Three of us were sitting in the cafeteria after a meeting. It hadn’t gone well and we were a bit down. I asked the two younger fellows about their families, and they began to smile a bit. Then talk turned to ourselves. Someone watching would have assumed three senior IT staff might be brainstorming a problem or new project.

Denis was a medical student who came from Eastern Europe and washed dishes for two months. He became a server at the restaurant and for two years he waited tables. Somebody invited him to apply for an IT job and he worked his way up to a senior position as a storage administrator.

Naeem came from the Middle East as a child, and his family lived six to a tiny two bedroom apartment. He worked and put himself through college and got a master’s degree and multiple network certifications.

I thought back to my start as a small town boy who came to the city working for $2.50 per hour as tape librarian at a Cleveland IT shop, now a UNIX Administrator. How similar our stories and journeys, and how disparate our origins.

32 Comments on “opportunity”

  1. Isn’t it amazing how life offers us possibilities we never dreamed of as a child. Some people grasp those possibilities and can look back on a satisfying journey, others are content with less than their potential.

    • billgncs says:

      Yes Ian — someone once described it as a “window of opportunity” that through our actions we close it bit by bit until it is too small to escape from – and we are bitter.

  2. misskzebra says:

    It’s sad that there are very limited opportunities these days for young people. I have the good fortune to be doing a degree with reasonable job prospects, but there are lots of people I know who have worked very hard and are struggling to advance further than minimum wage.

    I recognize that certain piece of good luck that come my way don’t happen for everyone.

    • billgncs says:

      on NPR, they had a program about a training program where they couldn’t get people to attend on-time or dressed professionally.

      still room for elbow grease to differentiate one from the crowd.

      • misskzebra says:

        And I’m sure it was a completely transparent, unbiased program.

        The fact is, there are only so many good jobs, especially since government obliterated the number of public sector workers and larger scale companies took over and “streamlined” smaller ones.

        In my city, over 1000 people applied to work at a Starbucks that opened up. Not as a manager, or anything else. Just as a minimum wage barista.

        • billgncs says:

          here it is … check it out. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/435/how-to-create-a-job – there’s also one about how many people are disabled that’s insightful.

          I really hope those people find work. It shows how your network of people who will vouch for your integrity and skill set are more important than ever. Three short stories:

          A friend of mine runs a starbucks, and constantly mentions how hard it is to find people who are hard workers.

          Another friend, a young MBA was going through her first hiring process for a nice paying job and was amazed at how few qualified candidates were available.

          I had the same problem in IT recently, and it took my team about four months of reading resumes and phone screening to find two qualified guys who we immediately hired.

          it seems like it is hard for the jobs and the talent to connect.

  3. jiltaroo says:

    A lovely parallel that should be recognized more often. We are all the same.

  4. These stories definitely give me hope. It’s easy to get discouraged when you are still at the early stages of making a life for yourself.

    • billgncs says:

      Dear Stephanie –

      These are hard times, and I hope you do keep your hope. Work with passion in all you do, become excellent and good things will happen. Become the person who has no excuses but delivers, and whose word can always be counted upon.

      I believe in you – and that if you make a plan and follow it, you will be ahead of the game.

      God Bless, email or drop a comment any time you are down — bw

  5. Only in America – but not everyone makes it, although it is glorious when they do! We must remain grateful, vigilant, and charitable.

  6. Love your stories!! We all have a story and you weave them so wonderfully! thanks!

  7. Chatty Owl says:

    Right place, right time, hard work. Success.

  8. How similar indeed. πŸ™‚

  9. Kristi says:

    Love your stories Bill. This one is a good reminder of how hard work will never go out of fashion :).

  10. I love this, it heartens me. Thank you.

  11. I’m convinced that we human beings have more in common than we have things that are different in relation to each other! What I really love about this story is how you managed to lift the spirits of 3 down men by asking about them. You have a good heart and spirit Bill!

  12. Eric Alagan says:

    “I started in the basement under the bottom”

    Ah, Bill, so you would remember me – I was that 16 year old kid who was mopping toilet floors and would rush off on a 90 minute bus journey to tech school every night.

    Now, when you hear kids moan that they don’t have the latest and best gadgets —-

  13. Clanmother says:

    Progress is the journey, isn’t it? Not so much in terms of financial rewards, but in the number of experiences, friends and memories accumulated. That is richness indeed!

    • billgncs says:

      it is a richness indeed, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that money was a way to keep score.

      I once worked for a very small IT firm, a mom/pop shop. Two years they froze salaries across the company, but I always got a raise. One fellow who hadn’t had a raise in three years mentioned it to me. I wasn’t at leave to say anything, but I asked him what message are they sending you. He was a good worker, and finally left to be treated more fairly.

      Saying I started at the bottom would be an exaggeration, I started in the basement under the bottom.

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