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Author Topic: Career changes  (Read 999 times)

Offline alwyn

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Career changes
« on: June 06, 2010, 10:35:28 am »
Hi everyone,

I'm curious as to who on the forum has changed careers once or more in life.  Please share ages, motivation, etc.

I have not changed career myself (yet), but let me colour in what got me to the question...

During my teens I was brainy, sporty, adventurous with a huge imagination.  Up till Std. 8 I was going to become a theoretical physicist, go work for NASA and make travel to foreign planets a household commodity.

Then the information age interfered, released the Vulcan in me and induced an addiction similar to being ge-Tik.

Being brainy I got a bursary to go study.  Parents were poor, so it was an opportunity of a life time.  Mistake nr. 1.  Children should find their course in life by experiencing it and sampling it and not jumping in head first.

So I went to study electronic engineering, after all I wanted to understand the hard parts of information technology. 

Being brainy I met my first real love and wife while studying.  We married 3 years later in my final year and we started a family early in life.  At almost 38 I have 3 kids of 10, 14 and 15 respectively.  I do not regret my wife or kids, but rather the affects my career and resulting mindset had on the relationships.  I wish I could go back and change it, but I can't and will have to do my best with what time I have left.

After studies, I didn't practice pure engineering, but went the software development route.  Mistake nr. 2.  Unless it makes you happy and is your ultimate passion, don't dilute your niche value by practicing a job that is a commodity. 

Engineering is an insanely difficult qualification to achieve with certified barriers to practice.  Any idiot who can type can be a software developer and businesses don't make the distinction on quality but mostly on price.  Pure engineering was never my passion though, it could be now as I'm more mature, but back then (and still depending on circumstances) it was computers and programming.  15 years later, I'm a zero as an engineer though.

I have worked at 'good' companies from a brand perspective and for the first 5 years I grew in skill.  Then I declined the natural progression into management (Mistake 3) by skipping the country and contracting in Asia (not a mistake). I have done unofficial management overseas and senior software development tasks, still didn't learn anything of value though.  I am very good at it though.

To make a long story short I have been back in SA (for good, but wrong reasons) for 4 years now.  I work for a 'good' international company, but as a normal software developer.  I compete on a daily basis with people 15 years my junior and report to immature managers 12 years my junior.  My daily tasks are meaningless (to me).  Chances of going into management are very slim, although I have the right credentials outside of the company, it is only what happened at the company that counts.  I have paid the price of career earlier in my life, so have little motivation to put everything on line for my job as my young adversaries are willing to do (and I have done in the past).  Of course this doesn't count in my favour.

So 15 + 5 years after school, I have neglected family with scars that will probably never heal.  Physical activity is rare if you sit on your butt 8 - 14 hours a day, so my health has gone south and I daily sit staring at 4 walls and 2 monitors telling myself how much I am wasting time by not being outside exploring the world and experiencing its natural wonders.  I write software that has no real benefits for mankind, so no purpose but to put food on my table.

I still like computers and programming, but corporate environments have slowly oppressed this passion and worse other passions at well.  When I travel, climb mountains, take pictures, take part in sports, etc, it is as if I feel alive again, but the feeling fades quickly when I think of work and of how much time I have wasted at work.

Somehow somewhere there must be a way of finding something to do that will create that balance in my life that will restore me to the soul I was 25 years ago...


Offline maanhaarleeu

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2010, 01:19:28 pm »
Hi Alwyn,

Doing something you love for a living does not usually pay the bills (for a very few like famous musicians it actually does  8) ) but for the rest of us I think the only balance we are left with is doing stuff we like as a hobby or semi professional after hours.
Actually with only limited time to practise our "hobbies" it makes anything we take up after work hours so much more challenging but also any achievements so much more rewarding.
Not giving you much advice here but with family responsibilities a career change can be even more challenging.
What career are you considering?  If your OH can support you and your family while you are trying out a new career it may also help so alot of factors needs to be kept in mind when considering changing a career.
I think a person will always do better at something they have a passion and a natural ability for so like Lance Armstrong said: "Anything is possible".

Good luck and let us know how it goes.
Auckland NZ, Howick

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2010, 01:19:28 pm »

Offline SaKiwiBoer

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2010, 07:16:06 pm »
Hi Alwyn, if I'm going to do this then we'll need a couple of cups of coffee...  :2funny:
 :coffee:

Ok, firstly I know how you feel, but I also admire you that you still have a qualification and a job. That must be nice, although all your "comrades" are a bunch of "pipi-jollers" that don't know zip about life and think they are the "kat se snor"(if you know what I mean???). Just remember LIFE is not good on relationships and especially families. It takes hard work to try and keep them all happy and together. Again I take  :urwelcome: off to you.
Like MHL said you should think what you want to do and see if it is possible to make it work. But good luck with all that and I will post something later. Maybe it will help you aswell. Cheers, SAKB
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Offline Awa

