Twelve weeks of employment before being made redundant: surprising, given I was sixteen years old and in my first proper job.
Now, as a grown-up (ahem), I wonder if, despite daft decisions and an apparent intent to derail my own career; the Cosmos was laying out a path for me.
At school, despite being a Maths bod and a Science-prize-winning nerd, I’d never considered a job in a technical field. I’d already planned on working with children. Yet, post GCSEs – with a nudge from my Physics teacher [read: stern talking to] - I chose to be an Engineer. Doing an apprenticeship, rather than A-Levels and a degree, meant studying part-time, whilst working for an Engineering company. It was a clear winner in the ’Now what?’ stakes. Having many siblings meant money was tight, so university was never on the cards anyway.
A handful of interviews resulted in two offers: one for a large company, and one for a much smaller one. I accepted the latter. It seemed less intimidating. Unfortunately, within days of me starting, they announced they were shutting up shop and laying everyone off. Yikes. My first career hurdle.
My tutors went to great lengths to help, and we eventually found another placement. My new employer, Hawker Siddeley, was a huge company with a colourful history and a great reputation. It was also the company I had turned down just three months before. Why I had declined their original offer was a mystery to, well, absolutely everyone. Their graciousness astounds me still.
What I learned from this episode was that if an amazing (but scary) opportunity presents itself once, you take it. If an opportunity appears twice, it’s a rare gift and you better bloomin’ well grab it and hang on. Which is exactly what I did. I gained a brilliant education, both academically, as well as in the subtle world of ‘pranks engineers play on newbies’ : …left-handed screwdrivers, tartan paint…. ha!
Two years into my Apprenticeship, with things seemingly going well, the HR Manager called me into his office. I thought I was in trouble (default setting for those with in-built Catholic guilt). Turned out I was about to set off on another new path.
‘Sit down’, he said, ‘There’s something I want to discuss with you’
I started to worry.
I worried some more.
‘We’d like to give you a bursary and send you to University’
I never saw that coming. But he didn’t need to offer twice.
Six months later I started an Engineering and German degree. Through it I discovered: a love of travel; a talent for coding; a fascination of photography, and the burgeoning internet. Unbeknownst to me, my IT career had already begun.
My story could have been so very different had those people not metaphorically grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me along unfamiliar paths. I wish I could thank that Physics teacher, those Engineering Tutors, that HR Manager.
They all cared enough to intervene.
This post is prompted by The Scintilla Project – a fortnight of story sharing.