Working It

Thursday, July 30, 2009

I can't believe I missed it.

I started working for the government on July 19, 1989 so last week was my 20th anniversary at work. And I missed it.

Is it too late to get out some noise makers and streamers?

In 1988-1989, I was still in high school, but not sure what I was going to be doing after 'graduation'. I had graduted from grade 12 the year before, qualifying me for entry to college, if I cared to apply and get accepted. I hadn't finished enough OAC (grade 13) credits to get into university. (In Canada, there is a distinction between college and university). I was working at a Mexican restaurant, and going out with co-workers after work and generally taking it easy. My mom suggested applying to a government inventory so I filled out some paperwork and sent it in. She knew a manager who was looking to hire someone, and I got an interview. I didn't get that job, but other departments were hiring and someone got my name off the inventory. I got another interview, this time for an entry-level job in computers. I had taken typing in school (before it was called keyboarding) and a computer course or two, so the questions weren't that hard. They asked me what the keyboard does, how the monitor displays information, and how computers work. At the time, almost no one had a home computer, and I had really only ever used my cousins' Commodore 64 to play Olympics.

I got the job, and started in July.

A month earlier, I had moved out on my own because my mom was moving to Barbados. Turns out, she didn't move away, but I had a lease and a roommate, so I stuck it out. It was my first time living on my own, and I had just turned 18, so I was swimming in the deep end. I hadn't figured out budgeting and those were some pretty lean times. I remember sometimes only having enough money to buy bread, and I'd have to eat it with mayonaise, mustard, or whatever condiments I had in the fridge. I was lucky I made it to and from work because sometimes I had trouble scrounging up enough change for the bus.

I worked on Shift C at the National Data Centre, with Suzie, Jamie, Georges, and Sylvie, a friend to this day! We had so much fun on our night shifts, saving up our breaks and heading to a club for some dancing in the middle of the night, or playing cards with Guy and Eric downstairs in the lunch room. Georges didn't speak English, so my French improved immensely, and I'll always be thankful to him for that. After my beginnings as a tape librarian, moving those big, round computer tapes from place to place, I ended up moving to the help desk. After a couple of years, I started getting a bit bored and decided to go to university.

My boss, Pierre, allowed me to work part-time while I went to school. By cramming my classes together whenever possible, so I could work a few days during week, and by working 4 months every summer, and most of the time during exam periods (May and December), I was able to finish my honours degree in four years and work 65% of full-time. Since I was making decent money at this time, and lived with roommates, with a compact, budget-friendly car, I was pretty comfortable and could go out and do all of the things I enjoyed, when I wasn't studying.

About a year after graduation, I was looking for more challenges, so I switched departments. I ended up working as a LAN administrator, which was a really poor fit for me. Within 7 months, I had applied for, and been accepted to teach English in Japan for a year, with a possibility to extend for up to three. My employer allowed me the one-time, one-year-less-a-day personal leave outlined in my classification's contract. Before I left in July of 1997, I also started dating DH, having met him on the ultimate field the summer before.

I left for Japan and met Jessica and hit it off with her. We had so much fun when we were together, but there were also quite a few frustrations, boredom and I missed DH terribly. I made two trips home that year, and DH and I met in Australia for 2 1/2 weeks that Christmas. At the end of the year in Japan, I returned home and stayed with DH for a while, then got my own apartment, and went back to work.

I made a lateral transfer a few months later, then applied for the government's management trainee program and got accepted. I enjoyed a posting in the international commerce group, and one in a central agency, before managing a <$2M IT project over 13 months from fall of 2000 to the fall of 2001. When I started working there, I was a newlywed, with no project management experience, and by the time I left, I had won a competition as a project manager, and I was pregnant with my first child. I left the management trainee program to take the PM job, but didn't stay long as I was expecting.

Since May of 2002, I've been in the same job, but I have been moved from project to project. I
haven't worked that much, having taken one year maternity leave with each of my three kids, plus an additional 2 years after child number 3. Now I'm working two days/week and have been for almost a year. Eventually I'll go back full-time and be able to put some effort and focus into my career again. Gearing down out of the rat race and watching my career aspirations get taken down a notch was a bitter pill. On the other hand, I have a great relationship with my kids, they are turning out pretty well, plus I've been able to do a lot of fun, creative stuff, like blog, do photography, and scrapbook.

I have it pretty good right now and I know how lucky I am.

I'm about half way through my career. The trade off for working part-time is that it will delay my retirement by however long I do it. As far as I can tell, I have 20 down, 20 years to go. Is there such a thing as a mid-career crisis?

And happy 20th anniversary of our friendship Sylvie! I can't wait for our shopping trip to Montreal!


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