Becoming Me

Sunrise.In keeping with my pledge to give more of “me” as a human being in my articles, I present to you another chapter in the life story of yours truly. This is as accurate a recollection I can give without obtaining permissions from certain persons and business entities, thus no names are provided. I must also note that this memoir contains no defamatory comments whatsoever. In an era of slanted recollections and libelous novelizations, this is a “no-hate autobiography.”

South America

South America.

To begin, I was born to a Guyanese mother and an American father, and I was raised in a middle-class household in New York City. Mom was formerly a teacher in her native Guyana, and she became a staff member at the United Nations after she came to America. (Click this to learn more about Guyana, the only English-speaking country in South America.) When Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev spoke before the UN General Assembly and infamously banged a shoe on the podium before him in protest of American actions, my mom was there. My father, himself not a slouch in the “important works” department, was a highly-trained electrician who worked for such major firms as Grumman and Sperry, and he later brought his electrical wizardry to the New York Transit Authority as a railroad car inspector.

I attended private schools from my earliest years through seventh grade, but prior to entering eighth grade, I decided that private instruction—though excellent in its academic offerings—fostered an unrealistically pure view of the world-at-large. Thus did I, at 13 years of age, take my fledgling steps into the world without the social “safety net” offered by private schools. My parents, both of whom were strong advocates of learning through discovery, allowed me to take those steps, but only after much deliberation. In the end, they believed my decision was both bold and correct, and that it would expose me to other social spheres and better prepare me for the world-at-large.

man-pointing.jpg

Man pointing at…

As I advanced through high school and approached college, I knew that I wanted to embark on a business-related career. I attended a college that was part of the City University of New York (CUNY) wherein I first encountered courses in economics, business policy, and a course that would change my life forever: public speaking. I learned the art of speaking beyond any prepared text, and I would later come to understand why politicians point to seemingly empty air prior when addressing a crowd. (Yes, some are truly pointing to nothing in particular or to people they don’t know.) The ways of engaging an audience, of persuading a group, and of speaking as a well-informed source became known to me, and those skills would play a vital role in my later roles of manager, business analyst, and independent representative.

Graduation from college came about and I was in the full expectation of being an instant world-beater. I had training, education, some experience, a degree, tremendous drive and a sharp mind to go with it, but reality interrupted with plans of its own. My quest to succeed beyond all measure thus had the humblest of beginnings: from behind the counter of a fast food restaurant near Grand Central Terminal. Fortunately, this did not last long, and I soon found gainful employment with the City of New York once again. I was then in a true office setting, and I performed such challenging feats as follows: placing reels of tape on spools, taking reels of tape off spools, entering student data into a computer system, and printing reports on weekends. Clearly, my path to business conquest had suffered a truly significant detour! However, something truly fortuitous then occurred: I saw the opportunity to create and implement positive change.

They had problems.

They had problems.

I observed there was no tape management system in place, leaving computer operators and programmers to simply keep their own notes as to the disposition of those tapes and containers that contained their specific data. This was highly inefficient as two or more computer programmers could create the same data, store the same data, accidentally recall or send away the wrong container, or forget which containers were in storage. Unfortunately, such events were not infrequent, and many productive hours were lost in tracking misplaced data.

It was my good fortune to learn the computer system had a built-in database that was highly configurable without the need for programming. Using just the system’s built-in utilities, I created a tape and container library that quickly solved the issue. Moreover, I performed this feat—for which I was highly praised—even though I was not a computer programmer. Instead, I was a mere data entry clerk, but my drive to “think outside the box” and innovate solutions drove me to learn how to use the computer system’s features in order to create my masterwork of 1980s data management. My efforts did not go unnoticed, and I was sent to IBM for training then given programming assignments upon my return.

Years after leaving the above position, I was employed as a consultant for an information technology firm headquartered in New England. Among many other duties, I became a traveling instructor for the company, going from one corporate client to another and teaching classes related to an enterprise-level software package. The ways of public speaking I learned years before proved invaluable, and I taught many students who went on to have excellent careers in using the software. Later, I joined a small company wherein I employed my creative nature to prototype, design, and guide the construction of an innovative document management system. Thanks to this effort, printing costs per-order declined as paperwork was then generated automatically by the new system on a strict, as-needed basis.

In closing, the above reflects who I was as a student and who I am as an adult worker. I came from parents who nurtured an outgoing and curious child, and I matured into a still-outgoing adult who retains his youthful curiosity. Unconventional thinking remains a vital part of my ongoing pursuit of answers to life’s many questions. I do my best to present new perspectives as I tiptoe through the minefield of polarized thought that is the current American landscape, and I do so while remembering the lessons I learned from the many people who helped me become the person I am today. Many of those wonderful people are gone now, including my parents. Wherever they all are, I can only hope I’ve made them proud.

All the best,
-Keith V.


 

Image Attribution:

  • All of the above images are in the public domain via Pexels.com.
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