Derek Perry’s oldest daughter was on the phone, upset. One of her favorite childhood possessions – a mirror inscribed with the words, “Daddy’s Girl,” a gift from her father when she was nine — had just been shattered.
“I commissioned that mirror for her from a friend who did sandblasting work with glass,” Derek recalls. “And now, 10 years later, she calls, devastated, to say it’s broken. I see a bunch of picture frames and I think, ‘I wonder if I could do this? How hard can it be?’”
Never one to shy away from trying new things, Derek soon had a rotary cutting tool and stencils and began experimenting. “Whenever I didn’t break the glass I thought, ‘hey, this doesn’t look too bad.’”
He replaced his daughter’s “Daddy’s Girl” mirror, but didn’t stop there. “I tried to see what else I could do. And I did some research online and found different techniques you can do with hand tools, motorized tools and how to imprint ink on glass so you can add shape and color to it.”
Armed with tools, glass, a little knowledge and a weekend alone, Derek went to town. “I had too much time on my hands, and ended up etching about 12 pictures. I got maybe three hours of sleep but I just kept going. And then I posted a picture online announcing my new hobby.”
His friends noticed and soon Derek was etching by request and getting paid for it. He’s etched superheroes, Disney characters, and rock bands. One of the more difficult pieces was a “Nightmare Before Christmas” etching he did for his wife as an anniversary present (Derek assures that it wasn’t a commentary on his family’s most recent holiday, merely that his wife loves the Tim Burton movie). “I did that one solely freehand, and it took me about 17 hours.”
He’s had setbacks too, once working to make a complicated etching on a glass door for a friend. After working on it for about 34 hours, the glass gave out.
Derek has contributed his professional talents to SYKESHome for five years, starting out as an agent before a series of promotions led to his current role as flex facilitator. He helps train new agents, and one thing he loves about his job is introducing someone to the world of customer service.
“What really keeps me coming back every day is seeing that lightbulb moment. At first everyone has doubts, but then after they train they’re like, ‘This is great, you showed me I can do this.’ That’s what really charges me.”
Derek has other talents too – he’s long been a presence as an actor in community theater, recently playing the rule of Theseus in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” He began acting at 14. “My parents were dreading the thought of me and my brother being home for the summer and at each other’s throats, so they signed him up for soccer and signed me up for theater.”
Derek dreams of making a career of acting and becoming successful in Hollywood. He feels motivated not just by the thought of acting, but the chance to reach more people and do good in the world. “I would love to be able to reach people on a global scale, gain awareness of different causes that are important to me. There are so many voices that need to be heard.”
Regardless of his future ambitions, Derek loves his work at SYKES. “The people make it enjoyable to come to work every day. It doesn’t even feel like coming to work. Even being virtual, Work at Home, I’ve made friends here that I know we’re going to be friends for years and years. It feels like home.”