The Middle-aged Newbie

When it comes to my career, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. Early on in my career, while my peers were busy getting good at what we do I was busy wondering what the f*** was wrong with me. Spells of wonky walking, stiffness, coming up short on words, frustratingly slow thinking, awkward timing, and anxiety…these things absolutely destroyed my confidence and really much chance of great success in my career. Now having been diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) and receiving the proper treatment, at times I feel invincible. In reality I’m a little behind, and perhaps still a little awkward. But dang it turns out that I can do this!

So when I flew to the test site to meet our customer along with the rest of my team I was feeling pretty confident. We have a good team and a great solution for the customers project. The demo that we put together for them went mostly well. We did have a couple of problems but they were not deal breakers. After wrapping up the demo we headed to the conference room to discuss some of the particulars of the roles and responsibilities. The system we came up with is a next iteration of an existing system that was developed and built by a large contractor. Because of the nature of the project and that contractors obvious expertise on their own system, whatever solution that was developed for the next iteration, the contractor was necessarily going to have to be involved to some extent. A rep from the contracting company was there at the meeting. The customer announced that I was to lead the effort. That meant that my team was going to run the show. And we were going to get the funding. The rep was unhappy and ran his mouth a bit. One of the things he said was something along the lines of …”i thought I was training an intern”, I realized with a start, that we was referring to me.

Now, I don’t often get angry. But that comment pissed me off. I bit my tongue at the time and ignored it but after the meeting I confronted him. I told him that my team and I are more than capable and we won the project on the merits of our design. I also told him his comments were offensive and pissed me off. Finally I told him that his company was too close to the technology at this point to be as innovative as they could be. It was, after all our ingenuity that impressed the customer and ultimately won us the project. He tried to put his comments into a different context, but I know what I heard and it didn’t sit right. He did finally admit it was a poor choice of words, and I vowed to just do the right thing for the customer regardless, and suggested that be our common goal. But the the tensions were still a bit high.

The following morning, as luck would have it we both got stuck waiting on a flight that kept getting delayed. So we had hours to talk. It ended up being a very friendly and productive time. We got to know each other a bit and shared our stories with each other. Being around the same age and having had some similar experiences we were able to connect on a few things. When I told him my story he was empathetic and had some questions about it. We had some time to brain storm what needed to happen for the project and actually got a good bit of planning accomplished. Overall it was great and I genuinely enjoyed getting to know him a bit and am looking forward to working with him on the project.

When I really think about his comment. My initial reaction is to be angry. After all, I’ve been working almost 20 years in this field. But I’m humble enough to admit that I still have a lot to learn. I still disagree with the way his concerns were aired, but yeah I see his point. However. I’m fully confident that we can see this project through to a successful conclusion, as long as we work together on it.

Oh, and I did have some Parky problems during the trip. I just explained that I have YOPD and to not be overly concerned because I’m fine even if I move strange sometimes. So all in all it was a successful trip. We won the project, it looks like we’re going to have cooperation from the contractor, and I’m learning a lot – all despite Parkinson’s!

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