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How I Became a Computer Geek

Posted by Mike on 6/14/2009 to Random Thoughts

Although I am largely self-taught, I consider myself pretty computer literate.   How I got into the world of technology is a bit off the beaten path. 

In 1976, I was working for a large corporation doing something that simply wasn’t enough of a challenge, and toiling for a supervisor who was a bit of a priss.  I was an excellent employee and got along well with all of my coworkers; it’s just that my direct supervisor and I had a sharp personality clash from day one.   It steadily reached the point of no return; it was clear someone had to go.  Just when I felt I had enough, the overall manager of the department suggested I apply for a job that was posted in the company’s internal job bulletin.   

It was a position as a Special Project Assistant in a division that was charged with the responsibility of automating the paper based accounting systems at corporate offices around the US.    The job was being created in the newly formed unit to assist with the computer conversions, and also teach employees in the different offices how to use the new systems and data entry equipment.  It was a 3 grade promotion over my current level so it would be tough to get.  Of course, I knew nothing about computers at that time, but I filled out an application anyway, citing my “magical dexterous fingers” as an asset to work with the computers being deployed. 

To my surprise and delight, they called me in for an interview, even though they had already decided (before the job was even posted) who was going to get it.  But in crossing all of their t’s and dotting all of their i’s, they had to consider other candidates as a formality.  I got on the short interview list because they wanted to see what kind of person would put “magical dexterous fingers” on a job application.

Well, I made enough of an impression in the interview that I stole the job away from the intended hire. And did so well in the new job that I was promoted to a corporate officer level position 4 grades higher just 4 months later.  And with that, I continued to rise up the corporate ladder in the systems world over the next 20+ years.   By the time I left the corporate world in 2000, I had been a technology manager for several years for a Fortune 500 corporation, responsible for system budgets in the tens of millions of dollars. 

Over the years, I’ve run the gamut of creating the leading edge, living on the leading edge, and being a late adopter with regards to technology. In my early days of tweaking, I bought and took apart and hardware modified the Radio Shack Color Computer and computers from Commodore and Amiga to make them more powerful.  I also dabbled in machine language programming to make a rudimentary computer graphics game on my first computer.

I’ve always been interested in new software, hardware and technologies and related gadgets in both my business career and my personal life since the mid-1970’s.  But over the last few years, I became less linked in.  With the demands of establishing a stable sales business in the safety industry, I’ve had less time to devote to some of the emerging opportunities.  I’m still considered a geek by many, but not as much a mainstream one as I used to be. In the younger generation, it’s actually fashionable to be a geek nowadays.  But it’s also good to see older people (like my parents) become adept at computers, too.

I will probably never get back to the techno-level where I used to be, especially since my wife watches my gadget spending closely.But it’s been an interesting  journey so far anyway.

Mike Lee