For the first 33 years of my career as an engineer, I worked for what I like to call Big Industry … large defense-based corporations like Raytheon, Honeywell and Hughes Aircraft. That portion of my career took place before the term tele-commute was invented, mainly because the technology of the time did not support working at home. Consequently, I traveled each morning to an office which provided the assets I needed to do my job … computers so large they filled a room, and secretaries and typing pools and art departments. Sometimes during my early years, my office was a cubicle, most often shared with another junior engineer. As the years went by and I was promoted, my offices became nicer, evolving to shared offices instead of cubicles to a private office … occasionally even an office with a window, although it usually overlooked a parking lot. My furniture got newer and eventually was made of real wood, not slime-green metal. By the nineties I was content in my private wood-furnitured office and I probably would have been content to continue that way until retirement. Fate and Big Industry had other plans. Hughes Aircraft was purchased by Raytheon and decided to close the California facility. Ironically, the work I was involved in was transferred to Portsmouth, RI, where I began my career many year earlier. I even knew many of the senior engineers there.
As fond of my memories of my years in RI were, I’d become a Californian, and when our General Manager offered to keep me in California long enough to reach retirement age, I decided to stay. In 1999, retirement and a severance package gave me enough of a base to start a consulting company with a long time mentor and colleague. Early on, we had an opportunity to join with another group of engineers but they wanted to build a company for eventual sale. In other words, their company would operate like Big Industry. We just wanted to do interesting work on a flexible schedule without a big investment. Truthfully, it has been successful beyond my wildest dreams, not because it has made me filthy rich (as my Mom would say), but because it has given my wife, Muri, and I a lifestyle we like. Yes, there are times there is a lot of work to do but I can do it where and when I want. My commute to the office is 35 feet down a carpeted hallway. That would be my commute to my home office. My favorite office is about 15 minutes away.
Yes, the furniture is a bit spartan and the squirrels are fond of interrupting me… looking for snacks … but the view beats any window office I ever had working for Big Industry. And nothing makes me feel self-employed as much working in in the park, a place that I’d want to be even if I wasn’t working. Like now, for example. It is also a great place to post.