This is my story. A story about changing careers at age 50. When many people are entrenched in their career and looking at it like it’s all downhill, I decided to make a change.
I love my job. Every day, I come home from work and my wife and kids ask “how was work?”
And every day I answer “amazing!”
But it wasn’t always that way.
I was getting burned out
I was a network engineer and server administrator for over 20 years. It can be a hard job. You are literally on call 24/7/365.
I remember in the two years before I switched careers, I worked on BOTH of the Christmas days that I should have just been hanging out with my family, opening presents.
I was losing my love of my job.
My family was joining in my distress as well, because they had to deal me in my stress.
I needed to make things better.
The funny thing is that, at the time, I didn’t know that it could be better. As I discovered after I got into a better situation, I just accepted the way things were as the way it had to be.
In fact, once I got a new job and started actually wanting to talk to some of the people I used to work with, who were still working way too much. I wanted to explain to them that it was not normal.
Well, it is normal. But it is not necessary. It’s not the only way to work in the tech industry.
The events that lead me to make a change
I was working late nights. I was working every holiday. I was constantly trying to catch up to all the demands on our company’s need for technical growth and maintenance.
I was on salary and a lot of the people working on my team were hourly. That means that I was putting in all kinds of overtime for which my coworkers were getting paid time and a half and sometimes even double time.
My wife was not happy about that, I assure you.
My boss was one of my deepest friends. I had actually gone to work for him because he invited me to lunch one day to ask me to join him at that company.
We’d worked together at a few other places over the years and I always worked well with him.
He was a good boss.
One day, he told me that I needed to keep track of all the holidays I worked and he would give me some vacations days to make up for it.
Long story short, my friend ended up taking his own life.
So my friend was gone. My earned vacation time was gone (no one else had any record of our agreement). My synergistic coworker was gone.
Sometimes change forces us to see the need for a change
Changes in my life were being forced upon me. It was painful.
But it was also a great opportunity for me to evaluate what I really wanted out of my career.
I had to have my hands on a keyboard, I knew that.
But now I made the choice to think about things like the type of work, the environment, the demand, the hours, etc that I wanted in my career.
One thing I hadn’t mentioned earlier is I worked for a company that I didn’t feel comfortable with.
They were in the business of financing people with bad credit.
And they tool advantage of the opportunity.
I didn’t like the attitude of making money is number one. People come somewhere down the list.
So I made a list of what I wanted my work life to look like.
Designing a career
I had narrowed my choices down to three areas.
Network border and gateway security. IT systems support and team management. Data analysis.
I had experience in each of these. But my database experience was very minimal.
I had never worked with databases as an actual part of my job, I only messes with them in efforts to try to help out when there was a problem.
But I was very intrigued by the thought of doing something new. I really liked the idea of programming rather than configuring.
I decided to take a chance and enter a career field that was new, and abandon the safety of what I’d been doing for over 20 years.
Learning on the fly
I started learning anything I could about data, databases, data analysis, etc.
I started downloading YouTube videos to my iPad to watch on the train.
I found some really good free courses.
I paid for some training that filled in the gaps and gave a more complete picture of many of the concepts that I needed to see as a whole.
I went on forums and listened to the experts talk and share ideas and solutions to problems.
And in the five years since I’ve been working in the data industry, I never stop learning.
Every time there’s a project that involves something new, I volunteer.
Never stop learning.
So I now have a new career. I’m doing something very far removed from what I had spent well over 20 years getting very good at.
But the changes to the rest of my life are insane.
My wife tells me all the time how grateful she is that I am where I am.
She can feel the difference in me. She sees the difference in our family.
And although I still deal with frustrations at work, things are definitely better now.
Every day, I love my job and can’t wait to wake up and do it again.
If you ask me if I could do it over would I do it again…
Yeah. The only thing I’d do different – I’d have done it sooner.
So if you are thinking of making a change, do it.
Figure out what you want and go get it.