Tuesday, February 2, 2010

I used to be a computer programmer

Every once in a while, I find myself saying to someone, “I used to be a computer programmer.” And when I say it, the memories of my fifteen year career download and play in my mind for a few minutes.

It was 1994 when I left the job, but the memories linger. There were good times and bad times; and as I raise my girls, I try to categorize each experience to pass on to them - preparation for “Corporate America” - a place where they might start their careers, too.

I went in blindly - the child of blue collar workers - with not a clue of what to expect. Yes, I’d been “taught” what to expect, and did an internship, but, well…

It took some time to get used to the “team” concept. An independent spirit, I had to learn to trust people, but not get trampled on. My easy-to-read, error free programming code was a definite asset, but not enough. I needed to love the company and learn the business; love the meetings and care about what the company stood for and how it made its money. Did that happen? Well…not really, or not enough. I loved the technical, but struggled here and there with the rest.

My introduction to computers started when I was a high school senior in need of electives. A friend told me she was taking Data Processing at the vocational center and that it would be three credits. “Hmmm…one class, three credits…a bus ride off campus.”

She tried to explain what it was, and I blindly (I do a lot of things blindly) signed up too. Turned out I had a knack for it, and when the teacher said I could make $7,000 right out of high school or go to college and make $12,000, I thought, “Sounds good.” It was 1975 and most teachers hardly made $12,000.

There was no question about going to college; my parents, especially mom, had planted the “college seed” when I was still in diapers. It grew, I did my four years, and in 1979 was employed at an annual salary of $13,500. Woo hoo! Fifteen years later, in 1994, it had more than quadrupled.

Good money for a single lady. Had the house, the car, mutual funds, savings, a few nice suits, a great eating-out allowance and enough to hop on a plane for a vacation.

Do I appreciate those years?
Yes.
Was I fulfilled with my skill and knowledge?
Yes.
Do I miss the career, the pay check, and the nice suits?
No.
If I had it to do all over again, would I be a computer programmer?
I don’t know.

It’s hard to erase part of a life that has landed me in a comfortable place.

There are people who are passionate about their jobs and always have been. How fortunate they are to wake up most days with anticipation; to get paid for doing something they love.

I felt that way when I was in control of a project that was going well, yet at other times, I wondered how I could continue with the same career until I was sixty-something and retired.

My occupation afforded me a financially sound life, but is money enough? Does every surgeon crave the next patient to mend? Does every lawyer get excited as more and more business comes in? Is every best selling author thrilled to promote his or her book on the TV talk show circuit? Are the average John and Mary Doe happy with their average jobs and average salaries, and their good middle class lifestyle?

Hmmm….if it was only that easy.

Many people are currently unemployed or desperately holding on to jobs. They (you) may see this post as moot. Keep in mind…things change.

Have you changed careers/occupations during your adult years? What did you “used to be?”
Would you like to do something else now?

If you haven’t read my post titled, “Passion,” click over if you'd like.

39 comments:

Chocolate Covered Daydreams said...

I have to laugh at that one because I have worn so many different career hats that I often don't know which one I liked best. I worked in the educational field, teaching, then as a director of a daycare/pre-school (my own), then as a program coordinator for a prison ministry and then, worked as a parent educator for pregnant teens...the list goes on. It all points back to having a heart for people. I don't think I'd do it all over again although at the last job, the one where I was just laid off, I would've started looking for a job just in case months ago.

Tracey said...

I "used to be" a lawyer. Well, technically I am still a lawyer, but I was pregnant when I took the bar, pregnant when I passed it, and have been raising kids ever since. So I guess the more accurate statement is, I was almost a lawyer. Not a decision I regret, but I find myself often explaining/defending it to (well meaning) people.

I am not completely and totally personally fulfilled by staying home with my kids everyday, but I know what I'm missing and I don't miss it.

My husband (also a lawyer) is about to be laid off, so I guess I am grateful I won't be in the same applicant pool.

Anita said...

I can relate to this, perhaps it's our age, but yes I've btdt. I have degrees in management and marketing and worked in retail mgt for over almost 20 years and then in banking for 3. I loved both of them at one time. I loved retail less as a wife and mom. I've been "home" for 9 years, great gig, but the income is lacking.
I'm not sure what I want to be now. I love working with people, even though they drive me crazy.......hard to say.

