How'd You Get Where You Are?

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by Foxer55, Aug 19, 2014.

  1. Foxer55

    Foxer55 A-List Customer

    Washington, DC
    How'd you get where you are? Did you get a formal degree or go to tech/trade school? Maybe you took over a family business or started a business. Maybe you just stumbled on to something.

    I'll start. I barely got out of highschool 'cause I hated it. I joined the Army, got a really good technical background by going to nuclear weapons school. I left the service, got very good employment over the years in high tech defense work, eventually got an A.S. degree, got a B.S. degree and now, even at my advanced age, continue to do high tech defense work. The future looks good.

    How about you?
  2. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Chicago, IL US
    I have no one but myself to blame. Prodigal black sheep and nobody in the family understands me; nor do I.
    Had a perfect life as a surfer on Kaneohe Beach, Oahu. Chasing frisbees, wahines, and the occasional wave.
    And I walked away from it, left Hawaii forever, returned to the mainland. :eusa_doh:
  3. sheeplady

    sheeplady I'll Lock Up Bartender

    I went for a B.S. in Biology. It was going to be Biology or Art, and I figured I could feed myself with Biology. I grew up in a rural place, and I didn't realize all the different sorts of things someone could do, but I was decent in the lab and working with animals. About half way through I realized I was not cut out for my future career path (Large Animal Veterinarian) but was on the state (read: cheap) side of a very expensive private university (and I was self-supporting), so I decided to stick it out in my major. Worked during college full-time in the school's library for a few years, and rediscovered my love of training and teaching.

    Went for an M.S. in Communications. Started doing consultation around HR, Training, etc. Went for a Ph.D. in Education because I was encouraged to by several professors and clients, but ended up switching to an IT program after I found the department I had been in was moving more towards childhood education (as opposed to adult ed). Earned a M.S. in Education during the switch. Worked for a while in IT support, and got my lifetime share of being called names. Then I started teaching, first only undergraduates and then later graduate students too. In several different subjects, mostly Business Communication, Risk Management, Ethics, and Research Methods.

    Fast forward to spring 2013. I had prepped my dissertation and had it in my committee's hot little hands. Had my daughter (our first and only child) and two weeks later was sitting in my Doctor's office holding my newborn and hearing a nurse say, "I"m sorry, but you have a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer." My surgeon scheduled my surgery the day after my dissertation defense. Passed my defense with no revisions (rare). Sent my committee the news that night in an email. I wanted to know I had done the defense on my own and they hadn't been easy on me because I was sick.

    Went into surgery the next day, they told me if they came across positive lymph nodes they would need to fully put me under and my throat would be sore when I woke up. I woke up and I had been in surgery 5 hours instead of the predicted 2, and my throat burnt. I knew my chances weren't good for survival beyond my daughter's third birthday at that point.

    So I laid there, sobbed a little bit, and I decided to become a stay-at-home mom.

    Best damned decision I've ever made.
  4. JennyLou

    JennyLou Practically Family

    La Puente, Ca
    Since I was little I have wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When college time came around I realized that might not be possible in today's economy where two incomes are needed. It took me years to decide what I wanted to major in, but after 6 years or taking a course here or there I finally decided to major in American Studies. I love American history and studying the culture. I loved every moment of being in my classes and my professors and miss the excitement of picking out new classes and getting assigned books to study. Well, I graduated in December with a Bachelors or Arts. 8 months later and over 200 job applications later I still work at a minimum wage job. An American Studies degree is not very popular with employers and if you do want to pursue the field they usually prefer a Masters. Although I loved pursuing my degree I wish I could have gone back and picked something more practical, maybe Human Services or HR. I have been working since I was 18, as a barista, high school instructional assistant, cashier and now a low level supervisor at a major retail as well as human resources there. I'm considering getting teaching credentials or a Masters after I pay off some student loans and help my family get on their feet. I get discouraged a lot but at least I have the job that I do have.
  5. LizzieMaine

    LizzieMaine Bartender

    No member of my family going back over 150 years has ever held any kind of a degree -- we've always been a family of carpenters, mechanics, cab drivers, bookkeepers, factory workers, fishermen, lighthouse keepers, and so forth -- so college was never an expectation for me, and frankly, I had no interest in going. I wasn't impressed with formal education, given that I attended a second-rate, incompetently-run small-town high school that was stripped of its accreditation a few years after I graduated. Instead, I learned by reading and by doing.

