“The artist is always beginning. Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth.”
– Ezra Pound
Have you ever experienced deja vu? The feeling that you’ve already been someplace?
I began my professional career at Northern Telecom on July 5th, 1983. That would be before most of you were born. I answered a want ad (remember those?) in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune for a software developer with five years of experience working on PBXs. I had no idea what a PBX was and since this was long before the days of the Internet, I had no easy way to find out. Still, I mailed in my hand-typed resume, was called in for an interview, and a few hours after the interview was offered a job. My background check was “Can you spell “operating system” and do you have a pulse?”
I loved that job. As a member of a small team of programmers, I worked on fixing bugs (which we called PTRs – Program Trouble Reports), writing new services, and enhancing exciting ones. I wrote in Intel 8085 assembler and a variant of the PLM programming language called Syclops. Having only 64KB of RAM and a 1MB hard drive to work with, I learned (actually, I was forced) to be a very efficient programmer. I remember times when I had to shave four or five bytes off my code in order to make it fit. These days, very few coders think about how big their code is. They believe that memory is cheap and infinite. That was a luxury I did not have, nor do I believe in practicing it today.
As time passed, Northern Telecom became Northern Telecom Nortel Networks which became Nortel Networks which became Nortel which became bankrupt which became Avaya. I never quite made it to Avaya and in 2009 I went to work at an Avaya business partner. That business partner went through its own name changes and in May of 2020 I became a free agent.
Here comes the deja vu part.
Fast forward 37 years and I can proudly say that I have accepted a job working at Avaya on the Customer Experience Innovation Team. The crazy part is that they gave me a start date of July 5. So, all these years later I am right back where I started from.
Of course, that isn’t totally true. The Northern Telecom of 1983 is not the Avaya of 2020. For that matter, I am not the same Andrew. The world of technology has changed drastically since the days of 8085 programming. I started out fixing bugs in printer drivers and I am now immersed in artificial intelligence, virtual agents, and cloud communications. I am also no longer chained to my PC cranking out code. While software development will still be a big part of my life (and love), I am just as excited about helping enterprises move from on-premise to cloud, physical to virtual, license to subscription, etc. I am also overjoyed to be out of the business partner world and back with a company that makes what they sell. For me, that brings on a sense of pride and accomplishment that doesn’t come from selling someone else’s wares.
In my search for a new job, I crossed paths with a number of great people and several exciting opportunities. I am thankful for everyone who believed in me and I am certain that I could have made a significant difference at the companies I walked away from. In the end, though, Avaya was the right choice. Not only do I believe in their (soon to be my) technology and have faith in their/my ability to deliver, I am excited about returning home. My new role is everything I wanted – innovation, teamwork, people contact, visibility, and the ability to make the world a better place. To me, that’s what a great job looks like.
Well, that’s it. A month after being laid off I am off to my next big thing — bigger than what I left. I can’t begin to describe what this feels like. I may be an old dog, but I am ready and willing to learn a bunch of new tricks.