I find myself looking back across the past twenty-four years. For nearly 288 months I was an employee of the prestigious entity, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (more popularly known as The IEEE Inc.). I spent that nearly a quarter of a century as a Proofreader and Editor, under the ever-evolving work titles of Assistant Editor, Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Journals Coordinator… until such time that a rapid sea-change recently occurred among publishers of Technical and Scientific Journals and Periodicals, one that forced such institutions to embrace a radical alteration in the manner that tens of thousands of pages of peer-reviewed documents are proofread, typeset, edited, and published under the ever-growing pressures of shortened publication schedules and reduced budgets. And thus I find myself thrust back into the challenges that life regularly offers one between long bouts of stability and complacency. These are challenges I am accepting with eyes wide open and feet solidly on the ground, with a strong hope for positive accomplishment in my immediate future. And yes, I owe this sense of fortitude to none other than my former employer, The IEEE Inc.
A constant one can’t help but notice in a workplace is the advancement of technology. The evolvement of author/editor communications from FEDEX, UPS, Telex, and Fax Machines to FTP sites and e-mails that can transport large files reminds us that alterations in the manner in which a job is carried out (quicker, more efficiently) directly reflects the ever-growing complexity of responsibilities one acquires the longer they are in a particular field of endeavor. One of the more dramatic of these changes was the almost ubiquitous replacement of desktop computers with that of laptops attached to base stations… laptops that can be taken home to access work remotely via secure VPN software, and so the once oft-experienced “day off” due to mild sickness, bad weather, or other act of god has now become a thing of the past.
Change. It is a concept and an axiom of human life. It is the alpha and the omega of existence, physics, and aging. It defines the parameters of career and education, and regularly reminds us (whether or not we are open to its lessons) that unpredictable events are always on the horizon.
Throughout my stay at The IEEE Inc. I worked on a dozen journals for several different engineering societies. The volunteer Editors-in-Chief for each of these journals were college professors and leaders in industry, women and men who took on unpaid responsibility to help the advancement of knowledge and science across the planet Earth. And yes, their assignments and that of their administrative assistants generally only lasted a short number of years, and so I found myself continually becoming acquainted with a regular changing-of-the-guard for those volunteers in the Engineering Community that oversaw the writing and submission of tens of thousands of papers, annually. Acquaintances, Colleagues, Friends, Co-Workers… the revolving door of one’s work-related contacts is ever-spinning, and as such, is nothing to be feared. It is the standard, the constant, the norm.
Thus, when I recently found myself leaving that all too familiar workplace in Piscataway, NJ, which was also the location of my home for 19 years, I found myself possessing the veracity and the courage to not only contemplate a career change to that of Technical Writer, but also embrace relocating from New Jersey to Colorado. And where did I find the steel to confidently stride forth into an unsure future? Why, from The IEEE Inc. It was a near quarter century of an ever-changing career that was the basic training, the boot camp if you will, for my initiative and resourcefulness.
So the next time you find yourself cursing fate for unwelcome surprises in your life, take a moment to truly examine your fate’s awkward paths and the inevitable strengths you have developed navigating uncomfortable locales in your psyche. Change is good. Embrace it.
Michael H. Hanson