Student interview: Alanson alumnus shares career path
Robert Haines (from left) sits down for an interview with Alanson public communications students, seniors Ashleigh Ross and Sierra Oliver. Haines returns to Northern Michigan during the summer season, but resides in Houston, Texas, during the winter months. He shared with the student reporters his career path. Haines was a stock broker for more than 40 years. (Courtesy Photo / October 4, 2013)
Alanson alumnus Robert Haines finds it imperative to research for the right job. He suggests reflecting and learning from real life experiences and taking tests such as the Strong's Interest Inventory and IQ tests. While he thinks the assessments are helpful, he values experience just as much. His own long career journey included many remarkable activities and endeavors which eventually led him to the right occupation.
Haines was born in 1946 during the age of the baby boomers. He grew up on a farm near Alanson, milking cows at the age of 5, and driving tractors at age 7. During this time, class sizes in what was Littlefield Public Schools (currently Alanson Public Schools) was expected to jump from 20 to 30 students, but this class of 1964 had only 11 students.
Haines' class was made up of six girls and five boys. In kindergarten, the small class was able to go through the curriculum of kindergarten, first, and second grade in one year. These high achieving students all went on to become professionals. The A-students in his grade eventually became teachers; the B-students became businessmen; and, the C-students became company presidents. When Haines graduated from high school, he then went on to attend Henry Ford Community College and earned his associate degree as an X-ray technician. Shortly after graduation he became employed at a hospital, thus starting his career journey.
Disgruntled with the pay he was making at the hospital, he left his job and traveled to Europe. He met others his age and began hitchhiking throughout the various countries with his new friends. More journeys were ahead of him. He eventually returned to the United States.
At the time he arrived, the Vietnam War loomed. Haines was drafted, but because of a previous motorcycle injury, he could not participate in combat. He was put in the medical corps as a manager in a hospital in Thailand. He said he "didn't want to kill anyone, but to help save others." In this new position he became a second lieutenant; something that was unheard of for someone his age. He served in the Army for seven years working at the Thailand hospital.
Post-Vietnam, Haines attended North Central Michigan College in Petoskey before transferring to Western Michigan University. Haines' college schedule fluctuated as he became distracted with the usual collegiate lifestyle of socializing, and late night and early morning studying. His weekends were filled with a part-time job as well.
While at college, Haines was contacted by a stockbroker in Houston, Texas. After their phone conversation, Haines was invited to come to Houston for an interview. Haines paid his own way to travel to Houston for a Monday appointment. He arrived in time for his 9 a.m. interview; and, by 9:30 a.m. that same morning he was placed on the payroll. On that first day, he was given only a desk and telephone, and no instruction in selecting stocks. Through this he became a self-taught stockbroker, and was developing his own ideas and techniques for the job. Haines remained in Houston as a prominent stockbroker for more than 40 years at Southwest Securities in Houston, Texas. Later, he was able to set up the groundwork and environment of the brokerage business for his son, Kirby, who followed in his footsteps. His eldest son, Cory, went on to become the founder of the online car part dealership, modernperformance.com.
Now retired, Haines' long journey in his career eventually brought him back to Northern Michigan for part of the year and in Houston the rest of the year. As an Alanson alum, Haines has generously given back to the school and community. Most recently, he donated subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today to Alanson High School. Haines feels that these newspapers will keep students abreast of business and world affairs. He advocates using them during any extra class time. His advice to students is to not take a job where you know you will not perform well. His unusual path to his occupation is an example of how experience can determine success.
Sierra Oliver is a senior at Alanson Public Schools and the daughter of Mandy and Rob Oliver of Alanson.
Ashleigh Ross is a senior at Alanson Public Schools and the daughter of Jim and Lynette Ross of Alanson.