    I had a lot of jobs I hated -- working on the line in a t-shirt factory, making hot dogs in a meat market, counting empty pop bottles in the back of a grocery store -- but all the while I was reading and thinking and preparing to do what I really wanted to do. I pestered the program director at the local radio station until he gave me a job, and I did anything they assigned me to do once I was in. Within a couple of years I was on the news staff at a bigger station in another town, and within a few more years I was the News Director at the biggest station in the market. I did that for eight years, until I realized I was working for a man of no moral character at all, and I quit. But the job had given me the best of all possible training in how to actually write -- by writing on deadline, seven days a week. Over those nine years I wrote maybe ten thousand pages of material on hundreds of different subjects, and I learned to research and write clearly, simply, and efficiently on any topic.

    I spent the next nine years doing freelance writing -- articles, essays, radio scripts, all sorts of things. I established a reputation for myself as a historian of broadcasting, got a book published, and worked as a freelance consultant/fact checker alongside my own writing.

    But I got tired of this routine, and when one of my main clients went out of business in 2006, I grabbed a chance to work at the local theatre, just reopened after a full renovation. My uncle, an old-time film projectionist/theatre manager, had taught me projection when I was a teenager, and I jumped right into a projectionist job. Within a year, I was the manager, and remain in that position today. It's the best job I've ever had -- and the people I work with have in a very real sense become my family. A few years into that, I was offered a long-term writing/product development contract by the largest producer of "old time radio" on CD, and continue to do that work as well. And I still write five radio scripts a week for a friend with a show on CBS.

    So how did I get where I am? By never having a preconceived idea of what I "should" be doing.
  6. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

    I started by flunking out of high school and looking for ways to avoid work. This led me into buying and renovating houses and apartments, with the idea I would be a landlord, sit on my ass with my feet up on the desk and watch the money roll in.

    Well the money never rolled in worth a damn unless I went out and got it, but I do enjoy renovating old buildings and I have made some money over the years. Now own several houses free and clear that give me a nice income.
  7. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

    Luck, chance, opportunity, shrewd planning, and when all else failed, treachery.
  8. Doctor Strange

    Doctor Strange I'll Lock Up

    Hudson Valley, NY
    I grew up working in the family business - a small commercial photo studio - so I was exposed to the responsibilities and realities of real life early. I was a classic geek in the days before computers, when we were NOT considered cool, and I did all the standard geek stuff: magic, chess, Super 8/16mm film making and collecting, science fiction fandom, etc. I went to college intending to be a film major, but ended up double majoring in history and creative writing. I spend nearly two years after college still working with my parents part-time while I tried, and failed, to break into the NYC commercial film biz. Eventually, I took a series of odd jobs so I could move out: photo documentarian, assistant at a firm that imported Asian antiques for interior decorators and collectors, various roles at some NYC-based print shops and type houses...

    A couple of my friends were computer programmers by this point (1982), and they invited me to join them in a Greenwich Village-based, venture capital-financed software startup. They needed a technical writer to produce manuals for the software (a grandiose multi-platform/multi-language compiler that ended up being pretty impractical as a product), and while I didn't have the computer knowledge, I did have a degree in writing. I'd known some technical writers from my days as a commercial photographer - they were the ones directing us at on-site shoots for user manuals and catalogs - and realized that it was something I could do. After five years experiencing the entire lifecycle of a failed startup, I found another job with a different computer outfit.

