12 Most Jaunty Jumps in a Job Journey
When I look back on my career, I realize I would not trade any of the experiences on the journey. Some jobs built work ethic, some taught patience and perseverance, and some pushed creative limits. Each job helped mold me into a better employee, employer, team member and leader.
Here are the jaunty jumps in my job journey…
1. Swingin’ a hammer
My first jobs in high school involved framing, hanging drywall, installing insulation, interior/exterior painting and roofing for residential construction. I gained two valuable insights during these Texas summers where the temperatures in the attics would approach 140 degrees: (1) I naturally wanted to produce more than anyone else on the job, and (2) I definitely did not want to do this for a living!
2. Speed-dialing a phone
This was the lowpoint out of all of my jobs. I could not find enough construction work to tide me over during that first summer before college in Austin, TX. I did two telemarketing stints. Both jobs had horrendous work conditions, alarming employee turnover and pervasive employee apathy. I constantly scanned the classifieds so I could escape this Purgatory.
3. Securing the premises
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I jumped at a building security job to get out of telemarketing. I was 19 years old, so I was looking forward to dressing up in a suit and working indoors in an Austin high rise office building. It was a step back in wages from what I was making in construction, and employee apathy still abounded, so I kept familiar with the classifieds.
4. Slinging the mail
I had an opportunity for a $0.90/hr bump in hourly wage, around the time the minimum wage was around $3.35/hr, to join the postal service. By this time, I had an engagement ring on layaway, so I needed that extra money! I did have some fun on this job. I used to always try and beat my best time sorting pallets of bulk mail into large bins. I could “shot put” catalogues halfway across a warehouse! The thinner catalogues helped me work on my frisbee throwing techniques…
5. Soldering the boards
For another $1/hr bump, I “made it to the big time” when it comes to college part-time jobs. I worked in an IBM manufacturing facility. I lead a team in the “solder wave” where PC boards would go over a molten solder bath to secure the components to the board. I would always find some way to compete even if it was against my own production or quality numbers.
6. Analyzing the arrays
Applied Research Laboratories (ARL) gave me my first real job. I was attending the University of Texas in Austin and studying mechanical engineering. ARL had the patient mentors to help me put what I was learning into practice while designing structures for sonar arrays. I grew up in an era in South Texas where you would get smacked if you got too cocky, and the machinists working at ARL — who forgot more than I would ever know — were more than willing to teach while keeping this snot-nosed engineering student humble. I loved this job, and it almost roped me in permanently because I enjoyed the work, the culture, the University of Texas and beautiful Austin, TX.
7. Designing the vessels
Here is how my pre-interview went (remember, I had a cocky streak)…
Interviewer: Is this Brian Vickery? I would like to interview you.
Me: I am not on your interview schedule.
Interviewer: I know, but the people at career services said I would really enjoy interviewing you.
Me: Dude, I work for a living — I have been on a machine shop floor all morning. I do not have my suit with me, and I have grime all over me.
Interviewer: I don’t care if you are naked, if you are good… I want to hire you.
Me: I can be there in about 30 minutes!
I made that interview, took that job, and worked for that engineering company for almost seven years. I became the only engineer who did his own pressure vessel drawings versus depending on the designers. A natural friction existed between snot-nosed young engineers and designers similar to the earlier job with machinists. An experienced, non-degreed designer would forget more than an engineer would ever bother to learn before moving into management. I made it a point that most of my friends were designers, and I learned a ton.
8. Pigeon-holing the personnel
I always said I got into software development because I was the only guy in the office that knew how to turn on the computer. We had downtime between projects, and downtime at companies spells LAYOFFS. I quickly volunteered to step out of my comfort zone and write a software application for tracking employee skill sets to help with bidding on new work. That marked my crossover from mechanical engineer to software developer.
9. Monitoring the mechanical engineers
Mechanical engineers on large refinery projects get to do all kinds calculations. However, they eventually have to draft Request for Proposals, perform bid tabulations, and then setup purchase orders with selected vendors. The guy who wrote the software to track all of this data decided to quit suddenly. I looked at the application, smirked, and said “I can do better than this” (humility came later in life). Supporting this application took me to Rotterdam, Camberley, Calgary, and several states in the United States before relocating from Houston, TX to Greenville, SC.
10. Chasing the friendly ghost
As much as I loved Greenville, SC in 1995, I was concerned that its size could not sustain a software developer’s long term career path. I jumped at the opportunity to relocate to Seattle, WA and write a project management application that we named CASPR (Cost Analysis, Scheduling and Project Reporting). Two of us wrote the first iteration of this software in 14-weeks, and it served its purpose for over 12 years. It was my first software application where I truly loved the finished product.
11. Moving for the location
I wish everyone could make this choice at least once in their lifetime. Seattle is a beautiful place, but when I reached another career crossroads, I asked my wife if you could live anywhere in the United States, where would it be? We chose Denver, CO. All of my software development experience was against Oracle databases, so it was ironic that I went to work for Sybase.
12. Striking out on my own
The Sybase stint lasted 9 months before I “went independent” based upon a client recommendation. Mantis Technology Group officially incorporated in December 2000. It has been an exciting and rewarding ride as we continue to grow as a software solution provider.
Of course, several readers know how many hats you can wear for a startup company. I bet we can come up with at least 12! I continue to play the adaptation game from software/data architect… to project sponsor… to account manager… to marketing and branding strategy. I love my job, and the “job journey” helped me develop an appreciation for it.
How is your job journey going?
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson
Featured image courtesy of Éole via Creative Commons.