Joanne said...

I've been a mom for two decades, and as of the past few years, it's given me the time and space to write. Which is exactly where I'd like to be right now, with no inkling for a change. So I'm good for now!

Robin said...

oH gosh Ive done everything and also been a perpetual student..college out of high school, business school later..then BA in sociology at 35 and MSW at 39..now im a licenced social worker and I have a good flexible job and an income..we probably couldnt survive without..were on Long Island..and its crazy expensive..as far as jobs...cashier, bank teller, school bus driver with CDL license which I still have and I also drive a limo for extra cash for kids college sometimes..also Ive driven a taxi and worked in a dry cleaners..

Judy Thomas said...

I have pretty much been in the social service field from college graduation to now. I love social work, the variety of it, the chance to connect with families, even more I love to teach social work- I feel I have really found my place regarding type of work (I am good darn at it) and in the balance I have achieved (because of the enthusiastic support of my husband) between work and all my other varied interests.

Dori said...

Wowie...I've pretty much run the gamut of jobs...from Navy airplane mechanic to talk show radio producer to video editor to public relations...and now I feel like I'm in the position I've trained my entire adult life for--sorta brings all of those things together and I love it. I get to be the mommy, stay at home (for the most part), be creative, be outdoors (when it's NOT snowing) and be part of something special. Can't say I'd change any of it. Even the rough parts.

Bernie said...

As long as I working with people, helping them to deal with their problems I was always happy...even retired I continue to do that kind of work today on a volunteer basis.
.......:-) Hugs

InSeason Mom said...

I can certainly relate to wearing several career hats. I've worn nearly every hat from a radio announcer to corporate recruiter to business owner to college counselor. One career hat that I've kept on for over 20 years is that of professional writer. I agree with Chocolate Covered Dreams; all of my jobs point back "to having a heart for people."

Crazy Mom of Three said...

I was blessed for many years to have one of those careers that I loved, was excited about and the days flew by while doing. Then I had my first child, and what I did NOT like was being torn between being at work and being with my son. I was fortunate to work for a flexible company, but I am really glad I don't have to do that child care juggle anymore. I do miss much about the workplace. I miss the rush of accomplishing "big" things and I miss the team work with great co-workers. I also liked being a manager because I love to strategize the best way to get things done and have the power to do what I think will work best. I worked in social services as a program director (my favorite job) and I also did public relations work over the years of my career. I have no idea what I will do when I return to work someday, but I was always raised to do what I love in a job.

Farila said...

I like the way you post about the changes and incidents and then pose a challenge for us to come out with our stories.. I show mine you show me yours kind of thing LOL

I started thinking I wanted to be a doctor but soon lost interest in it because space science fascinated me. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but my Mom threatened to kill herself over this issue. Long story... Then it was marriage and kids. Later on I started teaching and did diploma in counseling skills. There I am now a counselor and teacher.. and a student.
Sorry if I have confused anyone..

gayle said...

Interesting post!! I use to work for the phone co. and I wish I had never quit but only because the money was so good and I would be retired and my retire money would be very good. I regret going to work for the State/county as a Teacher Assistant..not only is the money terrible the retirement money is hardly anything. I wish I had never gone back to work. What I would love to be doing now is Retired and doing vol. work. Hubby says not now...I am working on him and maybe a part time job. Sorry for TMI

Marla at Always Nesting said...

Love this post. I have been a SAHP (Princess) for almost 5 years now. I worked my fanny off to help provide for my kids but God intervened for my own good. Life took a very bad turn with an unforeseen transfer, Dad dying, stress beyond belief. I got sick at the new place while still in temporary housing and almost died. Stress makes the body so weak. It was an awful time.

The good news is that in the midst of my recovery (although still not 100%), I found, once again, that I loved being at home. I loved taking care of my family, home, dog, yard, SELF. I felt a peace that I hadn't felt since my kids were young and I was home with them. I've come to realize that my heart belongs to family and home. All those people that I worked my fanny off for ....they probably don't even remember my name.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Anita, like you, I was in programming, though we call it systems analysts here. I early "retired" from it seven years ago. I'm often asked if I miss it and I always say "not the on-call part".

So much has changed that I'd have to go back to school to go back into that career and since I'm not passionate about it, I can't see myself doing so.

There is a season for everything!

Georgiana said...

