My last working day in my life, my last day in the (any) office will be Friday the 13th of December 2019. My company offered a very generous early retirement package which will support me for several years until I receive my government pension. Ever since I took the decision and it was approved this summer, it's been very hectic and difficult to keep up with the Photoblog.
To understand the significance of retirement I feel I must share some of the details behind my over 40 years of non-stop working. I've worked hard, really hard my whole life. I cannot imagine what it will be like not to have to work.
I started working legally in 1979 when I was 15 years old at a storefront takeaway/delivery pizza place. I had been working illegally at that place for cash for about a year before that. But I actually started working for money paid by a "stranger" when I was 12. I remember my mother taking me to get a social security card and it's weird today to see my childish handwriting as a signature on the card. For two years, as I was 12-14 years old, I would babysit our neighbor's two girls from 3 to 8 p.m, every single day after school and sometimes on Saturday nights.
Because the girls got too old for a babysitter, I needed a new job and my father found me the job at the pizza place. Once I turned 16 I was able to work as a waitress at a family restaurant, which most Americans know - Howard Johnson's. Thank God there are no photos from that job: what an ugly uniform - burnt orange with a plaid bib. Already in 1980, I knew that I never ever again wanted to have a job where I would have to wear a uniform and have my name pinned to my chest.
I worked 30 hours a week during high school and college to be able to pay for my studies all by myself. During the summer breaks of college I would work 2 jobs: at some office job like at an insurance company 9-5 and then at a restaurant 6-close (midnight) and on both Saturday and Sunday.
Once I finished college, I got a job with a market research company in downtown Chicago, but it paid so poorly that I could only afford to live a dangerous neighborhood and had to work another job just to make ends meet.
In collage in #2 the photo on the left was my "day" job in market research. I would create databases and program queries to extract the data. It was a one hour commute on the L downtown in the morning then back out again in the evening. My second job was Saturday and Sunday plus three nights a week during the busy seasons. On those nights I would transfer to a bus for another 1 hour roundtrip commute to a shopping mall in the suburbs where I would sell expensive jewelry at an upscale department store. With the employee discount I could afford to buy the nice clothes I needed for my day job.
Yes, it is a can of Bud Light beer on my desk. The Christmas party of the market research company was held in its cafeteria and I went back to my terminal to check on a long-running job (IBM mainframe) to make sure it didn't crash.
The photo on the right shows me so happy to get a better paying job. Starting in 1989, after 4 years of working two jobs, I now only had to work one!!
But I had bad luck. Shortly after starting at that job, I got fired. I had been set up. There's no such thing a job-return guaranty for women on maternity leave in the USA, so they just fired me once she wanted to return to work. That was a brutal time in my life.
Fortunately, I got a new job at a computer software company performing localization for the German market, however, there was no way to commute so I had to move about 60 miles west of Chicago. That employer paid for me to be certified in manufacturing which was a one year associate degree program. So I was back to "working" nights and weekends, except this time it was attending classes and studying.
Then, one and half years after I started the job at the software company, the company got bought out and we were all about to be laid off.
That is the second time in my life when I took a decision: I was going to get a job that had better job security, better working conditions and better pay. I started applying to German companies in Germany and in 1992 I got the job at the company where I still am today. I sold everything and moved with two suitcases and my two cats and shipped my two-year old basically new car to Germany with the relocation allowance.
It was the best decision in my life.
I have worked there now for 27 years and have travelled the world for my job: USA, Canada, India, China, Japan and throughout Germany and have loved my job (mostly....). I also travelled the "rest of the world" on my vacations, but I won't go into that here.
I'm not going to go into detail about my job history for the past 27 years, let me just summarize it to say I never had to code again once I left USA. I'm a product manager and often give presentations to customers and partners as well as internally.
I love giving presentations and explaining things and I love talking to customers and learning about their business.
I will really miss that.
I really enjoyed working with so many talented people from such different cultures all around the world. But I absolutely will not miss office politics.
It was always a lot of work due to the time zones - very often 12 hour days because I had to talk to both West Coast (Vancouver or San Francisco) and East Asia (Shanghai or Tokyo). By the way, the best time slot to get a global call together is 3 pm European time (15 CET). The Asians stay up late and the Americans have to get up early but really, there's no other constellation which works.
I admit, it probably would have been nice to work in Silicon Valley: it's a beautiful location, and it's a very exciting place to be in the software industry. I enjoyed going there on business trips. In 1998 I even had an internal job offer to transfer to California, but I turned it down because I did not want to go back to job insecurity and the extremely expensive cost-of-living which I had experienced in Chicago.
It's hard for me to let go. I would have liked to have worked a few more years at a part-time status, but the company made an early retirement offer which was too good to refuse.
But it's even harder for me to imagine having a life without having to work. I never knew it.
Starting in 25 days, I should have more time for photography and for myself.