Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Raising a family - Starting a carreer - Following a dream...

Where dose one go when they are about to start out in life and wonder: "What is the next step?" and "Where will it take me?" Am I going to do the right thing, and if I don't will I be able to recover from it, so that I can possibly start over? Well, in my humble opinion everyone is given a chance to screw up to the best of their ability. And, I think just about everyone dose to one degree or another.

You begin life, full of energy and ideas knowing all to well that you have the right idea and "know" exactly what to do and how to set a pat for your life. You make your decision and go with an idea, join a group, or follow someone else's lead - but you're doing something. You even enjoy what you're doing at first, and think, "Wow, I'm even making money with this." Then something happens, something changes and suddenly it isn't as important as it once was. You've been at it for a few years and you want to know if you can make a change, or better still, start over. Well, the truth is that you can't start over, but you can make a change. The beauty of life is that you can always make a change.

I joined the U.S. Air Force right out of High School and selected a training program that would let me do something I wanted to do and learn about electronic things and how they were used in the world of communication - or so I thought. The school was began right after Basic Training and I discovered that what I thought I signed up for was different from what I was suddenly a part of. I really didn't know what to do, other than to try to do my best, so I was in the top 1% of my class and had a superficial understanding of what I was supposed to be doing. I was asked where I would like to go and I went to Viet Nam, the year was 1971. I became a chrypto operator, which meant I got to work a teletype machine and when the time called for it, I worked with another operator and we made the changed to the codes (it always took at least two people to do this). I learned every piece of equipment in the communication center. We hand computers and tape drives, card punch machines and card readers (God help the person who dropped a stack). On top of each machine was a little device that would melt it to the ground if we were ever over run and it looked like we would be captured. Fortunately, it didn't ever come to that.

After Viet Nam I went to Omaha, Offutt AFB and became an operator for a paper tape reader and these very large FAX machines. We would run prints for the National Weather Service - Oh there were the occasional teletype messages and we did a few other things, but in general it was a pretty boring post. I did get to see a part of the country I don't know that I would have taken the time to get to know, if I had not been sent there. Shortly after that it was announced that we were getting out of Viet Nam and that Uncle Sam was going to be reducing the sizes of the military. And that's with a Republican in office (I won't mention Nixon's name). I was offered an early out so I took it and ended up in Arizona.

Actually, when I came back from Viet Nam one of the first things I did was to get married. Her name was Shelley and she was my girl friend from High School. She had some emotional problems, but I wasn't smart enough (mature enough?) to recognize that. We went to Nebraska together and when I told her about the possibility of getting out early, she couldn't wait to have me leave the Air Force. We ended up in Arizona because there was Guard Unit there that needed my skills and she had family there that she wanted to get back to. I had the GI Bill to fall back on so I started to go to school and work part time. This plus the Guard time kept me kind'a busy. I did this for about a year and a half. I noticed the emotional issues much more pronounce now, and we tried to get some help for her. I guess it didn't work well as she ended up in a hospital for a few weeks; shortly after she was released she effectively disappeared and then came back about a week later (yeah, I found out where she had gone and thought it would be ok). She burst into our little apartment and stated that I needed to get out and that she couldn't stand having me around. At this point was was emotionally worn down and simply said, "okay, I'll be gone first thing in the morning." Then she left again.

I called a friend of mine the next day and asked him if he thought he might be able to come get me, since I wanted to come back to California. I didn't know when because I would have to get a transfer from the Guard, and he said he would be happy to help. Two weeks later I was on my way back to California, Bay Area, where I had no idea of what I was going to be doing, or where I would be staying. Kind'a dumb really, if you think about it. Steve, my friend, said I could stay with him, and he let me know that he heard about some jobs opening up at a grocery store. I ended up going to work for nine years with the grocery store.

I ended up getting a divorce after almost two years of marriage. I knew it was the best thing to do for both of us. I only heard from her twice after that, and the second time was over 20 years ago, so I have no idea what happened to her. I hope she found happiness somewhere and with someone. I remarried after about a year of being single, actually met my wife (second one) after only a few months. She was perfect - okay, perfect in my eyes anyway. I was working at grocery and she was working at Taco Bell. I became a food tester for them... ;-) My career with grocery was going okay, but I felt as though I was missing something. I had made it to the top of the Union scale, with the next step going as store manager. That isn't a bad step, but it wasn't where I wanted to be. I stared going back to school.

I started taking classes in layout and design of electrical circuits. I found it relatively easy to do and I enjoyed working with Boolean Agebra. I pretty much completed all my lower division classes when I was provided an opportunity to go to work for National Semiconductor. I had a wonderful time while there, and would probably still be there had it not been for some economic down turns and challenges at National. I was a father of three small boys (our fourth had not been born yet) and I couldn't tolerate another pay freeze. Another company offered me more and I went for it. I began working at yet another company.

Funny thing is that I really wasn't there that long when situations were such that I had a chance to make another change. Again it was for more money, and the current company was looking like there wasn't much of a future, they were being acquired. This turned into a common happening for many of us in the valley and I ended up working for a few companies that either had financial challenges or were acquired by other companies and my opportunities seemed limited. Anyway, my career went from an Applications Engineer, for National Semiconductor to Computer Operations, to Customer Service and Help Desk, to Field Operations, to Technical Support Manager at Sun Microsystems.

When Sun began experiencing financial challenges (something I thought would never happen) I thought perhaps I can ride this out with the company. I really didn't want to leave yet another company. However, I was laid off from Sun and didn't have anything lined up. I was unemployed for a few months when another opportunity came along in the construction field. They needed an IT person for a project they were doing up in Vacaville and I had the skills they needed. It was a great union (I thought). Then 2008 came along and the struggling economy collapsed. Several of the contracts the company had dried up and suddenly they had too many people. Because my skills were limited as far as construction was concerned, I was one of the first group of folks to be let go. Fortunately, over the years I was able to put away some money and that has helped up to stay afloat, but that money was supposed to be for retirement. I have been unemployed for over a year now, and the money is starting to grow thin.

On the bright side, the economy is starting to show signs of getting going again, and I have found some opportunities that turn into employment. I am also working with InsourceUS to help me with my business thinking and helping me to keep my mind a little sharper. I also have gotten more into project management, and think that I might be able to start a new dream direction with that. I have done projects over the years, but now I am officially becoming a Project Manager, and have even joined Project Management International (PMI) and will be seeking my PMP Certification before the year is out. I believe this is the way to go for me, and more companies are starting to see the value of using project managers. Well, that's my life in a nutshell, and it has been an interesting one. Who knows, perhaps I can add more to this as I go along, to fill in some of the gaps, but I think that would take me multiple visits to my blog. If you have gotten this far in reading, thanks - I truly appreciate you taking the time to go over this.