10 Mar 2010

Getting to know you: Michael Schwartz and James Constable


Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews to get to know Vertical Measures employees. It features a conversation between VM link builders Michael Schwartz and James Constable after they shared Employee of the Month honors for this month.

Michael Schwartz: Before we kick off the first interview in this "Get to Know your VM employee" interview series, I must point out that James is drinking from a pink cup. James, what is it about pink cups thMichael Schwartz (left) and James Constable are still fighting over this month's Employee of the Month award. (Elise Redlin-Cook/Vertical Measures)at attracts you so much?
James Constable: The key thing I look for with any cup is its ability to hold water. This cup hands down holds more water than any of my alternatives in the cupboard, and I wasn’t going to discriminate against it based on its colour.
Michael Schwartz: The reasoning is solid, but I still don’t know how you can’t just go with the Sparkletts water bottle (Editor’s note: the preceding sentence was not an endorsement for or against Sparkletts). Call me old school. Anyway, let’s get right into it. Tell the good people about where you went to school.
James Constable: I went to The University of Birmingham in England to study my degree in Business Studies, but partway through my second year I was offered an international placement at Arizona State for a year, which is what brings me here today.
Michael Schwartz: You went to ASU, so does that mean they didn’t teach you to read in England?
James Constable: It was actually because of the stellar reputation of the W.P. Carey School of Business that the University of Birmingham decided to allow me to study abroad. However, if I was to be brutally honest about my own motivation, I chose the school based on its beautiful weather – I’d had enough of rainy days back home. What was it that made you decide to leave the Valley of the Suns(.com) and study in Mexico?
Michael Schwartz: I went to U of A to cover basketball for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, and that’s what I did, although I expected them to at least make one Final Four while I was there. Still, can’t complain about covering a program that has made 25 straight NCAA Tournaments (for now….). I got my journalism degree and some real world experience covering the strange saga of Lute Olson’s leave of absence. Overall I had the best time of my life at U of A.
Now let me get to the chase. Tell the people the real reason why you ended up in Arizona after graduation. We know it wasn’t just to work at Vertical Measures (although I’m sure that’s a nice side benefit)!
James Constable: Whilst I was at ASU, I met a wonderful young lady (which I was actually annoyed about because I was just looking to be a wild man while I was abroad), but we ended up staying together after I left the country, and now we are married and I have moved back here so that we can actually be together, which is always a bonus in a relationship.
Michael Schwartz: Cough cough, whipped!
James Constable: Tell us a little more about your sports journalism passion and how it has brought you to Vertical Measures. I know that you just wrote a great post on how the two are intertwined
Michael Schwartz: Thank you for that James, you are too kind. I’ve been doing sports journalism since I was a junior in high school. My highlights are covering the 2007 Diamondbacks and 2008 Dodgers for MLB.com (only reporter to recover the NL West champs two years in a row, baby!) as well as UA basketball and baseball for the Daily Wildcat. In October 2008 I founded the ESPN-affiliated Phoenix Suns blog ValleyoftheSuns.com. We are credentialed to all home games and are regularly featured on ESPN.com and ESPN chats. I see blogs like ValleyoftheSuns as the future of sports journalism, and we’re trying to do all we can to become the change that revolutionizes the industry.
James Constable: Now I understand congratulations are in order for winning Employee of the Month. Would you care to share with us the work that you have been doing to be recognised in this way.
Michael Schwartz: You know, I have to give all the credit to my teammates. Couldn’t have done it without you James, my co-Employee of the Month! Haha, but yeah, you would have to talk to the people who voted on this award to know for sure, but I feel I got this for helping to train some of our newer staff members on link building and for speaking at the Associated College Press journalism conference as well as the News 21 Spring Training session at ASU. I really enjoyed both of the speaking engagements on the topic of SEO and journalism and look forward to doing more in the future. The real question is why do YOU feel you were recognized (note American spelling) in this way?
James Constable: I think that we both really stepped up this month when we needed to, got a lot done and were really efficient this past month. Like you mention, we had some new members of the staff join us, and it was a case of all hands on deck, and after a rousing speech from Elise/Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, we all got it together – as a team!
I understand that as well as being an active sports writer, you also play basketball with a team you have master planned from the ground up. Could you let us know how you are doing so far this season?
Michael Schwartz: Yeah, we went 0-12 last season and a lot of the blame for our struggles went to the GM (yours truly). I was real aggressive in the offseason, signed a couple guys who can actually play and we started 3-1 (no comment on our four-game losing streak since). We’re still looking for a big man, and on that subject, aren’t you 6-5 James?
James Constable: I am indeed 6-5, but like Shawn Bradley that doesn’t fully qualify you for the game of basketball, and growing up in England, I don’t have that much experience playing. If you’re still willing to take that gamble then I may get involved next season to lead you to glory.
Michael Schwartz: I will put in a call to your agent. Before we run out of time, let’s get to the important stuff, so I’m packing this with two questions. 1. What does it mean to you to get the Vertical Measures Employee of the Month Top Dawg trophy? 2. What’s the greatest white elephant gift you’ve ever received at a Vertical Measures holiday party?
James Constable: It means a lot to be awarded with the Top Dawg, but having to share these honours with yourself really grinds my gears. Deep down in my heart, every other day when I have to hand the trophy back to you, I know that I am not the only Top Dawg in this office. But I’m going to use that energy to put in the training time necessary to come back stronger and win it outright next time!
The greatest white elephant gift I have ever received at a Vertical Measures holiday party is a close one, but it would have to go to the only gift I have ever received, which is $20 of pennies from yourself. I thought it would be funny to pick the one that you had clearly brought because everyone else had neatly wrapped their gifts and yours was just a cardboard box in a grocery bag. That one backfired.
What are you planning on doing with your time with the Top Dawg trophy?
Michael Schwartz: It’s hard to say. I could take it on a long walk on the beach, but we don’t have any beaches in Arizona, so that’s probably out. Maybe I could take it to a Spring Training game on a warm Saturday afternoon. There are just so many options, it’s hard to pick just one.
OK James, I think it’s time to get back to work so we can stay in the running for next month’s Employee of the Month voting. Thanks for taking the time to get to know us, we’ll be here all month!