While in Grade 13 in 1987, I was a computer hacker but thought that the computer “fad” had peaked, so I chose Business Administration at Mohawk. I loved it! I started a computer matchmaking business that I ran for 11 years. I ended up being an operations supervisor for UPS, but noticed that computers weren’t just a fad, and considered a career shift. I started at Mohawk again in 1995 for Computer System Technology, while working and running my business.
In 1999 I started at CIBC as a Mainframe Systems Programmer, I knew zero about mainframes but they needed bodies due to Y2K paranoia. I learned all I could, building cross-platform, web based solutions that amazed the old school mainframers! Then “right-sizing” came along and the expensive old guys got retired. CIBC sold us to HP and leased us back. Under HP, “off-shoring” became the norm and if you didn’t have some special skill set, then you were easily replaced by someone in a village in India, Bulgaria or Panama! HP threw more clients at us, and I volunteered for everything: constant pager support, new projects. My end game was to Stay Employable and Employed. Nobody liked the pager but I did: you get paid to carry it and paid to respond. I was making money, and was the high visibility, go-to guy.
In 2009, HP was making billions, but decided to cut our pay, benefits, bonuses and no pager pay or overtime. I decided not to work for free and the job search began. At this point in my career, I was an enigma, and couldn’t find a job posting that described my current position. So I stopped looking for a “job” and started looking for a “need” that some combination of my skills could fill.After 6 months, 80 highly targeted applications, 3 totally unrelated interviews I joined RBC Royal Bank in 2010. I had no experience with the particular software I was supporting, but the skills in my toolbox got me in. In early 2012, I was pursued by TD Bank and joined in August, doing similar work but not exactly the same, once again thanks to my toolbox!
So if you want to Stay Employable and Employed, remember the Enigma’s Mantra:
• Work harder, especially when others won’t
• Work smarter, make your life easier
• Stay visible but don’t be a brown-noser
• Stay hungry for new skills, tasks and projects
• Keep smart people close and soak up all their wisdom
• Creatively match your skills to employer needs
• Cover letters are critical to getting noticed, tweak it until it hurts
• Loyalty is a two-way street, do what it takes but don’t get abused
• Don’t burn bridges, don’t take sides and park your ego at the door
• Keep your resume updated and your eyes open
• When there’s writing on the wall, read it!
• It’s easy to find a job when you have a job
• Get on LinkedIn, clean up Facebook
• Stay focused, stay positive, stay employed