Those who knew him 10 years ago, may not recognize the once quiet and introverted Jon Sternoff today.
Sternoff said he did a complete 180-degree turn after graduating from high school. Excited to share what has happened in his life over the years and anxious to reconnect with people from his past, Sternoff put together a Web site called MI91.com in which Mercer Island High School grads of all ages can reconnect, post reunion announcements and locate missing alumni.
“Some people kind of dread their reunions. I’m looking forward to seeing these people,” said Sternoff before his 10-year reunion in September.
It wasn’t until college that Sternoff even touched the Web. He changed his major six times and spent most of his free time in student government and earning a degree in sociology. “When you have a degree that is so open, what do you do with it?” asked Sternoff. Ultimately, he decided to turn his hobby of Web developing into a job.
A lot of Sternoff’s computer knowledge was gained by surfing other people’s Web sites and looking at their computer codes. Most everything he knows about the Web he has learned on his own.
Sternoff’s most popular site, romance101.com has been mentioned on the FX Channel, USA Today and even Playboy. Although the site receives over a millions visits per month, Sternoff still considers it a hobby.
Sternoff said he has seen a lot of Web sites come and go, but his are safe because they don’t rely on money. “For me, it was never about making money,” he said. “I consider Romance 101 as one big mitzvah.”
He developed Romance 101 after teaching a college seminar of the same name in 1992. The college seminar was born after Sternoff started helping his friends with matters of romance.
“Someone made a joke that I should teach a class on it,” said Sternoff.
Thus, Romance 101 was created. With each workshop, a book could be written, he said. The workshop was presented at Washington State University, Western Washington University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Sternoff said he would teach it again if he was invited.
“It’s a fun workshop,” said Sternoff. “It’s a fun way to get the community involved.”
Sternoff’s inspiration of romance comes from the saying “Little wishes have the loudest voices when love backs them up.” Sternoff said that sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most to people.
“Everyone needs random acts of romance,” said Sternoff.
For those who have lost hope in getting their loved one to be romantic, there is a section on his Web site on behavior modification.
“You can almost brainwash a person into being romantic,” said Sternoff.
Every four to five months, he redesigns the romance site. “I really enjoy it,” said Sternoff. “My wife always jokes with me. I spend so much time romancing the world, I need to spend a little more time romancing her.” His wife teaches computer technologies at Ingraham High School. “She does provide a lot of inspiration,” said Sternoff. After getting married two years ago and developing an envelope-licking high from sending out so many thank-you notes, he created a fill-in-the-blanks style Web site called I-Thee-Webb.com where visitors can send e-mail thank-yous, love notes, apologies and holiday greetings.
Sternoff said he has met tons of friends and contacts over the net. He met his business partner, Niek Van Shelton, there. Shelton lives in the Netherlands and the two have never even talked on the phone or exchanged photographs. But they have conversed with each other over the Internet for the past four years. Together, they created their own Internet service provider so that all the Web sites they host remain free. Sternoff said the Internet has served as a great resource to him for finding people he has lost touch with. His best friend whom he hadn’t seen since 5th grade visited him this October, thanks to the Internet.
“[The Internet’s] a great resource as long as you’re careful,” said Sternoff. “A lot of people use the Internet as an escape.”
As for the future, Sternoff said he would like to finish writing his book of personal experiences within the next five years. He also wants to focus on redesigning his reunion site. Sternoff is currently looking at hosting people and companies and creating and managing Web sites online. He said that he went to a technology fair and was told by someone that his résumé was the 500th or 600th résumé they’d received. Despite the competition, Sternoff, born in Bellevue and raised in Mercer Island, is not planning on moving out of Washington.
“I always tell people if you want to make it in the Internet industry, specialize in something,” he said.
Sternoff is currently in search of a job in Web developing after recently being laid off from his job as an Internet technical manager and administrator with Combimatrix, a biotechnology company. However, he still plans to offer his sites free of charge. The money he earns from those who advertise on the sites goes straight to the costs of keeping them up, he said.
Sternoff’s Web sites can be reached at www.rom101.com for Romance 101, www.mi91.com for Mercer Island High School reunion information and www.i-thee-webb.com for writing e-mail notes.