Sleepless in Seattle: A newborn, Nintendo and neighborhood make a full life for MIS alum

Sleepless in Seattle: A newborn, Nintendo and neighborhood make a full life for MIS alum

Tramale Turner seated at a table, holding a Nintendo controller
Tramale Turner, MIS '00, MBA '01, thrives in multiple roles in Seattle.

If you want to keep up with Tramale Turner, you’ll need a dose of caffeine and your running shoes. “I like to live my life staying engaged in every moment and ready for any new opportunities,” says Turner (MIS ’00, MBA ’01).

Delighting in the recent birth of his daughter, Isabella, lack of sleep isn’t a concern for the action-oriented Turner.

Rising each day at 4 a.m., he arrives at his senior management position at Seattle’s Nintendo of America at 5 a.m., hitting the employee gym; then it’s on to leading his work group, with the day often culminating with a videoconference to Kyoto, Japan (Nintendo’s headquarters), until 8 or 9 p.m.; when that wraps up, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat and heads over to the bistro he owns with his wife, Jacquelyn.

Turner’s fulfilling life is the result of a series of forward-thinking decisions, mixed with a strong desire to connect with others and a dash of adventure.

Living the life

Born and raised in Detroit, Turner graduated from Cass Technical High School at 16 and headed to the University of Pennsylvania to study computer science/computer engineering and Japanese.

He thrived but didn’t graduate. “After three years, I ran out of money,” he says. “At 19, a relationship and a desire for an international experience took me to Japan.” 

It was there Turner started an interactive web/media development company, NetFIVE. It did so well that he opened one in Michigan, where he was literally steps away from completing his education.

“NetFIVE was located right across the street from OU,” says Turner. “One day I just walked over to the admissions office.”

Working at NetFIVE while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in management information systems (MIS), Turner also rushed OU’s Alpha Kappa Psi co-ed fraternity. During this time Turner fondly recalls MIS Associate Professor Mark Isken continually telling him, “You could be doing more.”

“I thought I had a plateful already!” Turner laughs. He took the advice to heart. He earned his MBA at OU in 2001, which coincided with the closing of his company.

A friend from Alpha Kappa Psi told him about an opening at Volkswagen she felt was perfect for him. Already working for local companies as an internet systems analyst/technical leader, Turner wasn’t convinced the automotive industry was his niche.

“My friend applied for me, and I got that job,” he says. “If it wasn’t for the student and faculty support at OU – that great, connected network -- that job wouldn’t have happened.” 

Turner began at Volkswagen as an e-business technology leader and worked his way up to process integration manager for VW brand and marketing.

After a decade of fruitful years at Volkswagen, Turner was ready for a new opportunity.

Tramale Turner with his wife, holding his infant daughter

Games people play

Turner joined Nintendo in 2010. His current role is senior manager of IT, where he runs IT Solutions Consumer Online and Publishing. “It’s a customer software development group working on solutions supporting Nintendo’s online services, consumer facing online systems, and developer support services,” he explains.

The work includes the account service that allows Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo 3DS customers to play online. His group is also responsible for, which supports the many large and small third-party developers creating tools and software available on Nintendo’s consoles.

It’s an exciting job to have in a technologically burgeoning city. “The tech industry in Seattle has exploded in the past 10 years, with companies like Nintendo, Amazon and Google,” Turner says. “That means a lot more transplants to the area.”

Transplants themselves, Turner and his wife had a desire for a gathering spot – a fun, relaxed place to mix it up and feel a sense of community. In fall 2015, they bought Poco Wine + Spirits, a bistro pub in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Poco’s loft-like mezzanine level and beautiful patio area provided the welcoming place they envisioned.

Community concern

There was an even deeper reason for purchasing Poco. “It’s always good when you can turn something painful into something positive,” Turner reflects.

In March 2015, Turner and his wife experienced a painful loss. Their first daughter, Hayley, was stillborn. “It was a difficult time,” he says. “My wife was particularly sad, and I wanted to do something so we could move healthfully through our grief and help others. I thought about what the hospital staff had done for us.”

They gave the Turners a gift to treasure. “They presented us with a keepsake box to take home, with Hayley’s hand and footprints, as well as her hat, blanket and photos in it,” Turner says. “We were touched by their kindness, and it helped us cope.”

The Turners wanted to provide keepsake boxes to others who face the same loss -- via clinics or hospitals that may not have funding to offer such gifts. “We bought Poco with this mission in mind,” Turner says. “We’ll set money aside toward this effort, through a foundation in Hayley’s name.”

Poco has yielded an effective partnership. “I attend to inventory and staff issues,” Turner said. “My wife, who is also a senior editorial projects manager at Zillow, has excellent communication and marketing skills that she puts to great use.”

At Poco they find renewed joy in connecting with staff and an eclectic crowd of customers, and there’s plenty of laughter.

“We’ve been blessed in so many ways,” Turner said. “I’d like to do more for those less advantaged in our community, and perhaps be an advocate in the life-impacting areas of education, or arts and culture.”

To that end, Turner’s a member of Leadership Tomorrow, a Puget Sound-region leadership development program that fosters community stewardship. “I don’t know if this will evolve into serving in the government sector someday,” Turner says, “but I’ve thought about it.”

When it comes to Tramale Turner, everything is possible.