Whenever I read some investment guru's background, the result is invariably the same: They went to a solid undergraduate school, received their MBA at some place a bit more prestigious, and then started directly in the investment community, where they worked their way up the ladder. After many years of climbing they were finally named manager of the XYZ fund, or perhaps partner of the -- insert your favorite animal here -- hedge fund.

In contrast, my background is a little different. Yes, I received the obligatory undergraduate degree and MBA, but from there my path diverged from the norm. Instead of analyzing Fortune 500 companies, I worked at one, spending 15 years in the sales/marketing area of

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

.

I bring this up because one of the chief ironies about financial gurudom is that most gurus portray in-depth knowledge about how large companies work and yet have spent little or no time themselves working in that environment. In later columns in this series, I'll contrast their perception with reality, but let me say for now that life in the "corporate jungle" is vastly different from the 30-second snapshot you get on financial TV.

Yet while my postgraduate years took a different path than most, my years after IBM were way outside the norm, as I spent nearly two years writing about golf for

Sports Illustrated

. Of course, that's not the normal career path for most ex-IBMers -- much less for most people in the financial industry -- but that's what I did, and how I got there is a story best told some other time.

From that point, the link to my current role is straightforward. Sort of. I was an avid reader of

TheStreet.com

shortly after Jim Cramer started it and was one of the early advocates of getting someone to write about technical analysis. I never proposed doing it myself, but instead suggested the likes of John Murphy, then of

CNBC

fame. Instead, the editor at the time suggested I pen a column, knowing I could at least put verb and noun together from my past experience at

SI

.

That first column led to more columns, then the joint Fox/TheStreet.com TV show, then the subsequent newsletter, until here I am today: just a working stiff who used to dress in a blue suit/white shirt, who knows the difference between COBOL and FORTRAN, who can identify Lee Janzen at 30 paces, and who does a little bit of trading on the side.

Tomorrow I'll deal directly with that trading and how I got there.

Today, the

Dow

,

Aeropostale

(ARO)

,

CNF

(CNF) - Get Report

,

Gentex

(GNTX) - Get Report

,

Halliburton

(HAL) - Get Report

and

Houston Exploration

(THX)

.

Charts produced by TC2000, which is a registered trademark of

Worden Brothers Inc.

And that is the final word from Livermore Labs, where I was shocked to find undergrads at Georgetown University never take a class on computer coding. In my mind, the logic and thought process necessary to code even a simple program are a lot more useful than many of the "core courses" they're required to take! And don't forget - now is a great time to learn how to make bigger, faster profits with technical analysis and charting. Get a free trial of my newsletter,

The Chartman's Top Stocks and follow along with me.

Gary B. Smith is a freelance writer who trades for his own account from his Maryland home using technical analysis. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks.

Smith writes a daily technical analysis column for RealMoney.com and also produces a daily premium product for TheStreet.com called The Chartman's Top Stocks --

click here for a free two-week trial. While Gary cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to send your feedback to

gsmith@thestreet.com.