    I've been a software tech writer ever since. It's not exciting, nor especially creative, but it pays the bills... With one of my kids now two years out of college and the other starting her final year, it's worked out pretty well!
  9. Puzzicato

    Puzzicato One Too Many

    It definitely sounds like the right decision. Wishing you good health and happiness with your family.
  10. I come from a long line of rural farmers, sharecroppers and fishermen, and was the first to go to college. At least on my father's side. My mother's side is from Spain, and I know little about them, though I suspect they were farmers and fisherman as well. I had several offers from schools to play baseball, but after "input" from more than one pro scout, my father convinced me I had little future in it and might as well get to work on a something else. I went to college wanting to be an optometrist, which basically made me a biology major by default. Only one problem...I discovered that I hated biology. While hating biology, I took a geology course and liked it. So I took another. And another. So I finally decided to make that my major.

    Around the same time, I also discovered that I liked beer and rock and roll music. So I drank lots of beer, played a little music here and there, and hung out in clubs a lot. I also started doing roadie work, everything from unloading/loading trucks, to operating spotlights, to occassionally mixing sound. We used to have a saying: "Road Crew: where high tech meets low life." I also did any number of other jobs trying to earn living expenses...roofing, moving furniture, shoveling dirt (strapping young college boys could always rent out their muscles) and working at the aluminum can factory.

    At the same time, I was pursuing my academic career, and eventually graduated with my geology degree and went to grad school, where I studied, of all things, meteorites. The problem with this is it's like studying to be the Queen of England. There's only one job in the world, and it won't be yours. I did, however, manage to work as a research assistant at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, which was a lot of fun.

    By this time, it was the early 90's, and traditional employment opportunities for geologists were pretty bleak. But there were opportunities in the environmental field, which I eventually embraced. So I did get into the oil and gas business as geologist, just not in the capacity I assumed. Been doing that for 20-something years now.

    And I still play baseball. Just not as well.
  11. Atticus Finch

    Atticus Finch Call Me a Cab

    Coastal North Carolina, USA
    This is going to sound like a joke, but it isn't. I liked college life. I was luke warm about college itself, but I really liked the life. So I just kept hanging around colleges and universities for as long as I could. Every time they would tell me I was finished and should leave, I would figure out a way to stay…or return. I finally ended up with a law degree. Seemed like a shame not to use it, so here I am.

  12. Dragon Soldier

    Dragon Soldier One of the Regulars

    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    The young me had his life mapped out during his teens, this plan was set back somewhat... In fact completely scuppered by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting refusal of the UK government to pay people to plot doing nasty things to them, which was pretty much what I had my heart set on.

    After that flirting with the media, education and HR sectors while accruing a decent IT ability.

    Just recently, I've been doing very little, making very little, although I've yet to starve or indeed actually do without much (unless you count not being able to get to the rugby in Italy & France as often as I'd like).

    I'm very seriously considering reading philosophy (if not actually some sort of divinity) somewhere, despite being pretty well confirmed athiest. It's an int thing.
  13. tomtom42

    tomtom42 New in Town

    Hi there,

    well - after after high school/college (our education system is somewhat different from the US) and compulsary miltary service I went to university planning to get a degree in mechanical engineering - which did not turn out as planned, as I had a hard time adapting to the rather "chaotic" university education system where basically nobody cared if you attended classes, took exams and so on.
    As my studies took more and more time I needed a job and by chance I started working part time for the Austrian broadcasting corporation (ORF) as a stage hand. As time went on I started to really like all this TV and radio business and slowly worked my way up to assistant cameraman/assistent sound engineer - only to discover that there was no realistic chance to advance this any further or even get a fulltime job at that level without the "right" connections :|
    Since I had almost completely abandoned my university studies for some years during this broadcasting "career" it was time for decisions - I decided to quit the universty studies and start looking for a "real" job.
    With no formal degree (except "Matura" which is a pretty generic basic college degree...) I (again by chance) got in a field which - at that time - did not care a lot about formal education and still paid rather well: IT services :)
    I started with jobs like moving PCs and printers - but again I learned a lot about all this stuff and soon advanced to more interesting stuff.
    Fast forward to now - I'm still in IT services, nowadays doing mostly security stuff (If I told you in detail I might have to kill you afterwards - just kidding :) )

    So - looking back most things did not go as planned, but I really can't complain :)

  14. Harp

    Harp I'll Lock Up

    Chicago, IL US

    I had a peripatetic Vietnam GI Bill existence. Aced all classes but very truant, preferring to chase and recite poetry,
    and this crashed with a law school Torts prof that led to the dean's office. Led to the scaffold. :eeek:

    Good luck with Lady Philosophy and remember: contentum suis rebus esse maximae sunt divitiae. ;)
  15. Stanley Doble

    Stanley Doble Call Me a Cab

    " It took me years to decide what I wanted to major in, but after 6 years or taking a course here or there I finally decided to major in American Studies."