Like you, I have done the career shuffle. First I was in retail management--for 8 long, grueling years. Then I was a stock broker. Can't say I'm sorry to be out of that business at this point in history! My favorite thing is being a homeschool mommy/wannbe writer :D Life is good.

Cindy (Letters From Midlife) said...

I've always been a writer. I went to college for a degree in journalism and while I've spent the last 28 years as a mom at home, I've done freelance writing along the way. Those jobs are harder to come by now so I write a blog as an outlet. I used to be a writer and still am, but not in the paying sense as much. Now that my nest is almost empty, I'm trying to define who I am now and maybe that will help me find a writing niche.

Erin said...

I have never truly had a "career," other than mother. I've had many jobs in my life, but none I'd call a career. Isn't that sad? I'd like to call myself a writer and leave it at that. Doesn't matter that I'm not published, right? (or does my blog = published?!?!)

Buckeroomama said...

I had a successful career in advertising --for 15 years. Loved it then, when I was still single / with no kids. Hated it once I became a mother. I could not take the hours anymore --working 'til 2-3am during pitches, etc. In the end, despite the great pay and the corner office with a view, I left and had not looked back since. Would I go back? I don't think so. I've had my fun. Time to move on to something else. And this 'job' that I have right now? The most tiring one I've ever taken on, but infinitely rewarding - every day - in the kisses and cuddles I get from the kiddos. On the side, I am a Baby Signs(r) instructor. :)

Tammy@ A Doctor in the House said...

Very interesting. Reading the comments, it seems the majority were happy or partially happy with their careers until they had a family. It's the age old lie women were told - we could have it all. Not saying that you can't be happy doing both, it's just more of a challenge. I've had several identity crisis in my life. I've been a teacher, administrator, decorator and sahp (thanks Marla.) I'll have to admit, the most fulfillment has come from sahp. It's really where my heart is. At times, I look back and wonder if I should have chosen this career or that, but have never regretted staying home with my children and making our house a home. I think I was 40 before I could say that without guilt and/or not justify myself. I may have to go back to work next year for financial reasons, but when hubs graduates, it's sahp for me.

Jen said...

I loved some of my years in international trade. I loved the years that I had daily contact with people in Russia, Columbia, Canada, and all over the world. I liked it less when we became a call center. I think I'd like to find a job where I have that contact again once I'm done with school. Maybe that's one reason I like to blog...

suzicate said...

I think the forces in our lives sometimes push us on different paths. Mine have greatly varied, and fortunately I have a husband who has supported those changes. Some where less money but more quality family time.

yonca said...

I used to run my own travel agency and also a local radio station with hubby. I've had different jobs after that.I love being a mom. But, he is almost 8 and i am planning to work again.

Michelle said...

I strongly dislike my job right now and a few things are changing next month that will make absolutely hate it. Unfortunately, I can't find a better job, so I'm stuck with it. At least I have a job, though.

newmumover40 said...

wow, fantastic money!! I personally think it's a good sign of you who are as a person, that you loved what you did, but not necessarily all the ins and outs of an institution based around making money.

I've been doing the same job for twenty years and am well and truly passed the stage of enjoying it. There are still moments that I do, but for the most part I am ready to move on to my, hopefully, new career - being a new mum!!

Menopausal New Mom said...

Hi Anita, so glad to be back and I'm trying to get caught up with everyone.

Well, this is an interesting post. You were a programmer during that years that the computer would require the space to fill an entire room. I worked in the insurance industry since 1979, started as clerical, then went into underwriting and calculating rates, then into paying disability claims, then changed gears and cities. Then I started working for a different insurance company as an admin. assistant (had to start at the bottom again since I only have a high school diploma) but quickly made my way up to Service Rep, to sales and then everything went bust. Insurance companies were merging, sales people were being slashed and I was one of them.

At the time I was single and owned a home and car that required monthly payments. I changed gears again and started working for an insurance broker instead so I was now dealing with all insurance companies. Again, service and sales and then met my husband, got married a few years later, had my daughter and am now a very happy stay-at-home mom.

For a hobby I buy and sell vintage jewelry, I have an online store but I'm lucky to have married a very successful self-employed man (neurologist) who is a great provider.

Well, have I bored you enough yet Lol?!

Great post, got me to thinking and I'm happy to get to know you better too!

the mom said...

