My dad retired when he was 67 after a long and inspired career as a physician in small town USA. Over the years he played an important role in the lives of many families. Whether identifying mysterious ailments that baffled others or taking time to make a weekend call to share test results that had nervous patients biting their nails, he was respected for his skills and appreciated for selflessly putting others first. Dad has memories galore, stories by the bushel and best of all looks back on his working life with a heartfelt fondness and smile on his face. He still receives occasional Christmas gifts from grateful people he treated decades ago. When the time finally came to retire he had no regrets getting out of the game when he did. Instead he breathed a sigh of relief having narrowly avoided the increasingly burdensome and complex changes introduced with new healthcare and automation requirements inundating the industry.
All in all, his career was a good run by any measure. How many of us when looking back over our careers can say we made a real difference in the lives of others?
My career was focused on the business world. Although I began college theoretically bound for medical school, I changed course after a brutal freshman year where the professors made it clear the ranks would be thinning. In one biology class the instructor told us to look at the person to our right and then to our left. “One of those will not make it through the program,” he predicted ominously. As it turns out I happened to be one of those.
But it was not a bad thing. I enjoyed the business classes along with the less obsessed business students and the significantly lighter work load. My grades jumped and before I knew it I graduated with my business degree. I quickly found myself in sales. How many remember Computerland? My first job was selling computers which back then included the Osborne and Apple Macintosh along with a new arrival on the scene the IBM PC. I never saw myself in a retail setting but it proved to be a great introduction to technology and I never looked back.
Over the next 30 years I moved through various start-ups and technology companies always either selling or managing sales teams. There were many good memories when we were successful, beating our numbers to bask in the praise of management and co-workers who appreciated our efforts. Of course we did not always make it in which case we were forced to deal with the stressful fall out of end-of-the-month quotas not quite achieved. Welcome to the world of lots of stress and no excuses.
As is the case in the world of technology I lived through more consolidation/mergers/acquisitions than I would have liked. That small company feel and start-up energy I so loved was typically lost when we became part of a bigger organization. Such is the price of progress.
I remember various people encountered along the way – awesome sales reps, managers who inspired, and clients who loyally stuck with you even when your product might not have been perfect. I met my two best friends while on the job. More important I met my wife at a little startup. The company never amounted to much but as we neared the end the unanimous sentiment was our relationship was the best thing that came out of that place. I happen to agree. I was lucky to be on the front end of a few novel services that were the forerunner to greater things. I was able to put the kids through college, buy a house and even save a little for retirement.
Looking back over my career I am satisfied. Despite the ups and downs in general things were good. I did not save any lives but I did make a life for myself and my family. I did my best to maintain my integrity and never intentionally took advantage of anyone. I put in an honest day work and tried to treat others the way I would hope to be treated. I enjoyed successes and survived mistakes hopefully learning lessons from both. If I could go back I might make a few changes, but only a few.
I thank my dad for showing me how it is done. His example, commitment and dedication spoke louder than any words. I hope my son sees in me that same example of how to navigate a career for all it is worth no matter what that career might be. Work was for the most part a positive thing. But I can honestly say there is nothing better than retirement! Good luck to all still living the working life and congratulations to all who have arrived on the shores of retired life.