    What were you thinking? I am not being smart, I sincerely want to know. Did you think there were lots of high paying positions for American Studies majors, or did getting a job some day never cross your mind or what?

    I know there are millions in the same situation. I am puzzled that all those people spent 6 years and over $100,000 getting a degree then finding out it is worthless for getting a job.
  16. Hemingway Jones

    Hemingway Jones I'll Lock Up Bartender

    Acton, Massachusetts
    I grew up in Philadelphia. Juniata Park to be precise. I spent my weekends reading books on dinosaurs and Norse Mythology in the Philadelphia Public Library and made my way through 12 years of Catholic School.

    I didn't have high expectations for college, although I was clever enough to hold it in high esteem for the doors that it would open, the ideas that I would be exposed to, and the people that I would meet. I saw it as an exercise to refine character. My parents made it very clear that I was on my own in regard to paying for it and for living expenses. That was inconsequential.

    I applied at one school and one school accepted me; Rutgers. I was full-time the first year and then did as many credits as I could per semester, including summer semesters, while I worked as a teller at a bank full-time. I also did custom carpet work part-time. I studied English Literature and Linguistics.

    It took me seven years to get my undergrad and I still consider this one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.

    After graduation, I applied for a management trainee program at a regional Philadelphia-based bank. Over 400 people applied for 16 positions and many of these were Wharton and Sloan people. The economy then was very bad. I was hired for my experience in the industry and because I was able to articulate my goals for myself in the field.

    I worked my way through that experience making customer service and alternative delivery the focus of my career. I was the first to graduate from the program and the first to be placed as a manager. I worked there for a few years and then moved to Boston.

    In Boston, I worked in bank management and then business development. I took a pay cut to learn commercial lending since that is the engine of traditional banking and a very interesting, profitable and personally rewarding career. The bank sent me to Babson for credit training; credit training is very difficult to come by. I had a mentor who taught me the business and then I moved through that bank to my present bank.

    My boss nominated me to a graduate program at Wharton for my industry from which I just graduated in June and promoted me to Vice President.

    I am at the top of my game now with nothing but good things ahead. Each day is interesting and challenging. I work with my business with sales up to $50MM to understand their businesses and industries and come up with creative structures to meet their needs for financing. I consider where there are, figure out where they want to go to, and map out a course. It's amazing to see driven individuals create wealth with their passion and drive. It truly is the engine of our economy.

    How did I get where I am? I worked. I kept my head down and kept forging ahead. I still am. It is who I am.
  17. GHT

    GHT I'll Lock Up

    New Forest
    How did I get where I am? By being lucky, by being in the right place at the right time and by having the courage of my convictions.
    I was in the right place at the right time when I met an entrepreneur, I was lucky when he, through his company, sponsored me through university at the age of 28 and I had the courage of my convictions by marrying the girl I loved, despite her only being 18 and me being 22.

    We were both competitive amateur ballroom dancers, who came together by chance. She was 16, I was 20. After winning everything on the amateur circuit, we toyed with turning professional, but it meant living out of a suitcase whilst we toured everywhere. Our dancing precluded a family, then, as we got older, we either realised, or were progressively getting more & more selfish, either way, we decided that as we didn't seem to have the 'Broody' gene, we were happy to stay as we were.

    When we decided not to turn professional she became a paramedic and I climbed the greasy pole of management. To that end we have achieved much in the way of material possessions, but the greatest achievement was going with that feeling, all those years ago, that this is the girl I am going to marry, so why wait? We have just three more years of avoiding the grim reaper and we will make it to our golden wedding anniversary. Bring it on, she's the best thing that's ever happened to me.
  18. ChiTownScion

    ChiTownScion Call Me a Cab

    The Great Pacific Northwest
    It was in the back of my head that one day I'd become an attorney. Either that, or a steam locomotive engineer..... and since that ceased to be a viable option about 60 years ago, well, it narrowed things considerably.

