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Big Nerd Ranch Burns


Aaron Hillegass

For much of the history of computers, technical training has received very little attention. I started Big Nerd Ranch because I thought it could be taken to another level – expert instructors, relevant materials, great settings. I’m very proud of what we do: we have become the technical training company for people who hate technical training. But for the last five years, I have been looking over my shoulder for something terrible to happen. Well, it did.

On Thanksgiving, I gave thanks for the 16 students who had signed up for the Cocoa class that was going to happen in one week. That night, the lodge we rent for our classes burned to the ground with all our equipment inside.

So, we had one week to find a place where 16 students could sleep, eat, and study. One week to replace all our equipment. One week to get books, t-shirts, and coffee mugs printed.

And we delivered. Emily Herman, my fearless business partner, called a dozen hotels that laughed at her request. But the thirteenth, said, “Sure, we have a classroom and a 16 guest rooms available next week.” I’m sure that Emily, who has been a dear friend since we were six, would have built an encampment of yurts if that was the only way that we could deliver on our promises to our students.

Jaye Boyer, the detail-oriented one here at the ranch, figured out all the logistics and made sure that everyone knew where to be when. She directed shuttle to the new location and made sure that we were fed three solid meals each day.

I ordered computers, projectors, T-shirts, books, etc. The projector, the last item to arrive, came on Thursday. The students came on Friday. The class went beautifully.

The results of the investigation of the fire have arrived: It seems that someone stole our equipment (Less than $15,000 worth) and then set fire to the building (More than $2,000,000 worth) to cover up the burglary. The culprit has not been caught.

The lodge is part of Historic Banning Mills. Our hearts go out to the owners, Mike and Donna.

Here is our flickr feed, most were taken at Historic Banning Mills.

I am thankful for the grace with which Emily and Jaye tackled this challenge. I am thankful that we had enough money in the bank that we could easily replace all our equipment. I am thankful for the students who were patient with me when I would say stuff like, “I dunno. Let’s ask the people at the front desk.” You all rule.

Shameless marketing: We still do training better than anyone else. We have some great classes and delightul locations lined up for the next few months, and all our equipment is brand-new. 🙂 So, call Emily (678.595.6773) and sign up today.


Aaron Hillegass

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