Life Cycle of a Career

A friend of mine is retiring on Friday. He is about 10 years ahead of me in the career life cycle. He started at the company about 2 years after I did, and he is now retiring after 25 years. It has been a long time coming for him. His wife retired about a year ago, and he’s been talking about retiring for several years. And now he’s done it and Friday will be his last day.

It is a bittersweet thing for me to see him retire. When he started with the company, I was 24 years old (I was 22 when I started there). I was still relatively new to the I.T. world (back then, the term “I.T.” wasn’t used yet) and it seemed anything but certain that I’d be at the company for very long. A quarter of a century later, he is retiring and I am well into the late innings of my own career.

I can remember so clearly–as if it was just the other day–the runs we took after work in the park on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica in the late 1990s. I remember the time we went to see Harlan Ellison give a talk in Marina del Rey and how flustered Ellison got when Donald Sutherland walked into the room.

We were both younger back then. I didn’t think of my work in terms of a career. It was, especially in the mid-90s, during the Dot Com boom, a lot of fun. Things were changing so quickly. We worked in a much more informal environment than what we have today. An we had a core team of great co-workers, many of whom were also long-timers, and all since moved on or retired.

I think I have said this before but the downside of a long career at the same company is seeing those colleagues and friends I’ve worked with for so long fade away, one-by-one. Some are claimed by other companies and opportunities, some by retirement, and too many, sadly, by death.

With the departure of my friend, only one person remains in my group from those early days and she was a big part of the software system we successfully rolled out earlier this week, after 14 months of remote development. There are other people still around from the mid-1990s, but none that I worked with on a regular basis.

I’ve heard it said that the curse of longevity is seeing all of your friends and family fade away as time stretches on. It certainly feels true in terms of the longevity of career at the same company. On the other hand, I just finished up the most exciting project I’ve ever worked on, which just goes to show that there is always something new over the horizon, and you never really now how things will turn out, and what surprises await there.


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