I used to be a croupier.
Then I went to be a stay at home mom, which I combine with studying (very slow pace though).
Could never have guessed you was a computer programmer. You seem more... I don't know. Artistic? Like doing something with your hands.

Morgan said...

I worked in daycares and as a nanny. I don't miss it one bit!!! Being a mom to my own children is so much more fun.

Anita said...

HELLO EVERYONE, Wow! You all have done everything! And the fat lady hasn't even sung yet. :)
Very interesting stories; you all have definite opinions about your past and futures, even though none of us know for sure what we may end up doing.
I heard a little uncertainty and dissatifaction in some of your voices - hang in there! Nothing stays the same. But if you're okay where you are, just stay for awhile, be it a physical or mental place. :)

Abby said...

Hmm... computer programmer, eh?

I was a mechanical engineer, manufacturing to be more specific. When I was in high school, I had no clue what a manufacturing engineer was, but as it turned out I LOVED it!

Then I had a baby. Then I had another baby.

I "retired" and, what the heck, had another baby.

One of the best decisions we ever made. I do miss it sometimes, and I'm grateful for the savings we packed away during those years. Now I teach part-time, but I consider that my "side thing".

Now if I could just find someone to pay me to ride my bicycle and doodle.

Tracie said...

Sadly, I have always been a speech language pathologist. I have no other skills.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Anita,

This is such an excellent post. I wanted to send a quick note saying how much I thought of your passion in this writing. How many women you touched by writing it. Will write a better email to you later, I hope - a tad strapped for time. The life of the mom goes and whatever title stuck on me today.

Anita said...

ABBY, yes I recall we had that technical thing in common, and the three kids...
Now, you've stepped out a little with your part time...perhaps I'll follow that path some day.

TRACIE, You've helped a lot of people with your skill, and how can you say you have no other skill...we see it in your blog - your writing that gives us joy!!!

Anita said...

MIDLIFE JOBHUNTER JULIE - When I sit down to write something, I never know exactly what I'm going to say, and surely, I don't know the responses I will get.
I so much appreciate your note to me, and the comments of the others too, letting me know that I have written something that prompts us all to think about our very precious lives and where we best fit in this world.

CLW said...

I graduated at the top of my class and could have been anything I wanted to be...if only I had been given some guidance. The only thing I thought I ever wanted to be was a travel agent because I wanted to see the world and experience new things. I had my school all picked out in CA and was ready to go right after graduation. Unfortunately, my mom poo-pooed the idea and said, "Travel agents don't make any money. Maybe you should try something else." My dreams came crashing down and I took the next thing that came along (not alot of thought went into this decision), but I landed in Bible College. It was serendipitous because it was there that I met and married my husband. Along the way I've been a waitress, worked at JCPenney and been a MOM which is the best and hardest job in the world. Currently I work side by side with my husband in our own businesses and am content. But the real truth is, I want to be a published AUTHOR. That is my dream and I believe it will happen...someday :-)

Hilary said...

Let's see, I've been a high school English teacher, an executive administrative assistant, a model, a talent agent, a banker, a wedding planner, a student, and a SAHM. I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Content sounds pretty good.

MissKris said...

I have 'reinvented' myself several times. I worked in medical records in 2 different hospitals; I was a secretary/receptionist at a steam supply company; I cleaned houses; I was a companion for a 96-year-old woman still able to live independently; I was a middle school lunch lady; I did free-lance data processing; I was a secretary at a gutter hanging business; I did tons and tons of volunteer work as well. My current job?? Stay at home Grandma! And it's the BEST!!!!!

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I've been a writer and public relations person my whole career, mostly at colleges and universities. I'm working half-time and providing grandkid daycare; within the year I'll retire and be with the kiddos fulltime. I can't wait!!!

Anita said...

CLW-CHERYL - How many other people have done what their parents wanted instead of what they wanted - a lot. Do parents know best?
When I read your blog, it seems that you have a wonderful life, and as you've said, your family started at the bible college. :)
I believe your "published author" goal will happen. Number 1 in your class - you've obviously got the smarts! :)

HILARY - Lots of talent and creativity in those jobs. :)
Content IS good; very good.

MISS KRIS & BLISSED OUT GRANDMA - I love the fact that you love your grandkids so much!

bpotw said...

Interesting points you raise. I guess the bottom line is--are you happy where you are right now?