I’ve never really talked about what my career was or is. Mostly, I think, because I’ve been at a standstill in this part of my life.
I started working very young doing office work for my mother’s company. Then I went into retail as soon as it was legal for me to do so. I worked through middle school and all through my high school years. Once I went into college, I ended up working full-time and going to school part-time. I was in college for a writing degree, but I was working in computers. I grew up in a time when computers were NOT common in the home. You know, back in the day when dial-up was through a 2400 baud modem. Anyone? Anyone? <chirp, chirp> Yeah, I know, a million years ago. I accidentally fell into a computer career because it was interesting to me and it was easy. 90% of what I knew I had learned on my own, and I took that and made a career out of it. It paid really nicely, allowed me to work at a flexible and easy-going job (initially), and so I loved it. I continued in school for writing–because I had always been creative and I loved writing–but I worked in the computer industry. And I remained in the computer industry all through college and after, even though my degree was in writing.
I let my writing go for many years. I found great interest in computers, as they changed often and it kept me intrigued. I also found out that the industry I was in was not so accepting of females, and yet I’d grown up surrounded by boys, so I was less than intimidated. I went from working for an all-female company–where we wore shorts to work in the summer and walked barefoot in the office all year round–to an engineering firm that was riddled with geeks and nerds. The only women on staff in the 50+ company were in the accounting department, the HR department, or at the front desk…with the exception of one female engineer and me. I became fast friends with the female engineer, and felt an easy camaraderie with my direct boss. He was interested in mentoring me, and I was lucky that he was not only knowledgeable and patient, but he was respectful of women. I enjoyed the challenge in this job, and made friends with many of the male engineers. I helped that company move physical locations by doing much of the framework for the new building’s network. I worked my ass off for that company, assuming (naively) that I would be rewarded. My boss was being moved up the chain of command, so I thought that my months and months of extra hard work would put me in line for his position. Instead, they hired a man from outside the company. He was resentful of my intimate knowledge of the company (I had not only written all the policies for the network and IT department, but I also was keeper of the company history)…and I was friendly with almost everyone in the company. With the major exception of the owner, who initially approved of everything I did…until he hired my new boss. My new boss basically sabotaged me to the owner, and within weeks of his hire, I was fired. The one and only time I’ve ever been fired. Called to the HR office, where a woman I was friends with for years gazed at me apologetically, and handed me my termination papers. Then I was walked back to my desk by the security person who I had helped train,where he watched as I packed up my desk and then he walked me out of the building. It was the one and only time I felt set apart in my industry, despite always being in the minority. I even asked the HR woman why I was being fired, and she literally shrugged and said “you’re an at-will employee and the company has decided to let you go.”
I was incredibly soured on the industry at that point. I had a mortgage to pay for, bills that required payment, but I wanted to do nothing. I was angry, and although I interviewed for jobs and had offers, I was hesitant to put myself back in the same position as before. But I finally found a company that I thought would be good to me. There were women in charge, it was woman-owned, and I felt that I would be supported in my position in the company. Again, I was working directly for a man, although this time he was not as amiable as my first male boss. But he did want me to learn, so I took that as something worthwhile. I invested myself again and worked hard. This time, I was given much more opportunity, and I ended up running the company’s IT systems on my own when my boss moved on. I was given a lot of responsibility and I lived up to their expectations…and then some. I was extremely well-respected by management, and I was able to hire a staff. And then, like the previous job, the company decided to expand into another building. Which I facilitated very successfully. I continued to be well-respected by all the staff in the company, and the owner was extremely fond of me. Until such time as my direct boss–the woman I’d been working for for years–decided that they needed a VP of IT, and that I was not experienced enough to fill that position. So she hired an older man who had management experience, but almost no IT experience to speak of. And that’s when my job went downhill. He liked me just fine, though I wasn’t entirely fond of him. But he also expected me to work way more hours than was reasonable, and he dumped every ounce of work on me because he couldn’t do any of it. I was overworked and stressed beyond belief…and I got sick.