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2010, 09:07:27 pm »
To answer your question "No" I have never had a changed in career however I have learned to be passionate about what I do by changing my environment.   I am an administrator and have always been an administrator - and I love it and is very content.   This was not always the case.  Like you I believed that I settled for less in my career but I have always been a person for whom family came first and I was not prepared to spend long hours away from them just to get to the top of my career.  Now, even though I am a Senior Administrator I have girls around me same age as me at General Manager level - did I make the right choice for me and my family "yes".   Some people find it strange that you can have a passion for admin but I actually do.  I love creating order out of chaos, I love it when new systems need to be created and I'm the one they call, I love being really good at what I do!  I did pretty mundane admin work to start off with, video shops, panel beaters, hotels - now don't get me wrong there was NOTHING wrong with these jobs but they made me feel like I was just doing a job day in and day out without much passion.  Then I started working at Property Development company which specialised in building houses for the poor and the destitute.  I suddenly discovered new meaning in my work and loved seeing the look on peoples faces when they received the keys to their new hous.  Most of them have never had even a roof over their heads before.   I vowed never to take a job again where I did not feel fulfilled and like I was making  a difference but had to break that vow when we arrived in NZ and I worked as a cleaner for some months while trying to find other work.  I knew that it was just a temporary setback though.   My patience paid off and for the last year and a half I have been working for a organization that specialises in Mental Health.  I work in the Needs Assessment as well as Youth Forensic services and the contribution to the community we make as an organization is phenominal.   So I am still doing admin but have found fulfillment in making a change in the environment I do admin in. O0
« Last Edit: June 06, 2010, 09:10:18 pm by Jackie »
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Offline Nolan

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2010, 12:34:56 am »
Hi Alwyn

I have a pretty good example for you. My cousin and myself are a year apart age wise, he being a year older. He has always been more mechanically enclined, I have always been good at computers. Up to a point our lives followed exactly the same route. We both "had" to take electronics at school, because that is what the "clever" guys did. We both ended up signing up PF in the Airforce to study electronics. There we washed teleprinters and rewound transformers for 3 years, what a waste of experience - we did get our qualifications though. Then he left to go work for Sasol and started from scratch as an apprentice Analyzer, I left a year later for Sasol to start from scratch as an apprentice Instrument technician. Both because there were no electronic posts available. Both jobs do the same thing - one just fixes chemical instrumentation, the other fixes process instrumentation. Then at one point we were both sent to the mechanical department to run the vibration monitoring department. That is where the similarities end.

You see I always wanted to have my own business, even at school, but when you are young, you are stupid so I just kinda did what everybody else around me was doing and expected to do. I did however always have some kind of business on the sideline. In the airforce it was a mobile disco, at Sasol it was a wedding video business, then a printing business. My cousin on the other hand prefered to just relax and spend time on his hobbies after hours. Then in 1996 the printing sideline started started to become so busy that me and Mel, still my gf at that stage, were having to work through the night. I eventually plucked up the courage to start doing what I really wanted to do - be my own boss. So I decided to give up a good career, with good prospects, to follow my dream. Mel followed me soon afterwards.

It was tough and remains tough working for myself, but I don't regret it for one moment. Despite the fact that after 10 years, and working for some of the biggest companies in SA, the printing never really earned us more than a living wage. I then started an art studio, teaching guys to paint - my father had been doing this for years. Finally I was doing something that I enjoyed, but still not my real passion which has always been computers. Then one Friday I said to Mel - I don't know about you, but I am sick of the printing game. On Monday I am gonna phone all my printing customers and tell them to find another printer because I am now doing web design. She almost had a heart attack, although she agreed that we were getting nowhere with the printing business.

I sold my screen printing equipment to a friend a week later, bought new equipment and gave the 600 odd customers to my sister. 10 years of hard graft was basically given away. We started the web design company on the Monday with not a single customer to our name. We immediately did better than we ever did before for two reasons - the web design business didn't make R10 here, R20 there, it made decent amounts at a time, so we didn't have work through the night anymore. It also did better because we were both doing something we enjoyed. In a year we were able to do things we were not able to accomplish in 10 years with the printing, like buy our house, buy a new car, etc. Now we have moved to NZ and are starting from scratch again.

Comparing myself and my cousin - financially he is much better off at the moment. His house is probably almost paid off, he drives a company car, etc., etc. I am also sure he has the customary fair amount of debt too though that comes with having to keep up the image. I have no debt. Which one is happier? Probably me because I get up every morning and can't wait to get to work, I work till very late at night because i love what i do and it doesn't feel like i am working, he gets up in the morning and goes ugh. Who's career prospects are better? Mine by a long shot - he has hit his ceiling and will have to have a lucky break, or wait for somebody to die, or do the unthinkable - change careers or companies - to get any higher. I doubt he has the guts to do that because he has not challenged himself in that way for 20 years now. I will soon be back up to the same level with only the sky being the limit after that. Who has had a harder road to follow - me, but I choose to follow that road I could never be happy with a boss hanging over my shoulder the whole day.

So to get back to the actual question - who has changed careers. I have, many times.
From electronic technician, to Instrument technician, to Vibration analyst, to printer, to artist, to programmer. Will it be my last career change? No, I am working on the next thing already, although it is still in the programming line for now.

Life is too short to do stuff you don't wanna do, if you are unhappy, make the change. What is important though is that your wife supports you, if you are gonna start all over again, it's gonna be tough and you'll need a supportive shoulder to lean on.

Offline alwyn

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2010, 10:02:41 am »
I have done some software development projects for private clients and I enjoy these much more, partly because I am in full control and the creative juices can flow freely without oppression.

Problem with these are that they need to be done part-time and after a draining day it is really hard to do this properly.  It also means that a 2 week project becomes a 3-4 month project and you need a patient understanding customer for it to succeed.

Unfortunately the jump is just too great to go from my salary to work for myself overnight, the risk is just too great and doing it gradually looks impossible.

Presently I'm trying to get my wife off the ground doing wedding photography.  She's really good with camera's and editing, but a bit short in the confidence side at present :)

Nolan,  it would be nice if you could PM me with your experiences starting up your web design business in SA as it is an additional area where I could expand into part-time.

Offline Nolan

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2010, 11:37:21 pm »
Alwyn, I have given you access to the Board Room O0

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Re: Career changes
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2010, 11:37:21 pm »