    Dad was a Chicago firefighter and a union carpenter. Mom was a stay at home housewife with no real job skills. Mom pushed higher education as a way up early on in my life. I was bright as a kid, but lazy: I did what I had to do in order to pass. Like Hemingway, I survived 12 years of Catholic schooling: I always say that it helped to make me the Presbyterian that I am today.

    I went to a pretty selective Jesuit high school--- more preppy than parochial. Bill Murray was five years ahead of me, and Chris O'Donnell was about as many years behind. Not going to college was never really in the cards, but my parents were sort of the "our way or the highway" on that score. They wanted to dictate where I'd go, where I'd live, what I'd study, etc. I went to their college of choice and left after 2 weeks. Dropped out, and after a semester off, enrolled in a community college. Then, went off to a state university. Told my parents to keep their money, that I would work my own way through. And so, I did.

    Took a lot of crappy jobs along the way that many would deem beneath themselves. Worked in a factory making electric motors and sold candles retail. Some of the jobs were fun: I worked construction one summer and did quite well, and worked in a steel fab shop maintaining equipment. Worked security at a couple of urban hospitals and, when I was a starving law student, worked for a large law firm and a solo practitioner. When I dropped out of that university the dean told me that he didn't think I even belonged in college. I had my Juris Doctor and had passed my bar exam by my 26th birthday.

    I got my Dream Job by pure luck. I never expected to do criminal defense work at all, but I put in 30 years in the largest public defender office in the country. I loved the courtroom, and I had the opportunity to help a lot of people out who really needed my services. Finally was able to retire with a decent pension, and now I am on my own.

    I've had a lot of very rewarding experiences along the way, and worked with some superb attorneys and judges. The war stories are legion: some so remarkable that were I to write them into a script no one would believe that they could have happened. All in all, life has been as it's written in the song: non je ne regrette rien.
  19. Shangas

    Shangas I'll Lock Up

    Melbourne, Australia
    I'm still gettin' to where I'm goin' (not thirty yet). But...

    I went to the same school for 13 years and graduated in 2005.

    I went to university for something like six or seven years. Graduated in 2010 and 2013. With a Bachelor of Arts., maj. in History, and a Master of Arts in Writing.

    My first paying job was right out of highschool. I worked for three or four years as a first-aid officer. It was quite a cushy job, although we did have our share of excitement and ambulance-calls. Nobody died on my watch, so I must've been at least fairly competent.

    After about four years doing that, I had to stop about 2008-09, and since I've been doing volunteer work. Mostly retail stuff for charity thrift-shops and such, although I also had a brief stint of about six months as a research assistant at a historical society.

    In March this year, I approached a small, and very new online-magazine publishing company and after one interview with the Chief of Staff I was offered the post of Editor for their History magazine. It didn't even exist when she asked me to take on the role, so I had to create it from the ground up. Because the company is REALLY new (it celebrated its 1st birthday a few weeks back and I went to the party) almost all the positions (including mine) are volunteer. The number of PAID positions could probably be counted on two hands.

    But their hope is that once they get enough money from advertising revenue, our positions all become paid ones.

    Oh. And issue 2 just came out yesterday. Here's a link:

    Shameless plug is shameless.

    ...aaaand I'm still looking for paid work. I keep being told the same two things by everyone I've met.

    1. Be persistent. Which I have been.
    2. You're really employable. Which I'm yet to see any evidence of.

    The latest position which I applied for which has borne any sort of positive reply so far was a part-time salesman's role at a luxury menswear shop in the next suburb. I got an email back from the HR Manager and she said that she was very impressed with my experience and passion. If I was successful with the screening, then I'd get contacted for an interview sometime in the next week, starting yesterday.

    Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2014
  20. Foxer55

    Foxer55 A-List Customer

    Washington, DC

    Wish you all the best in the world.


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