7 Minute Miles

Life Breakpoints

Posted Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 12:26 am GMT -5 in Personal

Happy 2007 everyone! I have a good vibe about the upcoming year and I’ve been working a lot on planning and strategy to get things off to a good start. We have a lot of exciting things coming up and I’m anxious to hit some of the lofty goals we’ve set (more on that in a later post).

All of this planning made me think about the movie Run Lola Run, where fate leads the main character to three different outcomes based on slightly different breakpoints in each storyline. I have experienced several major breakpoints in my life and have often wondered how things would be different:

Breakpoint #1: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

RPI Math DepartmentThis was almost my address for college. I had never visited RPI, but was advised that it was one of the best technical colleges in the country, behind only MIT and Cal Tech. They also had a great hockey team, so it would feel like home.

I applied and was accepted into the mathematics degree program, but decided I really wanted to be an engineer and that the cost was too high. I ended up enrolled at the University of North Dakota in their aeronautical engineering program instead of RPI and the much more interesting Hudson River Valley.

There was another college breakpoint at UND–what if I had begun the flight training program there instead of transferring to the University of Wisconsin to study banking and finance (like my grandfather before me)? I probably couldn’t have afforded to become a pilot either, but going to Madison did get me closer to my future wife.

Breakpoint #2: Manager, Credit Systems

When I worked my way into management at Northwest Airlines in the mid-1990s, I was on track to accept what I thought would be the perfect match for my abilities and background–Manager, Credit Systems. I had several years of credit and collecting experience and was the local computer geek for the building. I successfully made it through several interviews and was just waiting for the paperwork to clear.

At the last minute, the director of the credit division called me into his office and said he was excited to welcome me to management, but not to the position I was expecting. The manager of the general credit area decided he wanted to try the systems position, so I was being offered his old job. I had a good relationship with that manager, but he did not have any computer background and the general credit area had a number of interesting employees to manage. I really had no choice but to accept that position, but I wonder how my career would be different today had I been offered that position.

Breakpoint #3: Fallon

Another job related breakpoint came a few years later. I had been working in the fuel department at Northwest for a few years and had a wonderful boss who was (and still is) a great mentor to me. There was some uncertainty in his position (and therefore mine), so I accepted an interview with the Fallon advertising firm in Minneapolis. This came via a referral from my Apple rep at the time, as Fallon was a huge Apple shop and they were looking for someone to run their server farm.

The interviews went great and I absolutely loved the working environment–so many cool and creative people in an office full of the latest and greatest toys. The money being offered wasn’t much more than I was making, but I was ready to accept just for the environment. The only real negatives were the commute downtown and a possible increase in stress (supporting the whole company instead of just one department).

My boss at Northwest really made this a non-decision for me, as he offered me a huge raise and a new title to stay. Airlines and advertising haven’t been great places to be the past few years, but taking that job at Fallon would have been very, very interesting.

Breakpoint #4: Portland and Las Vegas

My final major breakpoint to date happened when my position at Northwest was eliminated. Despite living in Minnesota most of my life, I decided I needed to have a national scope for my job search. The types of jobs I was looking for were specialized and there weren’t a lot of options in the Twin Cities.

Two of my favorite places to visit are Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada. I wasn’t sure I could handle living in Las Vegas, but a friend from high school had lived there for a long time and he invited me to stay with him while I looked at jobs. I had an interview for a position with a company that designed graphics for slot machines located just off the Strip. I was a perfect match for the skill set, but their offer was almost $20,000 less than I had made at Northwest.

There were no doubts about Portland–we could totally live there. The primary problem was prices were rising and none of the jobs I was looking at paid enough to give us a standard of living equal to that of Minnesota. Same story for a great position I interviewed for in California. Things eventually worked out in my home state, but I frequently wonder what things would be like now if we had moved west.

I’ve been very privileged to lead the life I’ve led and wouldn’t change a thing, but these breakpoints sure are fun to ponder.

Originally published by DK on January 3, 2007 at 12:26 am

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