- 1968-1972, American Express, Programmer – This is stint #1 of 2 with American Express. It started as “Space Bank” and did computerized hotel and motel reservations. I started in the technical support center and was responsible for keeping the communications circuits between the computer and the hundreds of “properties” up and running. Although hired for my electronics knowledge, in practice it was never really needed. After what may have been a year, I moved into computer programming. I wrote one program for the personnel department in Cobol but then shifted into a new group where we created a front end network that I’ve written about in this blog a few times. Creating that front end network, we pulled a few all nighters and more than a few weekends but, in spite of being low man on the totem pole, I helped create a very high quality finished product that lasted for several decades.
- 1972-1973, Planning Research Corp, Research Associate – We moved from Phoenix Arizona to Rome New York in time for 30″ of snow and ice. Everyone thought we were crazy stupid for taking this job. They were right. We moved back to Phoenix and I took up my previous job again.
- 1973-1978, American Express, Supervisor of Software Quality – This was my second stint with American Express where we continued the work described above.
- 1978-1980, ITT Courier, Project Leader – I worked on an abortive effort to make their product compatible with “SNA” (System Network Architecture) from IBM which they thought would be the future but the effort was too big a bite for me personally and, worse, too big for the company as well. They have long since disappeared.
- 1980-1982, Lemcom Systems, Sr. Systems Analyst – I rode my bike back and forth to this nearby job creating one major work, a “protocol bridge” that allowed two IBM mainframes to share one set of terminals. I left before the software was sold but later heard that, after some minor fixes, it worked quite well. The system used a network of microprocessors and had many very clever ideas.
- 1982-1995, Motorola, Principal Staff Engineer – Motorola was my dream employer but it took a full decade to get there. But after all that work to get hired, I then quickly discovered the “big semiconductor company” mentality was stodgy, opinionated, and rarely open to originality. In spite of that, and sometimes because of it, I learned a lot in the thirteen years as well as earning a pension that we will start enjoying in four days. Ultimately however, I produced very little software that was actually sold to customers. And while doing all that work that went unsold, we would watch the company slowly destroy itself. Personally, the saving grace was that, in my last years at Motorola, I would start teaching software instead of writing it and, therein, discover what I had grown to do better than anything else. From then on, I would teach software engineering to customers building real products.
- 1995-2000, Integrated Systems, Sr. Instructor – I did lots of travel and teaching including some international, and some of it with my wife on their “nickel” — that was nice! These were big name companies like Boeing and Ford and while I understood the big company mentality, I also came to appreciate what good engineering could accomplish in a positive environment.
- 2000-2003, MontaVista Software, Mgr of Customer Education – I was the entire department. MontaVista let each employee create his/her own job title. For example, one of the software gurus was the “Senior Code Monkey.” I chose the rather mundane but indicative “Manager of Customer Education” title but, in practice, I did everything. I wrote the training, purchased and configured the lab equipment, wrote the web pages, told the sales folks how to sell the training, shipped the systems, travelled and taught the classes, collected the checks — and $4000 from a customer from China who brought cash — and did a thousand other odd jobs to run the training portion of the overall business. Having the whole show to myself was great. Regardless of whether something succeeded or failed, I was solely responsible. I enjoyed this job immensely due to the complete freedom I had to “get the job done.” And I did good for them. But my job succumbed to false promises from an outside organization who would drain off megabucks for several years and with whom I would do battle for the next decade.
- 2003-2004, RyteTyme, Consultant – Unexpectedly out of work from MontaVista and with no real prospects, I took a blind stab at running my own training business but quickly discovered I was not a salesman. I sold only a single session of training and, to stay afloat, taught a one-time class in embedded systems technology in the People’s Republic of China where I discovered how very, very good at this they are and that, if we should ever have to fight a physical, financial or business “war” with them, we should expect to get our noses bloodied, and very badly at that. Regardless, during this year we drained our savings and cashed in our life insurance policies to stay afloat until a paying job came along. [Phew!]
- 2004-2006, Green Hills Software, Developer and Instructor – In hindsight, this was a total waste due to secret relationships and dealings between individuals in senior management that were counter to the company’s best interests. But it did provide a steady paycheck while I regrouped from that year of unemployment.
- 2006-2014, Wind River Systems, Sr. Staff Instructor – My best work is teaching in the classroom and this is where I got to do that a lot with customers that went on to build highly successful products. I have a lot of pride in what they have accomplished and know that, in a small way, I am part of their success. Whenever a passenger or military jet flies over I can honestly say, “I taught some of the engineers that made that.” When I read about spacecraft on Mars as well as most of the programs since about 2008, I know I helped in almost all of them, albeit indirectly. And when I drive the new Honda we purchased in anticipation of car trips in retirement or have an unexpected visit to the Emergency Room at the hospital, I look at all the technology and know that I was a part of making that happen.
To sum it up, those first 25 years in software engineering were the necessary preparation for what I now think of as my “real job” for the next 20 years as a teacher of software engineering. I would not have succeeded as a teacher in the beginning as I had neither the technical knowledge nor the people skills. So, to those who knew the arrogant, skinny and often obnoxious and sometimes immature man who didn’t have a clue, I can only send my belated and embarrassed thanks for the lessons I would eventually understand.
Indirectly, those individuals are also part of the computerized airplane and automobiles and medical instruments that make up our world today.
To them I say, “Thank you.”