I’ve been amazingly fortunate in my quarter-century technology career. It began in 1996 through an enlistment in the Air Force. Being from a small town in East Texas, there wasn’t much else career ownership wise. You either went to college or you went to work. It wasn’t so much an option for me. Through the fortuitous decision to enlist, I stepped into a technology career that has provided more than I could ever properly express. I’m quick to say I owe everything to the Air Force, and enlisting provided the platform for everything I have had the good fortune to experience since.
Experiencing The World
I’m not certain I ever left the state of Texas before I joined the Air Force. When it came time to fill out my “dream sheet” in tech school, I chose all overseas assignments. I wanted to experience the world outside of what I had known for the entirety of my life. I was given my second choice in an assignment to RAF Molesworth in the U.K. Molesworth was an intelligence base back then, so I had to go through the clearance process, which wound up providing the conduit for the next 15 years of my career.
As I was nearing the end of my enlistment, the dot com bubble had not yet burst. After much thought, I decided to leave the Air Force when my enlistment was up. Companies were throwing money at me to join the private sector.
My first job out of the Air Force was with MCI WorldCom. It was my first iteration of career ownership, but not the best decision per what was happening behind the scenes. When I was eventually laid off a couple of years later, I found myself with the three-letter agencies for the next decade. There was a brief stint in Washington, D.C.. and the Bay Area, but far and away most of that time was spent in Los Angeles.
I thoroughly enjoyed those years. I met my wife, finished degrees and developed many close friendships with like-minded folks, all while living by the beach most of that time.
In 2014, I concluded I was never going to get where I wanted to be in life working as a government contractor. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed what I was doing, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give corporate America another shot. It was a substantial pay raise; more than I ever thought I’d make in my career if I’m being honest.
I took an opportunity with Dell to come back home to Texas. I always knew I’d find my way home – there was never a doubt in my mind. Eighteen months went by and Dell told me they were going to lay me off. Working in cybersecurity, I found another job immediately.
Late in 2015, I went to work for Fujitsu as their Manager of North American Cybersecurity Operations. It was a nice title and an even nicer salary.
But it was not a good match. With my wife’s blessing, I put in my resignation a few months in. It was the day before I turned 40, and the day I embarked on a journey to take true ownership of my career. I had used my GI Bill and was educated, earning multiple certifications and successfully managing people inside and out of American culture. I felt I had done enough to call the shots on what I wanted out of my career.
The greater good emanating from government work was calling me home. While I mostly enjoyed my time working in corporate America, it didn’t resonate with who I am as a person. You see, through my journey I learned that my work must serve a higher purpose or it’s not a sustainable path forward. I suspect many GovLoop readers can relate to the sentiment.
Finding My Place
After a brief period of unemployment, having gone on more interviews than I could remember and turning down multiple offers to work in private industry, Texas local government came calling.
I’ll never forget the day. I was thrilled to accept a pay cut most would consider egregious, but I knew it was the right decision for the person I am. I was right about that. At the end of the day, what I do has to matter.
There is no better manifestation of that for me than serving my fellow Texans. I take pride in it – it is who I am and all I want to be. I bring the nuances of a career spent in high tech gallivanting the globe to rural Texas and I love it. We make magic happen out here in the country, and it’s an honor and a privilege to serve my community.
There’s peace in career ownership and knowing you are where you’re supposed to be in life. Consider yourself fortunate if you have achieved this and know it to be true. If this story resonates with you, more on my professional experiences can be found here. Until next time, thank you for reading!
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Shane “El Jefe” McDaniel is the first Director of Information Technology for the city of Seguin, Texas, with more than 24 years of experience across multiple IT disciplines. He began his technology career in 1996 through an enlistment in the Air Force supporting military intelligence, subsequently transitioning to NSA, NRO, private industry and municipal government technology operations. Shane is the proprietor and champion of Country IT, running the countryexec.com website promoting personal and professional development for future leaders. You can find him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.