Thoughts on Retiring

Early this morning while lying awake in bed, I did some mental math and realized I would be retiring from my career in IT almost exactly 30 years from the day I started my first job out of college. It is a bittersweet experience. While I’m excited about the next chapter in my life and our big adventure moving to Idaho, I’m also sad to bring my IT career to a close and leave my work family. I have spent 40+ hours per week for the last 30 years solving problems, writing code, implementing systems, learning new technologies, meeting with customers, counseling staff, reading email, and attending way too many meetings.

To help me through this change, I started thinking about all the things I won’t miss, like those meetings. People compliment me on my copious note-taking in meetings. Here’s the truth, I started taking notes in boring meetings to keep from falling asleep and then it just became a habit. I began with legal pads and saved the loose leaf sheets in the project or customer files. I wasn’t able to cross-reference notes, so then I moved on to composition books. That way I always had all my notes with me and could refer to them in any meeting. The cover of each book is dated with the time period it spans. I’ve tossed most over the years, but I’m saving one as a career artifact. It also has the quilted cover I made which went on to inspire me to create QR Code quilts. As I end my career, I’m taking notes on an iPad. I tried a few note-taking apps and finally settled on Microsoft OneNote (let’s not even get started on the oxymoron that is a Windows app running on iOS). Blogging may become my note-taking replacement. To keep life from becoming boring, I must do interesting things to blog about.

The notebook cover that inspired the quilt
One of my QR code quilts

Here’s another thing I won’t miss: public restrooms. At one point in my career, I worked in an office suite with about 40 people. There was one pair of restrooms for men and women. Since there were only four women, we had it made. Our restroom was clean and orderly. One of my male coworkers told me how nasty the men’s room was. I just attributed that to men being sloppy and not having a mom or wife around to clean up after them. Now I work on a floor with about 40 people, but this time at least half are women. I can now relate to that male coworker. If you make a mess ladies, wipe it up! So no, I won’t miss the office restroom.

As you can see, the male to female ratio has changed over the course of my career. When I graduated from college, only 5% of my computer engineering class was female. As I moved into the workforce, that statistic was the norm. I remember one meeting in particular early on in my career. I was the IT analyst on a system implementation for the County’s Water Quality department. There were about 20 engineers in the conference room and not only was I the only woman, but I was at least 15 years younger than everyone else. It wouldn’t be until about ten years later that I was sitting in a meeting and looked around the room and realized it was the first time at the County that I was in a meeting with all women. Sure I was meeting with the Communication and Media Office which was all female, but it was startling to realize how few women I worked with on a daily basis.

Commuting. I have a love-hate relationship with it. I like to drive, so I don’t mind the time I spend in the car. In the morning I can use the time to plan my day or listen to an audiobook. In the evening I can use the time for problem-solving (in my case, the shower is the best place for problem-solving, but the drive home is a close second), or I decompress with loud music while cursing my boss…it all depends on the day. The part I hate and will not miss? Other drivers. Merge like a zip people! Is it really that difficult?

I won’t miss a rigid work schedule. I’m not a morning person. I don’t naturally wake up at 6 AM; it is a chore. There was one brief period in my career when I worked a 9/80 schedule giving me every other Friday off, and I was also allowed to telework on Thursdays and my working Friday. This was my perfect and most productive schedule. Monday through Wednesday I got my ass out of bed, got dressed, and was at my desk by 7:30. By Thursday morning, I was starting to drag, but my desk was only 20 feet from my bedroom, so I rolled out of bed and started my day (usually before 7:30). At lunchtime, I would shower and eat and then return to my desk to finish my day. I got so much done on those Thursdays and Fridays. The beginning of the week was spent in meetings determining the action items and the end of the week was for getting things done.

Then I became a manager. That meant 8-to-5 Monday through Friday and professionally dressed. Gone were the sweats and bunny slippers of my teleworking days. I’ve purged my wardrobe of most of my suits and heels and have just enough professional attire remaining to get me through these last few weeks at work. I will keep one pair of heels for weddings and funerals, but I see boots, tennies, and flip-flops as the go-to footwear in retirement.

Other random things I won’t miss:

  • Elevators
  • Parking garages
  • Badges
  • Expense reports
  • The community refrigerator
  • Windows that won’t open
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Status reports
  • My boss’s boss
  • Elected officials

These are things I won’t miss about work, but there are so many good things and people I will miss…