My first job: babysitting three little boys and two German Shepherds every other week in the summer. I don’t know which I liked less, the diapers or the dog poop. So there it was, at the age of 13: work involves shit. #Truth
I worked my way up the employment food chain in high school and college: tutor, camp counselor, library clerk, and my first job after college, a VISTA volunteer.
I was almost a year out of college and was library clerking to pay the rent when I saw the ad that literally changed my life. A high-tech company was looking for 20 people who were not math or science nerds because they wanted to see if good programmers could be made from other backgrounds. Over 3000 people responded to that newspaper ad back in 1978. Me? I won that lottery. I became one of the 20. We were taught a half dozen languages in 2 months and then assigned to a team and paired with a senior programmer.
I realized soon enough that I was a OK programmer, but I’d never be great at it. On the other hand, I was really good at writing up plans and results, so I focused on that part of the job. And other than taking time off to work on big wooden boats for a few years in the late 1980s, I spent the rest of my working life in high tech:
- Technical writer
- Product manager
- Product marketing manager
- Project manager
- Program manager
I had a good run as a worker bee, for the most part.
I got companies to move me around: from San Jose to New York City in 1980 and two decades later, from Boston back to Silicon Valley, and then one final move up to Seattle.
Big enough to house museums and a lively cultural scene (as well as a few sports teams…), but small enough to be walkable, I loved living in the West Fens and walking to work or taking the Green Line. All told, I lived in or around Boston 12 years and it will always feel most like home.
I traveled the globe for work, taking the advice of a long-ago coworker who said to take a personal day every new destination and explore. And because one manager thought you couldn’t really be a world business traveler until you’d needed a round-the-world ticket, we eventually crossed that off my bucket list too. (Thanks, Dave, I still remember you so very well.)
I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and walked along 60 Mile Beach in New Zealand. I’ve seen an opera at the Sydney Opera House and watched Baryshnikov dance at Sadler Wells in London. I’ve stood speechless in front of the stained glass of Sainte Chapelle in Paris. I followed a path along the fallen Berlin Wall, climbed a remote section of the Great Wall of China near Mongolia, and traced my own ancestors to a farm in North Wales.
I saw a golden reclining Buddha in Thailand and a massive brass Buddha outside Tokyo. I’ve shopped the Ginza, the Golden Mile, 5th Avenue, the Champs-Élysées, the street markets of Hong Kong and the night markets of Taipei. I’ve ridden the Eye in London, the Big Wheel in Paris, and the Great Wheel in Seattle. I’ve sailed on the Thames and the Danube, walked along the River Liffey in Dublin, and peered at the waters of Loch Ness wondering if there really is something hidden there. I’ve gotten lost in Bangkok and my taxi driver got lost too. I toured castles in Europe and Wales, some intact, some broken wrecks, all amazing in their own ways. And on one magical night flight over Greenland, I saw the northern lights and watched them till they faded from sight.
More than all the sights, though, I remember the people. The hard-working ladies in the Manila office, the pizza-slice-calculating guys in Sydney, the beer-loving Viennese and that crazy old car rally, and the serious Taipei team striving to understand my American slang. I appreciated the Nanjing and Beijing teams so eager to not only show me their work but also their cities and their culture, and help me see beyond news reports and outdated stories. And the Cheshire office with afternoon tea, and the Dublin guys debating which pub for lunch. If I tried to name you all, I would forget someone, but I can see all your faces clear as day right now and you live in my memory. Thank you for everything.
It’s been quite a ride. And now, a few months shy of 40 years, it’s all done. No more showing up for work, juggling concalls, getting on planes, or checking emails late at night.
It’s time for my next set of adventures: seeing the US and Canada from the road.
I’m officially a full-time vagabond.