10 years, and never missed a day

On May 31, 2000, I formally left United Technologies Research Center and joined the Golden Consulting Group (now BIT Advisors) as a full-time technical trainer.  I’m posting now to celebrate the fact that, having just passed my 10th anniversary at a technical trainer, I’ve still never missed a day. :)

I spent almost 12 years at UTRC.  The first eight were as a research scientist, where my specialty was theoretical and computational analyses of the aerodynamics and aeroacoustics of jet engines.  It all sounds pretty impressive, at least when it worked.  If you look, you can still find some papers I wrote or co-authored, through Google Scholar.  My work at the time consisted almost entirely of lots of math and lots of FORTRAN (shudder).

I was never that wild about research.  I liked the actual investigating part, and I liked presenting results and explaining what they meant, but I hated all the begging for funding.  That’s actually how I wound up at UTRC in the first place — I planned to be a professor, but I thought if I went to a research laboratory I could build up my resume and publications list and then later join a university somewhere.   Unfortunately, the market for professors fell apart soon after I joined UTRC.  A year later I was married to a local girl, too, so I wasn’t able to move to wherever the opportunities might be.  Sigh.

I was always an awkward fit in engineering.  I never took things apart or put them together as a kid.  I liked the science aspect, but never really felt comfortable as an engineer.  I always wanted to move away from FORTRAN, too, which was problematic because I naturally didn’t want to write my own numerical analysis libraries.  Eventually, though, I discovered Java back around version 1.0.6, and started learning that.

Around the same time, I made a friend at UTRC who ran an Artificial Intelligence group.   After some discussion (and the fact that the acoustic funding dried up), I joined his group and started learning about neural networks and genetic algorithms.  Unfortunately, I also realized that about fifteen years of coding in Fortran hadn’t taught me anything about modern software development.  So I went back to school at night at Rensselaer at Hartford and got my MS in Computer Science.  I also became a Sun Certified Java Programmer along the way.

During the spring of 2000, when I started interviewing, I found that I could either work for a consulting firm as a developer (back then having the SCJP certification was hot), or I could join a training company and teach technical training courses in business and industry.  It came down to two job offers at the time.  I’ll always remember my dinner-table conversation the night I made my decision.

Me: I’ve decided which job to take.

Xander (my son, age 8 at the time): Did you take the one that had more money, or the one that you liked?

Out of the mouth of babes. :)  I’ve always been pleased to say that I took the job I liked, and I’ve never regretted that decision.

After five years with Golden, I eventually went out on my own.  I’ve now been an independent trainer for five years as of last March, as the owner (and sole employee) of Kousen IT, Inc.  I’ve learned a ton along the way (sometimes I shudder to think about how little I knew when I started) and still love what I’m doing, especially when it involves Groovy or Grails.

One notable achievement, as I mentioned at the beginning of this (way too long) post, is that I still haven’t missed a day.  There are roughly 20 or so training days available in a given month, and a typical trainer tries to schedule between 10 and 15 of them.  How many depends on the length of individual classes (a two-day class often wipes out a week, because it’s very hard to find a three-day class that will fit into the remaining slot), but you don’t want to teach too many in a given month or you get tired and nothing good comes of that.  I tend to average about 120 to 150 days a year, so conservatively I’ve taught about 1200 days during that time.

Some of that is luck, of course.  I’ve certainly been sick enough that if I’d had a class scheduled, I couldn’t have made it.  Also life tends to intervene, with family illnesses and the like.  But so far, so good.  I’m rather proud of that, actually, and hope to keep the streak going as long as possible.

My wife is very happy I made it, too, partly because now I’ll stop obsessing over it.  Over the last few months I grew increasingly paranoid that something would happen to cause me to miss a day, but fortunately it never did.

Maybe I’ll see you in a class someday.  If so, the odds are very good that I’ll be there the whole way. :)


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