Wow! I passed the one-year anniversary of “graduating from full-time work!” As you can imagine, and I’m sure virtually all who reach this turning point do, you start reflecting on events and memories. What was important? What was fun? What was interesting? It turns out a lot of this is more about “who” than “what.” The people who influence your life and direction are what really jumps out.
How did a kid from Queens, NY mature into a Silicon Valley “retiree?” A big part of this is career related, so let’s start by outlining my job history.
When I was 14 I had my eye on a 35mm camera. The Minolta AL I wanted cost $80, far more than the Kodak Brownie I had been using. I became a “paper boy,” delivering “Newsday.” With a basket attached to the front of my bike, I delivered the paper six days a week. I’ll never forget the day I opened the box to first handle my brand-new Minolta AL. I was finally entering the world of f-stops and shutter speeds – very exciting!
As a teenager, I worked at a burger stand ($1.25/hour), at a print shop as a “gopher,” plus summer camp waiter, counselor, and division leader. When I was 17 and a freshman at Queens College, my father passed away. As the oldest of four children, I thought I should drop out of college and help support the family. My Mom disagreed, and insisted I complete my BA degree. During my junior and senior years in college, and into my early 20s, I drove a taxi in NYC.
Turned out, Mom was right – education played a pivotal role in my life, leading to unexpected job and career opportunities. Related experiences in libraries and museums allowed me to experience the richness of New York City, plus adding depth and perspective to my education. Much later, I ended up working in the information/library/electronic publishing industry and still love going to these enlightening institutions during travel.
After graduating, I dabbled in photography, while still driving taxi to help pay the bills. A venture in the music business led to my spending seven months in the San Francisco Bay Area. After this special time, I returned to NYC, but soon felt the urge to return to California. My research skills landed me a job working in a San Rafael bookstore where I oversaw “special orders.” This experience, and encouragement from the owners of the bookstore, prompted a return to school, this time at nearby San Jose State University (SJSU). Northern California became my new home.
Lessons learned as a student assistant and a graduate assistant, combined with my new master’s degree in Library and Information Science, provided the basis for a 40+ year career, starting as a librarian at SJSU. Early experiences with industry conferences led to an interest in working on the vendor side of the business. A grad school contact and a project with a brand new online publisher led to my moving to Dialog, a leader in the then emerging electronic reference publishing industry.
Over the years, my involvement with photography continued, including working on school newspapers and yearbooks. Simmering interests in cars and driving, food, wine, sports, and technology came to full boil along the way.
I credit much of my personal and professional fulfilment to my remarkable youthful peer-group and friends. Living in a development of garden apartments in Queens Village in the 50s and 60s forged unique bonds. We could field two complete softball teams without drafting anyone even one year older or younger than our core group. My high school graduating class had more than 1500 students!
Because of this boomer population, Martin Van Buren High School had to run a 12-period schedule. Juniors and seniors attended the early classes, and you would see them saunter off campus by 12:30 pm, while sophomores and freshman slept late, but the afternoon light was fading or gone by the time they headed home around 5:00pm.
This neighborhood spawned several Facebook groups, with postings and comments sharing testimony on the idylls of growing up in Queens Village. Long online discussions capture and debate the unique flavor of local stores, schools, and, most lovingly, the restaurants. Comments like, “my family used to go there all the time, best Italian in Queens Village, I remember the family who ran the deli,” are common.
My friends growing up led to an appreciation of how the people in your life can enrich your experience. From Junior High School on, mentors and relationships led to broader and unforeseen involvements, stimulating projects and rewarding career direction. Contacts and associations evolve naturally when sharing information. All of my community building was face-to-face, as the necessary technologies for “online networking” didn’t exist “back in the day.” There is no replacement for real human interaction.
I want this blog to provide career-related experiences and perspective that will be useful to the readers. Life is not defined by career alone, so look for fun stuff about photography, cars, driving, food, wine, sports, and technology. I’m looking forward to feedback and discussions, so your input will be critical! Next time I’ll talk about an early mentor, going back to Junior High School.