My Career as a Software Engineer

For eight years prior to August, 1981, I was an air traffic controller, having joined the FAA in 1973 after receiving my degree in Chinese Language and Literature from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. While working on my Masters degree, I fell ill and was hospitalized for over a week. I fell far behind in my classwork and, upon being released from the hospital, I decided not to return to school. While in the hospital, I had heard several radio and TV ads for openings in the air traffic control field and decided to give it a shot. I had loved being around airplanes all my life: growing up in Chicago, I often went out to O'Hare Airport to watch airplanes from the observation deck (back in the days when there was an observation deck), and later, I was an aircraft mechanic in the U.S. Air Force for five years. I thought air traffic control would be an exciting career choice. I was right.

So from December, 1973 to August, 1981, I was an air traffic controller, and I loved it. In August of 1981, I was president of the Youngstown Air Traffic Control Tower's PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization) union local when the union called for a strike and President Reagan fired us all. Without a job and with a family, I decided to go to school to pursue becoming a math teacher, something else I had always wanted to do. I enrolled at Youngstown State University and graduated in December, 1983 with a B.S. in Mathematics and a Computer Science minor. As I was about to begin my student teaching to get my Ohio teacher's certification, I was offered a job with IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, a job I just couldn't refuse.

I first came to Rochester, Minnesota in January of 1984 and began my career as a software engineer in IBM Rochester's electronic circuit card manufacturing plant. For 16 years I designed, coded, debugged, and implemented many applications and software tools used in the card manufacturing process. Then, in March of 2000, IBM sold the entire circuit card manufacturing plant, including all of the people working there and supporting it, to Celestica, a Toronto-based electronics manufacturing services (EMS) company. I continued working for Celestica, doing much of the same kind of work as I did for IBM. Then, in February, 2003, Celestica announced it was shutting down the Rochester plant and moving all of the work overseas (surprise!) On July 18, 2003, after helping to move the work out and shut down the plant, I was able to officially retire from Celestica. (When we were sold to Celestica, our IBM seniority transferred with us, giving me more than 29 years seniority with Celestica even though I only worked for them for just a little more than three years.) But I wasn't ready to retire yet. I wanted to keep working,

Fortunately, while working at Celestica, I kept in touch with many of my old, former IBM colleagues in the Card Test Development department, and when they found themselves needing a programmer to do some specialized work, work that I was well-suited for, I got the call. I was hired by CIBER, Inc., a company that supplied IBM with consultants and technical people with various skills. I spent over two years working for them as a software engineering consultant, mostly doing application development, and as a Field Manager, managing 9 or 10 other CIBER employees. I worked in basically the same area I started in at IBM in 1984, and even worked with many of the same people!

Suddenly, in the middle of August of 2005, CIBER sold all of its consultants working at IBM (including me) to Analysts International Corp. (AIC), another consultant provider. Although working for a different company, I continued to write software for the Card Test Development team. Very little changed.

Then after 2½ years with AIC, I was, quite surprisingly, offered a job with the Celestica team on-site at IBM Rochester. (When they shut down the main plant in 2003, about 12 people stayed behind to work inside IBM's walls under a special agreement with IBM. Over time, they grew substantially as they provided numerous contracted services to IBM until they eventually totally shut down in June of 2023.) So I went back to work for Celestica, still doing application development for the IBM Card Test Development team, only now as a contracted service provided by Celestica. Pretty weird!

And finally, on August 2, 2013, after returning from an 11 day cruise through Northern Europe during which I made a major life-changing decision, I retired from Celestica! And I'm loving it!

Here's the e-mail announcing my retirement which I sent out to the many people I worked with over the years at IBM and Celestica, at least, as many I could remember. A lot of years, a lot of people....

I am one of the fortunate. I had a job that I, for the most part, loved going to everyday, enjoying the work, the work environmentnote, and the people I worked with for 29½ years. And that's my career in a nutshell.

Last Modified: February 1, 2024