Looking back on my personal work history it occurred to me yesterday that I’ve been working steadily for 41 years. That’s a long time. I’m old and getting older all the time.
I’m closer now to the end of my working career than I am to the beginning of it. I started work at 19. At the time I was even shyer, and I was a greenhorn in so many ways.
After a couple of temp jobs, I started out at what is now known as CTG. Back then it was called Computer Task Group, and it provided data processing services to other companies. I worked in the office, and over the years there I did a little bit of everything. I started out at the reception desk as a clerk typist when I was 19. CTG was the first place to send me on a business trip. I took my first airplane flight to Chicago, Illinois for a week of training. I also traveled by car for business meetings in Buffalo, New York and Syracuse, New York.
Nine years later after temping briefly at Eastman Kodak, I landed at ICE Communications, an advertising agency. I was an account coordinator to three account executives (salesmen). They sold advertising and the in-house creative staff made the ad campaigns a reality. At ICE I worked my first job with summer hours. We had half days on Fridays. That was nice.
I was laid off for lack of work two and a half years later and after I came home from my honeymoon, I started at Nixon Peabody. New husband, new apartment, and new job. Within a year, new baby, too.
I worked at Nixon, my first law firm, for twelve years. I also had my second baby while working there. I started as a floating secretary with zero legal experience. I was terrified. I floated for maybe two weeks and took a job that opened up in their Human Resources department, something that fit my background much better. I worked in HR for eight years and then when I was feeling burned out, they tossed me a lifeline.
I moved to the Intellectual Property department and became a paralegal. I learned all about patents. This monumental step would secure me my niche. All my working career to that point had been as a generalist, either general secretarial or general HR work. Anyone could have done my job.
Patent work was unique and complex. It requires a strong attention to detail and focus on the minutiae. Everything has to be exact and correct. Learning this skillset was a lifesaver for me. It made me feel special and unique to know something that others did not. Apparently I’m good at it, too. I’ve been doing this type of work now for 22 years.
While at Nixon, I would also travel by airplane again. They sent me to Washington DC for a tour of the US Patent Office, something they did for all IP employees. They also sent me to Tampa, Florida for a week of patent training.
Unfortunately while at Nixon, my youngest son was diagnosed with autism. Work was telling me I needed to spend more time there – stay later and maybe come in on weekends. My heart was telling me my son needed more of me, not less.
When one of the IP attorneys at Nixon decided to open up his own biotechnology startup company, he took one of Nixon’s HR managers (my former boss) with him. A year later, she asked me to come to the startup, too, so my four years as an IP paralegal (and my twelve years at Nixon) came to an end.
It was meant to be because while working for Integrated Nano-Technologies, I was able to flex my schedule and work part-time. I got my son on and off of the school bus every day so I was there for him. I was almost a stay at home mom.
The startup was different. In addition to keeping an eye on the company’s patents, I did everything else. I did accounting, payroll, and I even sat at the front reception desk, something I hadn’t done since I was 19. We wore jeans and sneakers.
Unfortunately as is often the case with startups, they ran out of money. When I was asked if I’d defer my pay, I couldn’t so I left. I was there nine years. Others stayed, and the company is still around today.
While at INT, I went back to college (at age 51) and earned two associates degrees online.
I was unemployed for eight weeks. It was a nice break, and I got to take a deep breath and relax. The world of patents beckoned again, this time with the opportunity to learn trademarks and copyrights, too. I joined my second law firm, working in Intellectual Property, Woods Oviatt Gilman.
WOG is where I still work today. I’ve been there nine years this year (there’s something about that number – nine years at CTG, INT and WOG). WOG is likely where I’ll stay, if I’m lucky, until I retire.
I’ve been fortunate to work at some great places for some good people, and I’ve had long stays at all of them. I can’t complain. I learned something each place I’ve been, and I think I’ve been a decent addition to each place.
Not bad for a shy kid who only ever wanted to be a stay at home Mom.