Was my career an accident?

I recently prepared a talk for Southpointe Academy and was flabbergasted when the student who invited asked me whether my career was planned or an accident.

Multiple reviews of my career made me realize that my career, in particular the information technology (IT) part, was indeed not as planned.

Here is the session I prepared …

Slide1 2009 … my last day with my phenomenal team in South-Africa. Oh there are so many good and hilarious stories … next time  Smile
Slide2 The objective of my talk was to give an overview of my career, explain why IT is a cool career and give the Grade 10 students six thoughts for their future.
Slide3 When I left school I had no plans for the future and my dad convinced me to study mechanical engineering. I lasted less than 3 months at university, aborted a career that I knew was not for me and spent the next 4 years studying electrical engineering and enjoying my time in the colourful pyjama family (army).

During my final studies I had to pick an elective and randomly picked something called “computer programming” … the accident that decided my next 28 years.

I immediately fell in love with the programming, exploring Basic, Pascal, Fortran, Cobol and Assembler, building integrated circuits from scratch and developing the software. My dear friend Brian, whom I met in the student years, was more business focused and took ownership of all the marketing and the presentations when it came to our projects. We scored straight A’s thanks to his professional and convincing demonstrations, sales  and marketing efforts.

So far I have worked for Burroughs/Unisys for 9 years, Digitron for 2, had my own company Objectronics for 7 , merged with BB&D and stayed for 6.5 years … until we made the bold move to move to Canada as a family and for me to join Microsoft.

The blog post Program Management – Are some of the ALM Rangers Symbiotic PM’s? summarizes the exciting work of PM @ Microsoft, which I am trying to embrace and conquer.

Why did I abandon my own career is a common question? At the end of the day my heart was in the world of designing and developing solutions, not the management of a company. When I realised that I was losing my passion, it was time to look ahead and re-focus.

Slide4 I am convinced that IT is one of the, if not the coolest career.

The career changes constantly and it is definitely not for those looking for stability and monotony.

Looking back over 28years, I am astonished of all the technological advances and all the changes we have survived and mastered to date.

The IT community is also a big and active one, allowing us to collaborate, to share and mentor each other. I was fortunate to have the best mentors and also to get the opportunity co-author three exciting books in their days, all of which can still be downloaded for “Mahala” … free … from here.

Something that one of my sons cannot understand and which I love, is that we do not have to wear suits! In our world deliverables count far more than appearance. For me a huge “bonus”.


For those looking at starting out on their career I have six thoughts.

  1. Find a career that gives you fulfilment and happiness … use  your summer breaks to try and explore options before making a (near) life long commitment to a career.
  2. Find a career that allows you to balance home and work … if you are happy at home and your family is happy with you, you will automatically take the happiness and support to work.
  3. The world evolves daily and the technology evolution chain-reaction is unstoppable … make sure you never stop learning. It keeps your mind motivated, trained and capable of changing when someone moves your cheese 🙂
  4. Something I have learnt in my 28 years and which is a key responsibility of the Microsoft Program Manager is to ensure that we understand our customers. Having the most brilliant idea and developing the most spectacular solution is completely useless if it adds no value to your customer.
  5. Information technology has connected our planet like a spider web and you can collaborate with different cultures, traditions and ecosystems at the click of a button. Do so and learn as much as you can, because the ability to understand, tolerate and collaborate with colleagues from around the globe will be an invaluable skill in the future.
  6. Most importantly always look forward. You cannot change the past and questions like “what if” will haunt you for life. Look forward and learn from, not procrastinate, over mistakes. He who does not make mistakes cannot learn!
Slide6 As illustrated in Microsoft Redmond Campus is a green paradise, I am not just working in the best (accidental) career, but am surrounded by phenomenal colleagues and a beautiful environment.

I followed Confucius’ advice and chose a career that I love 24x7. It is truly my passion, my hobby and I have and never will have to work another day in my life!

So, to cut a long story short … my career was indeed an accident, but one I would do all over again if I had the chance to reboot my career.

Comments (3)

  1. Robert MacLean says:

    Go watch the Adjustment Bureau – it is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick (famed Sci-Fi author). Think in this context will give you a lot to think of, plus the wife will love it too (trust me).

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