop computer manufacturers in Taiwan. I accepted the job as a BIOS programmer, but on the first day I was given a user manual to edit by hand. I was horrified at the English in the product manual, and almost immediately I told my manager it had to be totally rewritten. (Obviously, the girl who wrote the original manual didn’t pay attention in English class! Well, to think about it, they’d probably say the same thing about me if I wrote a manual in Chinese. Yes, I’m sure they would!)
At the start of my career I had no experience in technical writing, but I knew poor English when I saw it, and I had taken a technical writing course in college. After a few days, a computer (with a 20 MB hard drive) was issued to me. I installed Microsoft Word for DOS (not Windows—that long ago!), and I began writing. I told my manager that after rewriting the manual, I wanted my programming position back. It turned out that I never did any programming at that job. I developed an interest in writing. I was so proud when my manuals were printed and packaged with the newly manufactured computers. Incredibly, one user manual was given good marks in Portable Computing magazine when they did a complete product comparison between Chaplet’s laptop computer and Toshiba’s laptop computer. In that article Toshiba was referred to as “Goliath” and Chaplet to “David”. Here are some photos of that manual and magazine article.
I was so encouraged by that review and I had developed such pride in my work that I decided to continue as a technical writer. For years afterward I worked as an independent technical writer in Taipei, advertising my documentation services and writing manuals for the many technology companies in Taipei and the surrounding area. I didn’t make a lot of money, but the work was flexible and I got to work with lots of different companies. Sometimes I worked at home. Sometimes I hung out at the customer’s office talking with engineers about the product I was documenting. I still have a box of some of the manuals that I wrote.
In 1991 I took on a special project; I was to write the Programmer’s Reference Manual for UMAX’s scanners. This was my first chance to get back into programming, though in a limited way. My first challenge was to learn the C programming language, since, amazingly, that was not one of the languages taught at the two universities I attended. I had learned FORTRAN, COBOL, PL/1, Pascal and Assembly, but not C. By the end of 1991, after having finished the reference manual and having learned the basics of C, it was time to move on. I needed to learn C++ and Windows programming.
In May 1985 I finally graduated from college. I had a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in Shreveport in Computer Science. It would be at least three years before I would begin utilizing this degree.
At the time I was especially active in the church. The church encouraged all young college graduates to devote a year or two after college to serve the church full-time, so naturally, that is what I did. A year later in the summer of 1986 a major church training in Taiwan opened up for international participation. Still single and not yet employed, the church encouraged me to participate in the Taiwan training. I had been hoping to start my career, but decided instead to attend the training for one semester.
Around 300 of us flew from Los Angeles to Taiwan in August 1986 to participate in what we all called “The Full-Time Training in Taipei”, or FTTT for short.
Well, one thing led to another. In November, three months into the training, I met my wife to be, so I remained in the training for the next semester. (Actually, my experience was a little more spiritual than this.) By the summer of 1987 we knew we wanted to get married. After less than one year in Taiwan, most of my original colleagues from the US returned home. I stayed in Taiwan, for one obvious reason. In the summer of 1987 I moved out of the church training center and rented my own apartment. Right away, I began teaching English and studying Chinese.