Career as a Coat of Many Colors
|Rob Hill ’95, his wife, Amber, and their son, Truman, are pictured by the Kissing Tree on the Transylvania campus. The family lives in Nashville, where Rob has a multi-faceted career in teaching, writing, and business.|
Describing the career path that Rob Hill ’95 is following is a lot like trying to hit a moving target. From managing a restaurant to being an attorney in a law firm, investing in real estate, and becoming a published book author—among many other pursuits—Hill has chosen an alternative work style that continues to evolve and that some say is a characteristic of his generation.
Like the proverbial coat of many colors, Hill’s education and career reflect a great variety of interests. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and business administration from Transylvania, a law degree from the University of Kentucky, and an MBA degree from Vanderbilt University, Hill is using his liberal arts education and expertise in law and business to carve out a niche in many occupational areas.
Among those areas has been a brief stint managing a pizza restaurant, doing patent research for a high-tech firm in Atlanta, handling the legal side of real estate transactions, owning a media and music management company, writing two successful books, preparing to launch a Web site for landlords and renters, and teaching a college course in business law.
Hill’s enthusiasm for getting so involved began at Transylvania, where he says he became more outgoing compared with his high school years. He was active in Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and Student Government Association, was an admissions and a resident assistant, and a member of Psi Chi, the psychology honorary.
“I credit Pi Kappa Alpha with opening my eyes to working with other people, dealing with money, and getting things done,” Hill says. “A lot of things I’ve done in life, I’ve pulled directly from the lessons I learned in the fraternity.”
Even after deciding that law was an area of great interest and earning his J.D. degree in 1999, Hill never saw himself choosing a traditional path by settling in at a law firm.
“I certainly never had the idea that I was going to be a regular partner in a law firm,” Hill says. “I enjoyed working with the inventors, creators, developers, and engineers who are actually doing the stuff more than I did the practical matter of building a law firm. I’ve been willing to trade a partnership and a six-figure salary in the third year of practice, as many lawyers now have, for a lot of time to pursue other things.”
One thing seems certain: Hill is unlikely to land in any one fulltime job.
“My wife was with me for part of the time that I was practicing normal, ordinary law as an attorney, and she said I was the most miserable person she had ever known in those few months.”
A common thread that runs through Hill’s multi-hued coat is a desire to be around creative people. “To me, entrepreneurship in business is just another aspect of creation or innovation,” he says.
That urge led him to move to Atlanta immediately after graduating from law school to join a Transy classmate—Mike Finley ’90—at Radiant Systems, a high tech firm with an intellectual property department. “I worked with software and hardware developers and engineers to patent some of their technologies,” says Hill.
It was in Atlanta that he began working in real estate law, handling property transaction closings, and where he also met his wife, Amber. They soon moved to Savannah, where Hill wrote his first book, Savannah Squares: A Keepsake Tour of Gardens, Architecture, and Monuments, that also includes his photographs of the city. It’s sold over 7,000 copies. Another book—What No One Ever Tells You about Investing in Real Estate: Real-Life Advice from 101 Successful Investors—has sold over 30,000 copies.
Hill and his wife, along with their almost two-year-old son, Truman, now live in Nashville, where Hill is an adjunct professor of business law at Belmont University.
With the arrival of his first child, Hill says he has tried to cut back on the sheer number of his career pursuits, to have more time to spend with his family.
One of the businesses he shut down this year was Harpring Hill Media, which he founded in 2004 primarily to manage and produce the bluegrass band Blind Corn Liquor Pickers. The group features two of Hill’s Transy classmates, Joel Serdenis ’95 and Travis Young ’95. In addition to teaching, Hill is working on another book, tentatively titled Seat Belts Kill: and Other Lessons I Learned in Business School, due out in the spring of 2008. He completed a mediation course at Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management and hopes to begin work in that area after receiving his approval from the Tennessee Supreme Court.
Hill’s newest venture is called Radical Rentals, a Web site created with his brother, a real estate broker, and a friend who is a Web designer and developer. It will allow individual landlords who are small investors with perhaps one or two properties to connect with college renters.
All in all, it’s a work style that might not make sense to a career counselor, but Hill would have it no other way. “I’m trying to reign it in a little, but I couldn’t see doing it much differently,” he says. “Thankfully, my wife and parents have been very supportive. Family has played a key role in all of this."