Lessons From a Veteran: Hard-Nosed Advice From a Softie

“Lessons from a veteran.” Ow, doesn’t that just make you want to duck and run?

Trust me, I didn’t come up with the first part. Being called a veteran is a lot more attractive than the dinosaur label I put on myself more than 10 years ago (already!). Being a dinosaur is what it felt like, though, being at least 10 years older than my colleagues and having started in programming long before many of them were even born.

From the Seven Seas to Bits and Bytes

My career started in 1985, the week after I graduated from nautical college. Yes, I was trained as a ship’s mate. I loved the education, the variety of topics, and the adventure of sailing the seven seas during my apprenticeship.

Three months into my final year at college, though, I realized that I would get bored pretty quickly, despite the variety of work as a mate.

HP3000
A relic from when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Credit: Pixabay.com

Being a sailor isn’t half as romantic as it sounds. The long stretches crossing an ocean are tedious, to say the least. There is little to entertain you (remember it was the ’80s!) and no way to escape your colleagues unless you want to become fish food.

At the time, my brother was working somewhere programming coffee machines or cash registers. Having taken classes in electronics and BASIC programming (no, not Visual Basic, basic BASIC, on an HP3000 with teletype terminals) at nautical college, I figured I could do that, too.

Six months or so later, I walked into the offices of Volmac, the biggest and badassest software consultancy firm in the Netherlands at the time.

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