I went to a vocational school to learn “visual communication”, which translated to English is commercial art, or art for advertising. I was focused on illustration.
After graduating I moved to San Francisco. I picked up a number of part time jobs, while also freelancing as an artist and designer. A year or two later I hired on as a temp employee at a large Engineering, Construction firm. I picked up a commodore 64 because it said I could do animation, music composition and other such things. I quickly realized that this was only possible if I learned the basic programming language. With the introduction of PCs in the workplace, I became interested in developing software that would replace tools that we were using a mini-computer for. I assisted an in-house developer in producing the 1st incarnation of a document management system for use on the PC.
At the same time I continued to look for work exercising my artistic capabilities. I produced a collection of greeting cards, a number of newspaper and magazine ads, did some photo-retouching (with airbrush in those days), along with an occasional painting.
Meanwhile the software development track was taking off at work. Local Area Networks for PCs began springing up and we produced the 1st multi-user version of the document management system. I was extraordinarily busy. In spite of this, I took on a project developing presentations that were to be viewed using a briefcase sized box that could be attached to a television screen or projection system. I ended up essentially working 2 jobs, although I worked them both for the same company.
Later on I gave up the presentation work in favor of a full time software development position. More lucrative. After 24 years and evolving from a developer to a Manager of Software development, developing products such as internally and externally facing portals, web content management systems and yes, another document management system.
With the trend towards lower cost personnel primarily from India, came the agonizing task of laying off most of my friends, and training my replacements. 2 factors contributed to the end of my work there. 1st, My daughter was struggling in school at the time and I thought it was best to leave (I asked to be laid off), I felt it was a higher priority to find something that would allow me more time with my daughter while there was still time to make a difference. I’m glad I did. It has been difficult financially. I am contracting myself out and work most of the time from home.
2nd, I have always been interested in philosophy. From a very young age, I read science fiction. This lead me to topics that I might otherwise have overlooked. All through my working life I have introduced such topics into the workplace. Often at great risk to my livelihood. Working in a very conservative company, with controversial points of view is a great challenge. Especially when the ideas conveyed are seen as socialist, liberal, or “god forbid” atheist.
But I survived, and I was even reasonably well respected. For the most part, my contributions spoke for themselves. As a result, my controversial opinions were tolerated.
I used to think that I could make a difference by working within the walls of the enemies camp. I used to believe that I could convince people of the error of their ways, by taking the time to understand things better from their point of view. I confess that there were times that I could sympathize with their views. Things are not always black and white. However, the tide turned with 9/11 and the Iraq war. The company I worked for was part of that Military Industrial Complex that is so often touted.
When I began to see some of the things that were being done to acquire and execute reconstruction work in NY, and in Iraq, I was appalled. I had to leave. The attitudes were disgusting and I could no longer consider a change from within strategy as having any value.
Now, I struggle with staying true to my principles. Soliciting work from, primarily, firms that present themselves in a way that I can agree with philosophically. Living in Marin County, CA has made it easier, but not without it’s difficulties. I guess as I get older I am less tolerant of company policies that I cannot go along with.
What does all this have to do with my entry into CFI? Well, I guess my 1st avenue was the Humanist connection. The secular component was appealing as well. Overall, what has made it stick was the thoughtful consideration of it’s members. Topics are discussed intelligently with respect for a variety of perspectives. Skepticism, while liberally employed, is generally applied fairly.
In spite of the differences I had with many folks at my long term corporate job, there were also many free thinkers there. I was able to find sanctuary with them. After leaving I had a void to fill. CFI has, in part, filled that void.