The people and random events that shape our lives (Part 10)

I started work at BNR in March of 1971 and Kim was born that December. I did a couple of designs that involved working with Carmine Ciancibello who had a big impact on my career later on. During a lull in the design work, I looked around and decided teaching was a more worthwhile cause so after 2 1/2 years at BNR, I quit and got a job teaching in the Electronics Technology Department of Algonquin College.

While I was teaching at Algonquin, we often went back to Trinidad for part of the summer. On one of these trips I decided to book a week in Barbados. I talked to a travel agent in Port of Spain to arrange the details but when it got close to the time, I still hadn’t heard back from them. I tried calling but couldn’t get through (the telephone system only ever worked on a sporadic basis). We assumed everything was OK but when we arrived at our hotel around 10 pm (in the dark), we discovered that it was closed for renovations.

There was a developer building a small hotel down the road and a passer-by told us about it. We took a walk down the road with our suitcases and ended up with a more interesting place for the week. There was a shack on the property that one of the workers stayed in for free in return for cooking for the guests. He would go out and catch some fish during the day and feed it to us at night. His mother came to stay with him, took a liking to Kim and babysat for free. We had a wonderful stay.

It wasn’t always wonderful though and at the end of 1979, Marilyn and I broke up. I had been at the college for 7 years and was due for sabbatical and I needed to get away. However, the sabbatical was rejected because another teacher with more seniority had also put in a request. I quit Algonquin and continued a business I had already started manufacturing equipment for teaching microprocessor courses. Michel Brule helped me out. Michel had also taught at Algonquin and was now teaching at the University of Quebec in Montreal. He got us into a number of colleges around Montreal to teach microprocessors and I brought along my equipment.

In the end I didn’t have my heart in it and when a head hunter called up looking for someone to take over the job of head of hardware engineering for a small company in Montreal, I took it. Marilyn would put Kim on the bus in Ottawa (Kim was 9 years old) and I would wait for her at a bus stop in Montreal and we would spend the weekend together.

In early 1982 I was interviewing an ex-student by the name of Jim Fraser when I realized he was interviewing me. He convinced me to move back to Ottawa as the head of engineering for a small startup called Targa Electronics. I did a lot of the design work there as well so it was a lot of fun. Later, I got a job as director of hardware engineering for a larger company called DY-4 but it was a lot less fun.

By that time, Marilyn had met someone and decided to get married and move to the US. Kim stayed with me and my life suddenly got a lot less complicated.

The only thing that could have potentially complicated my life was my job at DY-4. The expectation was that the director of hardware engineering would do a number of jobs and work long hours: manage the design team, travel on behalf of the company (often to Australia) and explain all the ins and outs of the product line to marketing and sales. Instead, as a single parent, I made a conscious decision to only work 9 to 5. I did the management but sent one of the better designers, who liked to travel, to Australia; the previous director of hardware engineering had moved into marketing so in my mind, he could talk to the sales and marketing team. However, in his mind, meetings with sales and marketing were an opportunity to bring me in and show everyone that he knew more than I did.

The job at DY-4 wasn’t for me. I enjoyed managing but wasn’t that interested in the product line and didn’t like the upper management. I figured I would get fired eventually and I had already decided that I preferred doing technical work. Hardware design jobs were disappearing so I applied to take a PhD in systems engineering at Carleton University.

I wanted to quit in the spring but DY-4 wanted me to keep working so I compromised by working 4 days a week until school started in September.

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