Finding 9: The Bartering Nerd

Posted by on April 23, 2013

The Minnesota School of Business-Plymouth (MSB) campus will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first graduating class this June. Appropriately, the campus will be holding the graduation ceremony at the same location (Plymouth Creek Center) and feature the same keynote speaker (Plymouth City Council member Judy Johnson) as the inaugural commencement ceremony. Campus Community Manager Matt Marek is tracking down all nine members of that first graduating class to tell their stories, and catch up with this trailblazing group of graduates.

massage therapy program

I had to take a picture with Jen (left) and one of the many storm trooper cutouts that are posted up throughout the office.

The things I do for a great story…

I plowed my Kia Rio through what seemed like the 100th snowmageddon of the season to meet with massage therapy program grad Jen Buehl last Thursday. After an hour-long, white-knuckled drive, Buehl and the merry band of nerds at The Nerdery in Bloomington, Minn., welcomed me with open arms, Coke-bottle glasses and pocket protectors…literally.

To help set the scene for you, their work environment is far from traditional. “I really hope you aren’t allergic to dogs,” Jen wrote to me in our email correspondence leading up to our meeting.

Fortunately, I am not.

After reading Jen’s bio information on the company website, I knew I was in for an interesting afternoon. After touring the dog-friendly, bean bag chair-lined, casually outfitted workspace, I was led to the conference room scheduled for us. The picture to the right says it all about this place, in my opinion.

massage therapy program

It was pretty intimidating conducting an interview in the presence of Jean-Luc Picard and Mr. Spock.

Her current job in the catering division of nerd support (yes, that’s her actual title), forces her to be the utility person of the office.

“We do everything,” she said. “We’re the department you come to when you need something last minute. There’s nothing equivalent to what nerd support is, because you can’t really define it.”

After talking with Jen Buehl, her last 10 years have truly prepared her for her ‘Swiss army knife’ of a position.

Will Barter for Services

As I alluded to in the title of this post, Jen’s path has been far from traditional. Massage can be a very lucrative career field, depending on your path and definition of lucrative.

In an email exchange prior to the interview, she alerted me to her non-monetary forms of reimbursement:

“I massage part-time and I use my knowledge to trade services when I can,” she wrote to me.

Naturally, I had asked her to expand on that during our chat.

“I actually use massage for trade more than anything,” she told me.

“What’s the weirdest thing you have traded for?” I inquired.

“I trade massage for house cleanings, to get my taxes done, and beef,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Literally, beef?” I asked.

“Yup, I got an eighth of a cow. I really like the bartering potential of [massage]. I [used to barter] with a lot of vendors at the Minneapolis Farmers Market for corn, or a trinket…I think it’s a lost art.”

Who knew?

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Jen’s full-time job has made massage a part-time endeavor. She is currently back in school taking accounting classes, and between nerd, body and school-work, she chugs along at a breakneck pace. It’s been like that since her start at Minnesota School of Business 10 years ago.

Her start could truly be another lengthy post in itself. Nearly five years out of high school, and after being laid off from her assembly job for the second time, she decided to check out the massage therapy program at the Plymouth campus. The same night of her initial inquiry, she started classes.

Naturally, I thought she had considered massage in the past. “So it was something you had always been interested in?” I asked.

“Nooooooooo,” she replied, shaking her head. “I like to help people, and I was looking for something a little more personable.”

Just a few short months later, Jen graduated with her diploma, becoming the first person from her immediate family to not only graduate from college, but also high school.

Her start in the field was admittedly rocky. “I tried to stay with some of my clients from my externship by going to their homes, and it just bombed,” she said.

While she was in school, she started her assembly job for a third time. “They worked around my schedule and it was a good paying, union job,” she said. It wasn’t long after that her massage career started progressing.

Four months after graduation, she started as a chiropractic assistant at Chiropractic USA in Long Lake, Minn., where she stayed for nearly five years. She followed that with four years at Watertown Family Chiropractic before landing at The Parlour in Victoria, Minn., where she massages to this day.

“I was there every week, every Friday and every other Saturday,” Jen said. “Since I started at The Nerdery and started school again, I have gone to just working every other Saturday. I’ve got my regulars, and it’s still really fun.”

Hooked on Massage

Ultimately, it’s helping others, and the bartering potential, that keeps Jen going in massage today.

“I’ve thought about leaving it, but I know I will never give it up completely,” she told me. “I have my regulars and bartering clients that I’ll never give up because I love them too much.”

It was her higher education experience at MSB that helped her to get where she is now, and where she hopes to go.

“I’m very thankful for everything that MSB gave me,” she said. “I was so thankful for the business side of things, and the computer skills I [gained]…Overall, I’m very happy with the education that I got.”

Thank you for your Interest in Minnesota School of Business.