It’s time to reinvent myself again. A good friend of mine, technically quite brilliant, told me recently that even she is finding it difficult to keep up with the pace of technology. She comes from a windows background, some of the people her company are hiring haven’t seen a DOS prompt before. She’s decided to go for a management position within the next two years, a product manager role maybe. It’s not as if I haven’t had to reinvent myself in the past, it’s been an unconventional path I’ve had to take to get here, the road less travelled, so to speak.

School wasn’t so much about education but rather a course in survival. Luckily I was good at sports so I avoided the worst of the bullying, just the odd fight now and again. Leaving school without a high school diploma at the beginning of Milton Friedman’s economic experiment via Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher would prove to be challenging. After working in bars, driving vans and at one point working in Antibes in the south of France varnishing yachts, my Dad helped me get a job at the company where he worked, manufacturing hydraulic excavators, cement mixers and dumper trucks. I started in the paint shop, preparing all these machines ready for their paint job. The production manager saw something in me and gave me a job on the production line in the goods inward department. I got my fork lift licence and within a few years I became the foreman.

Unwittingly, the job prepared me for my next reinvention. By the end of my time in the UK’s dying manufacturing sector I had developed some transferable skills. The production line I worked on turned out about 20 machines a week. Each machine had thousands of parts, hydraulic rams, engines, steel tubes, nuts, bolts and washers, all of which had a seven figure part number and a designated storage place for easy access. The men on the line could show me a part and I’d be able to tell them the part number and where it was stored. I also knew at what point in the production cycle each part was needed and who needed them, with over a thousand men working on the line, I knew them all by their first names, communication was key.

By the time trickle down economics was beginning one of its many recessions and the Japanese had begun to master the Toyota way and just-in-time production methods, someone saw something in me again and said ‘you should go to University’. I’d always enjoyed reading and been curious but the last time I’d studied anything was back in high school, by then it was obvious there was no future in manufacturing in the UK and I knew I had to get an education. I enrolled on a two year Higher National Diploma course in business studies, majoring in marketing. I was a house owner at the time so I chose a college close to home so I could keep an eye on the place and make sure the tenants were looking after it. The course had a Law module that I really enjoyed and I came top of my class. When I graduated the country was coming to the end of the recession but I didn’t feel as though I had learned enough so I enrolled in the LLB Law degree course for another three years.

Those three years would be some of the toughest years of my life. Without the skills I’d developed in my previous incarnation I don’t think I’d have got through. I had to learn a new set of skills too, listening, writing, critical thinking, researching, analysis and a lot of perseverance. However, it was my introduction to technology and desktop computers that prepared me for my next reinvention after I graduated. Law school was not an option from a financial perspective and my interest in technology had emerged. I was, to all intents a purposes, broke. I sold my house to pay off student loans and found a job with a national logistics company managing their distribution systems on a client site. This experience would influence my decision to move south, attend a boot camp for a month learning DOS and how to dismantle and reconstruct desktop computers.

Shortly afterwards I started working for what would become a few years later Fox IT. The company was formed by merging a helpdesk/desktop support company and a IT Service Management company, Ultracomp. Ultracomp was steeped in ITIL history and could boast authors of the official ITIL publications including ITIL v2 service support and service delivery and some of the chapters of the service management lifecycle in ITIL v3. It quickly became apparent that the ITIL maxim ‘IT is the business and the business is IT’, was well ahead of its time and I began the route to ITIL Certification that culminated in 2010 by becoming ITIL Expert certified.

Fox IT was not immune to the effects of the crash and in 2002 like so many tech companies, redundancies were in the air. I volunteered. It was time for more reinvention and an adventure, I bought a plane ticket to Quito, Ecuador and began a process that would not only change my life but also my whole world view, priorities and relationships. In return for Spanish lessons I taught English and volunteered with medecins du monde helping the indigenous Ecuadorians construct a dairy and helped them introduce tourist treks to their village. The whole one year experience was mind blowing and I decided that rather than return to the UK I’d take the Spanish I had picked up and see if I could find some work in Madrid as I was rapidly running out of money.

Two months later I started working for CSC In Asturias, a province on the north coast of the Spanish peninsular and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve been working remotely since 2005 with colleagues from all over the world, I’ve travelled to India and Central America and visit the UK to see family and friends, they also come and visit me. It’s been a roller coaster ride, many other things have happened of course, some good, some bad, my Dad died of prostate cancer, I turned 50.

There have been a few constants on this journey, the importance of communication for example. I’ve adapted and welcomed change rather than feared it. What’s next?

6 thoughts on “Reinvent

  1. Martin Lee

    Wow, the road less travelled indeed! You have lived many lives in one lifetime already! And traversed the Industrial and Information economic revolutions in succession. Had you started out life farming and/or hunting, that would have been the grand human life experiences in a nutshell.

    What’s next? Virtualized life somewhere? Or maybe you already have a Second Life? Being a Data Scientist would seem to be a good path for you, as that is for today what computers were for us when we were kids (I think we’re about the same age), and I think you have the analytical skills to handle it, as well as the intellectual curiosity. And clearly you are not afraid of change.

    I’ve been trying to lead my son into that path and he seems to be following the breadcrumbs. My daughter, luckily, has seemingly already intuited that already, wanting to be a medical researcher (have no idea how she selected that, but feel proud that she did it on her own, and she’s much younger than my son…). All the best on your journey!

  2. Nigel Barron Post author

    Thanks Simon. That’s the plan. As you know, a little procrastination on my part has delayed things but I’m over that now. Now comes the hard part, forming the habit of blogging regularly.


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