By John Woods
Last night, when I arrived home, there was a pick-up truck parked in front of my house with a red canoe strapped to its roof. I remarked to my wife that someone must be going fishing.
This morning, as I was putting the garbage to the curb, I saw a young man getting into the truck.
I asked him if he was going fishing, and he said, “no, I’m going up north to work for the summer.” He told me he was an environmental biologist. The canoe was to help him get to the sites where he would be collecting his samples.
We parted ways. I finished the trash round up and started my commute to the office; he headed out into the vast wilderness of Northern Ontario.
But while I was driving, I couldn’t help but reflect on my youth. There was a time when I imagined I might end up working outdoors myself. I started thinking about the path that had led me to become an executive at a software company instead of a Ministry of Natural Resources Officer – or any of the other things I wanted to be when I was growing up.
I found myself wondering, “how did I get here?”
As I drove, I remembered four pivotal points in particular:
1. When I was a kid, I was diagnosed with mild eczema. When I graduated high school, I wanted to pursue a career as a helicopter pilot with the Canadian Armed Forces. I met with a recruiting officer and completed aptitude testing. Then I mentioned I had Eczema… Declined for medical reasons.
2. Plan B: I always liked fishing and hunting. So I thought, “what better way to spend your days than working in the outdoors as a conservation officer?” At that time, to become an officer you needed to go to College and take a 3 year diploma. Being practical, I realized that path could only lead me to one destination. I stepped away from that choice.
3. When I sought advice from my guidance counsellor, he asked me what I liked to do. Well, I liked Math. I liked Accounting. I liked Economics. He suggested I look into becoming an accountant. I had found my path.
4. I had been working for about 5 years as an accountant in the Insurance industry, when an opportunity presented itself in the shape of a middle-aged, burly bear of a man named Ian Lang. Ian’s wife had been a collague of mine, and she mentioned that her husband was a VP at a software company that happened to be looking for an accountant. I agreed to meet with him. We hit it off right away. Ian took me under his wing and said to me, “you are more than an accountant”.
27 years later, I am more than an accountant. Ian has retired. Now I’m a VP at that same company, and I get to take the young people on our team under my wing and say, “you are more than…”.
Somewhere in that group of young professionals is the next VP. That person probably doesn’t even know that they have it in them yet. They don’t know that their path will bring them to a point where, like me, they will look back and wonder, “how did I come so far?”
As for me, I do not regret any choices I have made. I really like my job, I like my co-workers, I like my customers, I like what I have become.
But I’ll admit, I did wonder this morning what my life might look like if I didn’t have eczema.