Hey all,

I’m Steve and this is my Vocation Vignette. I grew up in the Chicago burbs and went to school at U of I in Urbana-Champaign studying Electrical Engineering. I met my wife, Minh, 5 years ago in Chicago and we currently live in the South Loop. Over the last ten years since I graduated I’ve worked on several things in Real Estate part-time and in Lucent Technologies (Alcatel-Lucent) as an Engineer full-time. I’d actually love to talk about my experiences as a Realtor part-time and various things I’ve learned and realized through that, but since it’s not my primary vocation that will have to be another vignette if I get the chance to share again.

I’ve worked at Lucent for the last 10+ years which is an eternity in our generation these days. Many of my friends have already worked in 3-6 different companies and/or careers by now. I’ve also struggled in the last few years with wanting to leave and do something new as well, but it always ends up being at a time when a recession hits and new opportunities are scarce. Part of that struggle stems from a desire to improve myself on paper (résumé) and define myself based on the career or company I work at. I can sometimes look enviously at others who stepped through the right companies to build up that perfect résumé. I chose Electrical Engineering in Undergrad because I heard it was challenging and seemed to earn a lot of respect back then. It was the 90’s (…late 90’s, need to clarify that I’m not that old) and dot com was the buzz and engineers ruled the world. I wanted to join that geekfest and snagged a position in a coveted company that was the darling of Wall Street at the time like Apple or Google is now. Lucent has never really recovered since the bursting bubble and the work environment changed drastically for the worse over the years leaving me somewhat jaded about my career direction and the paper credentials I aspired to build up. Not only that, I realize lately that what I do now at Lucent is not something I’m necessarily passionate about doing for the rest of my life nor does it feel like it fits what my gifts and strengths are.

I should probably pause to say what I actually do at this company in the first place. My job has ranged in the ten years since I’ve been there but in the last few years I’ve worked as a Network Integration Engineer. Our company motto once was “We make the things that make communications work,” so anything related to network equipment that powers ATT, Sprint, VZW, T-Mobile, etc… networks, we make it. I work with these companies to integrate our product into their existing network environment. This involves at times a lot of traveling to client sites, meeting with them and working in rooms full of rows and rows of servers to ensure things work when everything is turned up. The worst parts of this job are the times I have to travel which is about 50% of the year. Leaving home and working long hours in different cities takes its toll. At the same time, traveling has also been the most interesting blessing of this job as it’s given me opportunities to see the world. I think I’ve worked in every major city in the US, but that’s the boring part. The fun part is the rare chance to work on an international project overseas. I’ve been to about a dozen countries directly because of work and over 30 countries indirectly because of the vacations I need to take because of work… Some of my most amazing and vivid memories involve adventures overseas and times shared with colleagues and clients during business travel. So for that I’m thankful for being given a chance to be globally aware and witness the spiritual state of people and cultures outside the US. I used to never care much for current events, but now I read the news with much more empathy knowing that every global tragedy is a plane ride away. Working in a foreign country is always better than vacationing in one as you get to see real people and unfiltered culture that tourism would normally filter out. I treasure those memories and the insights learned from those trips; one of those vivid memories actually, was listening to Nathan’s sermons over the internet on Sundays in my hotel room in Western France. It was a little surreal to have a bit of IBC in the coast of Normandy. But those days are probably gone now as I’m not the single man I once was and would rather turn down exotic business trips in favor of spending an afternoon in Chicago with the wife and dog (I know she’s reading this…).

Even though what I do as my current vocation isn’t what I pictured doing for the rest of my work life, I do still enjoy the challenge and work that I do. If anything, every recession reminds me how faithful God has been in keeping me safe from being laid off and providing when I don’t expect it. I’ll always be thankful for that when I think back. I do see work as a virtue and I’m glad that I’ve been able to do hands on work in the last ten years to improve the communications advancement of this society. It’s tangible and I can actually see the fruit of my labor. I’ve directly worked on technologies that enable the iPhone to communicate, the Kindle to d/l books, the laptop to surf the web anywhere in the country, and other exciting applications to come in the future. Though I still struggle to find that vocation I’m passionate about and one that fits my characteristics. I’m reminded through this vignette that I have a lot to be thankful for and that doing my work faithfully to contribute to society can be glorifying to God. I do hope to one day find that vocation I feel would be a ‘perfect’ fit, but in the meantime I continue to try to be completely content in what God has given to me as my responsibility for the time being because looking back it truly has been a gift and blessing these last ten years. So at the very least I continue to strive to do what he has entrusted to me to the best of my ability. And with whatever doors that open or close and whatever vocation I have for the next phase I pray that I’ll always be content in the Lord and not my own credentials.