09 February 2006

Every job I've ever had

OK, there's this meme going around on the blogs of my homies: listing every job one has ever had. I'm game, but I'm not too into the subject, so I'll try to be brief. I'll probably forget things or mix up the order, because I've yet to have a paying job that, in the final analysis, was all that important to me. So here we go:

  • I never had a job before my senior year in high school. I'm surprised my parents didn't encourage/require me to get one, but for some reason they didn't, and I gotta tell ya, I wasn't the kind of kid that was going to seek one out. But once we realized how much it was going to cost to send me to the private college of my choice (Rochester Institute of Technology), it became clear that I must begin earning my keep.
  • My parents found me my first job, summer before college (I actually think I started earlier than that, but I don't remember). I was a janitor at a local diner/ice cream shop owned by a relative of our next-door neighbors. I was a horrible janitor. I was lazy and I ate and drank my boss's wares. This wasn't exactly stealing (maybe), because the previous janitor had told me it was OK, but I never verified this with the boss and I was a pig about it. If he hadn't been a friend of the family, he probably would have fired me, or maybe he just didn't care that I took four hours, a milkshake, three cans of tomato juice, and a root-beer float to do 90 minutes of work. He wasn't paying me by the hour, so who knows?
  • My second job, freshman year in college, was working at Gracie's (aka Grace Watson Dining Hall, the cafeteria at college). Dish line, beverage runner, garbage detail, stuff like that. That job was kind of fun. They had an industrial-strength garbage disposal that could devour a whole grapefruit: groooowwwrvvm!
  • My parents found me my third job, summer after my freshman year. It was traveling around the county cleaning and servicing computers and audio/visual equipment for local schools. That was kind of fun too. One of my co-workers was from Lebanon, a cousin of Kahlil Gibran, and if we were struggling with some piece of equipment and noon was approaching, he would say, "Eet's a piece of sheet. Let's have lunch." That was a good team.
  • My fourth job, sophomore year, was doing office admin work for the Department of Interpreting Services on campus. One of the colleges at RIT is the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, so we had a fairly large group of American Sign Language interpreters on campus and DIS was where they had their offices, and I was was part of the team that provided their office needs. This was fun, though sometimes boring. But when there was nothing to do, they were happy to pay me to play Fool's Errand on the Macs in the lab. I kept on working there during academic quarters the rest of the time I was at RIT. Tina worked there too, which was cool. We were very crafty in keeping the fact that we were engaged a secret. I'm not sure why we thought it was important to do that.
  • My parents found me my fifth job, summer after my sophomore year. This was working for the company my Dad worked for, whose business was servicing airfoil blades for turbine engines. There were many good aspects to this job. I got to sandblast the crud off these blades, whch was fun. I got to polish the blades using these belt sanders called "Baders", and that was fun too. Best of all, sometimes I got to use the Baders to gouge out cracked areas of the blades, which would then be filled in by welders and finally polished back into shape by folks like me. Gouging was lots of fun. On the down side, this place was the land that OSHA forgot. I would go home at the end of the day, stick a Q-Tip in my ear or my nostril, and it would come out pitch black. I seriously suspected I was going to cough up crud and blood and die. This job finally taught me that I should find my own jobs, instead of letting Mom and Dad do it for me.
  • My sixth job was my first "professional" job. RIT has a strong tradition of cooperative education, which is like paid internship, and my first co-op job was for a pharmaceutical company in Rochester. I was doing desktop computer support - installing applications, etc. It wasn't very challenging or interesting, but it was a great team.
  • My seventh job was also a co-op job. This was more challenging. I was working as a real computer programmer for Xerox. They treated us students really well - like we were the future and all. They threw special parties and picnics for us and we had our own newspaper and stuff. And my team was really cool. They treated me like a real team member, not the clueless newbie I was. I learned a lot.
  • I finally graduated, and went looking for my first "permanent" job. For really, really bad reasons, I ended up going back to the pharmaceutical company. Now it was much worse. It was still unchallenging and boring, but now the company was disintegrating. My job description was to do all the work that used to be done by six co-op students. I was only there for five months, and there was layoff after layoff. Morale was abyssmal. The best thing about the job was bonding with my old team, who used to go out for lunch every day and play Rummy to fend off despair. I ran away from this one.
  • After this I worked for a little consulting company (STI) in a temp-to-perm job with EDS, which had recently landed an outsourcing contract for Xerox's entire IT department. So I was working for STI for EDS for Xerox (then later just for EDS for Xerox). I was doing systems programming and administration. It was pretty good - again, I liked my team - but in the end I got fed up with the politics at EDS, which was the company that made Ross Perot a billionaire. It was all about empire building and turf defending, and I got really sick of being told I couldn't discuss a project with folks in this sister department at EDS because my boss was afraid they'd steal the project from us.
  • What lured me away from EDS was another little consulting company, Sam Asher Computing, run by a really tremendous guy named - wait for it - Sam Asher. This is the job where I learned to do anything and everything, because Sam would literally agree to do anything computer-related that anyone would pay him for, and if he didn't have someone who understood the technology, he'd grab whoever was least busy and we'd learn real quick. I worked for everything from tiny five-person companies to Eastman Kodak. Toward the end, Kodak was my full-time client.
  • In the fall of 1998, Sam told me he wanted to pull me off the Kodak contract to work for Frontier Communications, the phone company. Because I was starting to go into my first bout of severe clinical depression, the idea of changing jobs terrified me. Kodak had offered me a permanent position that summer, and I'd turned it down because I loved Sam. Now I went back to them and took the position. Sam was counting on me for the Frontier job (which I worked for exactly one week), and I felt deeply guilty for letting him down. I started my permanent job at Kodak and spent most of my first day hiding in the computer room trying to figure out if I was having a nervous breakdown. I was in the grip of severe clinical depression, and thus began the worst and longest winter of my life. I managed to keep my Kodak job because my bosses were in different buildings and distracted and had no idea that I accomplished almost nothing that winter.
  • Spring came, and I got better. I got better than better - I got manic! I could do anything! I had boundless energy! I have no idea what my co-workers thought of my complete and utter personality reversal, but I remember them staring at me like I'd grown an extra head on more than one occasion. I had many adventures that summer that I won't recount now, but at the end of the summer Tina and I moved to Maryland. Neither of us had jobs. And - oh boy! Mania was turning back into depression.
  • Tina got a job to keep us fed and housed, but right about then was when we realized that when I was manic, I had spent all the money we had and all the money we didn't have. We were now deeply in debt. I had no job, and I was sinking fast. Thank God (!) I finally got an interview with USATODAY.com, they gave me the job for $10,000 more a year than what I asked for (!), and I've been there ever since, over six years. It's definitely been the best job of my life. Interesting, ever-changing technical challenges, wonderful teammates, and, despite many management changes over the years, consistently compassionate managers. It still feels more like an occupation than a vocation, and I'm becoming more and more unhappy with its utter irrevelance to the Kingdom of God, but it was and is a great job.
So that's it. So much for being brief. :-)

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