Six years on the job -- 10/16/01

I'm still in Pittsburgh, attending a class and an series of technical presentations and discussions... interesting stuff (yeah, I'm a geek) but probably not the stuff of which journal entries are made.

Today is my sixth anniversary in my job -- my first day was Monday, October 16, 1995, a day that began two weeks of training on the set of products (they preferred the term "licensed software solutions" over the word "product" so naturally we would say "product" as much as possible *grin*) for which I would be developing a new set of classes (planning the curriculum, developing the graphics, writing the books, building the hands-on exercises, etc., teaching the classes and training new instructors, etc.). In fact, the week after next I'll be teaching that very course that I first developed... I have no idea how many times I've taught that course over these past several years... dozens and dozens of times... but I still enjoy it. (There's even a chance -- just a very slight one -- that I might have to go over to England to teach it again the week following that.)

There are times this job makes me a little crazy; times when I feel I am attempting to do something for which I have not had sufficient preparation or support; times when I think the directions I am given are written on beach sand -- on a windy day -- when I'm told to learn about one area, it's vitally important, and then when I begin to dig into it I'm told, oh no, instead I'm needed to work on something in a different area and then, just as I get into that area, I'm told that I'm needed on yet another project. Yeah, but it's also a lot of fun. I work with an interesting group of people, a very talented group, and I get to play with lots of different software and technologies and I get to travel to Pittsburgh.

I'm just teasing about Pittsburgh...actually, Pittsburgh's not bad... although I think Boston is my favorite U.S. city to be in. I don't think I could accurately guess how many miles I've traveled because of this job. It's taken me to at least ten states in the United States (the trip to Hawaii being perhaps the best -- hey, December in Honolulu, how can you beat that?) and to eight other countries. And I don't have to travel all that much. It seems to come in clumps. I might not travel anywhere for months and then have two or three trips in a row... like earlier this year, I was down in the Research Triangle Park area (Note for non-US readers, that's in the Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina) back in April but then I didn't have any business travel during May and June and July, and then in August I had a week in Pittsburgh and then a week in RTP again and then I was home for a week and then I had a week in Virginia. This is my first trip since then... although I do expect to be back in Pittsburgh again in mid-November.

I really do love my job, however. I like the people I work with, I've got a good manager (and a good second-line manager as well), I like what I do -- most days I actually look forward to going to work... and I have the flexibility (when I'm not teaching, etc.) to work from home when that's what I want to do. And they pay me to do it.

Six years. Hmmm, that's the third longest time I've ever spent with one employer. I put in ten years with Binghamton University -- three years in computer operations and seven years as a programmer/analyst -- and seven years with Link Flight Simulations.

The little software company I joined in 1995 had already closed a deal to be purchased by Big Blue Computer Company (that was part of the reason I agreed to accept the position) but we didn't become officially integrated into Big Blue's system until January 1, 1996 -- and under Big Blue's current employee benefits program, you need fifteen years of service to quality for medical benefits after retirement. Fifteen years of service would put my retirement date sometime in January of 2011. Now that might seem like a long time into the future... but it also means that this past January the count in years to my theoretical retirement was ten years... and in February it became nine years and eleven months... tick... tick... tick.... Although I don't know if I really would retire then. I mean, I can't picture just stopping... probably become a consultant or something... maybe sign on as adjunct faculty at some college, teach part-time, one or two courses. That would be a good time to do that, the start of a new semester and all... however, I might just stay on this job a little while longer... Our current compensation package has a salary and something called variable pay -- basically it's a bonus based on how well the company met its goals for the year and how well the employee rated -- it's paid in the spring based on the previous year, and it could be an amount worth staying around a few extra months to pick up, besides which, that would mean I could officially retire around my 68th birthday... and then maybe do a little consulting or work on preparing a college course or two to teach in that fall semester.

Yeah, that sounds very strange to me to be talking about retirement -- thank goodness that's still almost a decade away -- although my brother (my younger brother!) retired almost five years ago -- of course that just meant retiring from Big Blue Computer Company (after thirty years!) and since then he's been consulting (including three stretches of being hired as a consultant by good old Big Blue) so it's not exactly as if he's been sitting in a rocking chair.

Suitcase Update

My suitcase did get delivered to my hotel Sunday night but it turns out that it was not USAirways fault. You know how they are always making announcements in the baggage claim areas reminding people that many suitcases look alike so please be sure that you are picking up the right bag. Yeah, you guessed it... another passenger mistook my suitcase for one of his. I got back to my room after dinner Sunday night to find the message light blinking on my phone -- "John Smith" saying that he and his wife were returning from their honeymoon and one of their bags was a blue American Tourister that was identical to mine and my bag came around the baggage carousel right next to their other bags so they thought it was theirs. Duh! I have my business card on a tag on my suitcase but I also always put a copy of my itinerary inside the suitcase.... which is how they knew to phone the Hilton. I returned his call and he told me that he was about to leave for the airport to exchange my bag for his. A couple of hours later USAirways delivered my bag to the hotel. I checked my voice mail at work and found a message there from his wife (based on my business card -- then I guess they figured out that leaving a phone message in Rhode Island might not be the fastest way of contacting somebody who was obviously in the Pittsburgh area so they opened my bag) -- and almost burst out laughing when I heard her voice saying "This is Mrs. John Smith" because she almost sang her new name, a stereotype of an old-fashioned bride so proud of her new name, it was kind of cute. Of course, being married to someone who never gave a moment's thought to changing her name when we got married (nor would I have ever wanted her to do something like that -- we both just always assumed that she would not change) I found that a bit quaint... but amusing. (Yes, of course my son and his wife have both retained their birth names -- by the way, the Leah's mother also uses her own name... as does Leah's sister.)

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