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From Frustration to Fulfillment: How I Re-invented My Career at Age 50

Posted by sb_admin on May 17, 2017
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Part I – The Path to Frustration

Armed with a degree in software engineering, an MBA, and some pretty good experience I had done well in the Atlanta technology job market for almost two decades. An early interest in computers eventually led to a passion in technical management.  At the height of my career, I was a Principal at the world’s largest Internet consulting firm in charge of all delivery, had stock options that were worth millions (on paper, at least), and was well on my way to making Partner, which would bring even more money and stock. I even co-founded an Internet security company on the side in my spare time.  Some of my co-workers had begun even referring to me as the  “Golden Child”, a nickname that caused me great embarrassment.

I certainly wasn’t the only “Golden Child” to see their lucrative compensation package disappear during what became the Dotcom Bubble Burst of 2000.  I remember being in very fine company down at the Department of Labor applying for unemployment benefits that year.  There was at least one Vice-President from a large competitor standing in line with me as well as many other well-educated, well-off looking people there with us.  I was only 33 years old at the time and was taking things in stride. I hadn’t exactly expected to retire rich in my 30’s. I had also already seen a couple of economic cycles during my career and knew this wasn’t the end of the world and there would be plenty time for me to recover. 

However, the next few years turned out to be fairly rough ones, especially after 9/11.  There was plenty of work, but recruiting and hiring never regained the exuberance that it had in the late 90’s.  Furthermore, those boom years had seemingly brought a glut of IT workers to the Atlanta marketplace. This was especially true in the telecom industry, which had been laying off in mass for years. Competition for well-paying management jobs remained very high and job satisfaction within the companies that were hiring remained seemingly very low.  Nonetheless, I was fortunate to have a strong resume and kept myself employed, albeit with more and more frequent job changes. 

In 2009 the economy took a turn for the worse. This time it was the Housing Bubble that burst and what was a rough job market became just plain brutal.  At 42 years old I was not as bright and shiny (or Golden for that matter) on interviews as I had been in my early 30’s. Furthermore, I had noticed what could be described as various repetitive themes (a nice way of saying SSDD) in all my recent jobs.  It seemed that I had been getting paid to solve the many of the same problems over and over again.  It also started becoming clear that I was losing much of the passion for my management career that I had once had. 

A re-org at my company in 2015 left me unemployed at age 48.  Honestly, it was probably one of the happiest days of my life.  First, it ended the misery that had been my current job situation. Also, I was given a very generous severance package.  Finally, the timing of it was just when school was letting out.  I knew that I would probably be spending the summer off with the 3 young children that my wife and I had together somewhat late in life.  Finally, the job market had been steadily picking up in recent years and I was hopeful that I would land a job that I liked much better.

Actually, I was more than hopeful.  I was prayerful.  I prayed that I would find a job that was fulfilling, one that used all of my talents and experience, one that was lucrative and one that would last me until retirement.  I prayed for all of these things and my prayers were answered!

To be continued in Part II – The Path to Fulfillment…

by Brian C. Copeland

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