After four years abroad, experiencing the sights, culture and economy of Europe, it was time to return to New Zealand and duly, I arrived home with a grab-bag full of new knowledge, ideas and a strong desire to follow the then-current enthusiasm for the world of IT.
With an understanding that my skill level was relatively weak, I undertook study and began searching for opportunities to get further into the industry and after six months of searching and job-hopping, I found myself inside the Coopers and Lybrand Tower in the heart of Auckland City, poring over a technical entry test for a network support position.
It had taken me a fair while to get to that point. Four years of military communications training prior to my travels, a year working in London with KPMG supporting the HR Department with computer admin and six months of self-study while assembling PC’s and peripherals for one of NZ’s largest computer manufacturer. I understood my basics, and I’d been learning more every day – but the test I was taking was designed to expose your flaws – and I noticed with increasing desperation that my store of ready answers had fast depleted.
“Oh well”, I thought, trying to gloss over my lack of knowledge, “You can only do so much with what you have.”
I stumbled to the end and handed over the paper to the interviewer. “We’ll call you…” she said.
Moment of Truth
Days pass. I’m back on the assembly line, a solitary European face among the majority of very recent Chinese immigrants – all seemingly holding Bachelors and Master’s degrees in computer science; university lecturers, engineers, highly-qualified and experienced, beginning their lives anew and Working From Anywhere, just like my family had 24 years previously.
If there was this many over-qualified people looking for work, what chance did I have with a major organisation like C&L? But eventually the phone rang, and to my surprise, I’d done it! I’d been accepted into the network support team and would be starting in a week.
Walking into the building for the first time as an employee of the global giant felt great, but I had a lot to learn, so got to work immediately on the unfamiliar IBM token ring technology, Window’s 3.1 Network and Workstation versions and the proprietary DOS-based payroll system.
And learn them I do, working long, long hours, well outside the expectations of my manager and team – first in, last out (a call back to my days as a radio operator in the Royal New Zealand Signals Corp) – and after logging jobs and resolution times, in turns out that I’m the most productive and efficient of our team. Soon it’s time for my first appraisal.
Attitude is Everything
It went well, and as the meeting came to a close, my manager made a comment:
“You know, Greg, you had the lowest technical score of all our applicants…”
“Then why did you hire me?” I asked
“Because of your attitude. Technical skills can be learnt – but attitude is much more difficult to obtain…”
I learnt something about myself that day. It’s valuable to be able to put a name to the elements of skill that you have. It was apparent to my manager I had something of value to the organisation, even if I was not aware, or only marginally aware of it, and of its worth.
Attitude is everything. Success or failure in a venture has a lot to do with how you approach the challenges along the way. The outcomes are markedly changed by your motivation and demeanour around how you go about achieving your goals, and your attitude in general to your work, and/or personal life.
I didn’t know it then, but it would be the last job I would ever have as an employee. The continuing lure of performance was greater than I imagined, and outside of the IT world, I trained in acting and singing – freelancing and moonlighting at events and performances, until finally, I couldn’t bear the thought of working nine to five anymore. I had reached a tipping point, and with just a month’s salary in the bank, I resigned after two years of intense growth, and put up my shingle as an freelance event producer.
Anyone can have a dream. And a dream paired with a plan becomes a vision. But a vision paired with action becomes reality. Little did I know then, how difficult that reality would become…
Coming up: No-one teaches you how to be a freelancer, what happens when you forget to pay the ferryman, and why flying solo doesn’t mean trying to do it all yourself.
Andy spends his time away from the computer cycling or hiking up mountains or catching a wave on his SUP.
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