Growing up, I never thought I’d choose to work with my dad. He started The Cook Company when I was five years old.

I grew up observing his triumphs and setbacks, through economic expansions and recessions. I didn’t fully understand what he was building, but I knew that he was working hard to do it, putting two kids through college and supporting his family while pursuing the dream of being an independent entrepreneur.

As I grew older, he always told me that the door would be open should I ever want to learn the business and join him. It was never really a thought for me, and much of that was due to my parents encouraging me to pursue my own passions and follow my own path. I was also stubbornly independent, wanting to prove to myself that I could succeed on my own in professional endeavors – also very much encouraged by my parents.

My early path was set during my first trip abroad in 1992 when I was 13. My parents took me to England during a school break and a curiosity for international travels and affairs was born. I began reading The Economist at my dad’s suggestion and consulted maps frequently to figure out where countries were located. I was fortunate to travel abroad with my parents many more times, including a trip to Tunisia and Italy to visit my brother, who was serving in the Peace Corps. One summer my dad and I worked out a deal for me to travel to France to attend French Scout Camp and stay with a host family, contingent upon me earning enough money through babysitting jobs to pay for half of my airfare. I proved so successful that my lobbying for future such deals was denied.

At Carleton College, I pursued a degree in Political Science/International Relations, which included a study abroad term in Beijing, China. That experience opened a new curiosity and interest in China and Asia in general, such that after graduation I spent a year in western China (Yinchuan and Lanzhou) teaching English. It was fascinating to observe the contrast between the less developed western regions of the country with the booming eastern cities. My interest in China deepened with that experience.

Upon returning from China, my international-oriented career took off. I moved to Seattle and spent time working first at The Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, followed by two years at the University of Washington, where I earned a Master of Arts in International Studies with a focus on Chinese politics and economics. From there, I went on to spend five years at The National Bureau of Asian Research, primarily in their Washington, D.C. office. I rose to become a Senior Project Director, responsible for overseeing research projects on U.S. policy interests in Asia from conception to final delivery to the policymaking community.

Living in Washington, D.C., and having exposure to the policymaking community was an unforgettable and fulfilling experience. But something was missing. As I stepped back to review where I had been and explored where the next adventure might be, it was clear to me that I did not want to remain in the think tank environment. I wanted to test myself in the business world by providing a valuable service. Furthermore, my passion for the outdoors through camping, backpacking, and skiing, developed an itch to return to the west.

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Soon, the idea of approaching my dad to see if I could help him continue and build on the success he had built for almost thirty years grew more appealing. I knew he was unlikely to retire in the full sense of the word, but I also knew that he would not sell the business when he could no longer provide the level of service that he demanded of himself. I thought it would be a shame to see his creation simply disappear.

Nevertheless, making the decision to join him at The Cook Company wasn’t easy. I love my dad and have infinite appreciation for all he and my mom have done to support me through all stages of life, including as cheerleaders in my professional endeavors – but could I work with him on a daily basis? Could I make the transition to an industry that I tangentially understood, but in which I had no background or training? Would I be able to succeed in helping him grow the business by offering new ideas and insights that would position it to thrive for the next thirty years? Would his clients even want to work with me?

As I weighed these questions, I also discussed with Christina – my fiancée at the time and now my wife and mother of our sons, Theodore and Gabriel – it became clear that I had to try. It might not work out, but I would always wonder what might have been had I not picked up the phone on that hot summer day in Washington, D.C., to let my dad know that I would like to work with him. I think he was as shocked at receiving the call as I was placing it.

I have been at The Cook Company for over ten years now, having joined my dad in the fall of 2011. It was the best decision I could have made and I thrill at waking up each day to help meet client needs and drive the company forward for the next thirty years.