Sunday, April 24, 2005

Careers and such...

I’ve been thinking lately... about the various ‘careers’ I’ve had. In my working career I’ve been:
  • An auto mechanic, at several various points actually.
  • A retail store manager
  • An auto parts buyer for a chain of auto parts stores
  • An advertising Manager for a chain store operation
  • A manufactures sale rep for auto parts companies
  • Owner of a custom car shop
  • A substitute High School teacher
  • A college teacher
  • An independent computer consultant
  • The director of a computer sales operation with about 30 employees
  • The author of several commercial software applications
  • A contract programmer
  • Vice-President of Management Information Systems for an Insurance organization
  • CIO and CFO for an Insurance related organization
And today, I find myself back in the role of contract programmer once again. Aside from being a car mechanic, nothing else has given me the raw daily satisfaction that contract programming does, with one notable exception.

During a 14 year period I was also a volunteer fire-fighter for a rural village I lived in. A small group of us formed and pushed forward an initiative to develop ‘interior-attack’ crews. These crews allowed us to quickly identify those individuals who had been training for this task and get them on the trucks first when an alarm came in.

To this day, those folks I worked with remain some of the bravest individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. To a person they were dedicated, courageous and gave of themselves and their time… in many cases gave when their families could have needed them more.

Together we ran into burning buildings when others were running away… we saved property, lives, and in the process, in my case anyway… found ourselves in the process. I remember Larry telling me one night… it’s a “war”… it’s us or the fire, one or the other is going to win… you and me… it’s our job to make sure we win! I remember one fire, a house on the right side of Westbound Rt.49, in between North Bay and Cleveland that had a 30’ fireball blowing out the roof of the building as we rolled up.

Cleveland was already on the scene, Larry and I took off on a dead run for the house… when we got to the door, he looked around saw the rest of the crew was still at the truck and said to the chief standing there “Tell the guys with the air packs on… the fire's over here” … with that he and I made entrance… The center hall was filled with dense white smoke, and out of the haze came Jack Cottet (the Cleveland Fire Chief)… he said something to the effect his crews were getting beat up in the attic, could we get a line in to it from the living room…

We grabbed a pipe (fire hose)… blew a hole in the ceiling and Larry climbed up on a chair to begin working the fire.

I was stabilizing him and the chair when I noticed my feet were getting very hot (this was in January in Upstate NY)… as I looked down I could see bubbles in the water on the floor… NOT a good sign!! I informed Larry, who told me to find Jack and tell him we had a fire in the basement… When I found him, and started to tell him, he stopped me and said: “No, it started on the porch and extended into the attic” (which would be natural as fire/heat tends to rise)… as I continued to explain the floor in the living room.. he stopped me and said “I’ll get a crew on it”.. he did, we all went home safe.. and the last I knew people are living in that house today…

It was the calm, relaxed manner we all had that day (at least that’s how I remember it) that continues to amaze me even now. The place was blazing around us… and yet, these guys all acted like it was just another day at the office. Not to mention they were doing it all for free!

I live a 1000 miles from there now, rarely hear from, talk to or see, any of the old crew… but they’re never far from my mind… anytime I see a story in the paper, see a fire truck, hear the sirens, or pass an old burned out structure…. I remember those days, with pride.

Larry’s gone now, but Abe, Gary, Craig, Jack, ‘Greek’, Mike, Whit, and all the others… thank you… for being the men you are, and for teaching me what real strength, courage and community spirit is.

    3 comments:

    Braleigh said...

    Oh wow, that is amazing.
    It's also great that you've been able to find a solid career that does give you satisfaction, let alone more than one.

    Trevor Record said...

    Sadly, most in the larger cities abandon such notions of civic pride and duty.

    Bill said...

    Braleigh.. I don't know how 'solid' any career really is, especially in the IS/IT business. I often wonder if things would have been simpler if I'd just stayed in advertising! On the other hand, I don't regret anything, if I hadn't done the things I've done, I wouldn't be where I am, and all in all I like the 'place' I find myself today! Thanks again for stopping ny.

    Trevor... I thought much the same as you, before I met these folks. Initially I couldn't understand the dedication these folks had toward something they didn't even get paid for! Over time I found they each had their own reasons, and underneath it all they simply liked helping others. It's one of those things, that the more you do of it, the more you want to do.
    Thanks for stopping by!