Friday, September 30, 2005

Career limitations

Sorry it took me so long to write my first post this week. I’m working hard to meet a deadline, which just happens to be the Friday before my therapy starts. This is great, as it will allow me to focus on my therapy after the deadline.

Speaking of work, stuttering has greatly affected my career. It has limited my career choices, prospective employers, and responsibilities I am able to perform effectively.

Programming was not my first career choice and it isn’t my passion. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it and think I am pretty good at it, but I don’t lust after it, like I do with other passions. More on that later.

My first career choice was plumbing, which is mentioned mostly for accuracy. I graduated community college in 1990, at the end of a boom cycle and beginning of a recession. Due to a lack of work in my trade, I eventually returned to the part time factory job I had as a teenager and my speech slid into total disfluency.

At this point I was in my early 20s, and when I opened my mouth, I would block and my mouth would stay open as long as I tried to push the words out. Since I was pretty stubborn, this was usually for very long stretches of time.

At this point in my very limited career, my speech didn’t hamper me too much. There were managers in the factory I was working at who, I believe, considered me pathetic and wouldn’t give me any work. I didn’t consider this a discriminating action based on my speech problem, but more of a personal incompatibility … based on my speech problem. Fortunately, there were enough managers who considered it irrelevant.

I really felt the limitation when I discovered the securities markets … my passion. To make a long story short; an initial nudge from a friend, caused a curiosity to snowball into an obsession with me consuming well over 100 books within the next year. I could easily recite the price history of about 50 currencies and commodities going back 30 years, and the Dow Jones Industrial Index back to 1890.

I knew what I wanted to do with my life and knew I would be good at it.

But this was before the internet, and a job in the securities markets meant a full day on the telephone. This is the equivalent of taking a passionate marathon runner and cutting his legs off after a year of training and just before the race. It just is not realistic.

There was one long shot; I could move to Chicago, buy a seat for US$350,000 on the CBOT or CME … wait … no … I could lease a seat for US$3,500/month, put up the minimum US$50,000 into my trading account and hope I could trade primarily with the hand signals. All this plus basic living costs while I got off the ground.

As if that isn’t difficult enough; I would need to pass a speech test to get access to the trading floor! That’s right; in an open outcry market, you need to pass a speech test before they will allow you to trade.

Would it have been different if the internet was available then? Would I have been able to get into my chosen career? It’s hard to say .. at first glance is sounds like I could have, but the reality of it is, with all the information and mis-information, I could have easily been led astray.

I have since restrained my passion and locked it away into the recesses of my mind. When I try to access it as a part time hobby, it quickly consumes my mind and starts to interfere with concentrating on my day job as a software developer.

So how did I get into programming? Why did I chose programming?

Well I chose programming because; a) the demand situation was strong which was important to me after my stalled plumbing career. And b) I was under the impression programmers sat in front of their computers all day long, and never need to utter a single word!

But the choice of programming has not limited the ability for my speech to interfere with my career. I can’t get interviews because once somebody hears me on the telephone it’s game over. Head hunters call and hang up when they hear me. I’ve called a few back in a non-confrontational way, and they talk to me until they can safely get me off the phone. Some head-hunters are honest and tell me they cannot send me to their clients with my telephone mannerisms … this may sound bad, but these are the only recruiters I have liked so far.

One time a recruiter called and spoke to my wife, since I was out. She was practically begging my wife for me to call because she needed somebody sooo badly. I came in right after she got off the phone. My wife was pretty excited about it, but I knew what was going to happen. When I called back the recruiter told me the job was filled. I basically said “Are you telling me, all the interview stages have been completed, a candidate was selected, an offer was made, and the offer accepted … all within the last 5 minutes?” She said “Yes”.

In 11 years, in the hottest career around, recruiters have sent me on 2 interviews. Both of these interviews were arranged via email, where the recruiter and I never spoke. I’m the black plague for recruiters.

I can kind of understand their dilema though; the relationship with their client is based on the relationship the client has with the consultant. If the client doesn’t like or feels uncomfortable with the consultant, the recruiter will lose not only that contract, but possibly other contracts existing or future. The recruiter must be very sensitive to this, and also needs to account for any misgivings or character flaws the client has. For example; if a recruiter sends me on a contract where the manager has a self esteem issue, he may feel, having me look like a fool in front of his superiors, adversely reflects on him.

For what it's worth, I've pretty much given up looking for a job. Personally, for me, it just seems so random, with no real cause-effect relationship. I feel my time would be better spent looking for more clients of my own. By the way, if you need a web application or eform system, a link to my professional page is on the side bar.

There are other problems in programming that I have trouble getting around. Despite the stereotypes, programmers do have to talk to people, some times on the phone. You need to handle technical support for your software, speak to clients (or you companies clients) about requirements, etc …

Other problems I have include the fact that some people just don’t understand me. Even when I’m talking face to face. And when there is a misunderstanding on my part, or any kind of ambiguity, I sometimes do not make the effort to resolve it that I should.

Don’t get me wrong, my speech isn’t my only career problem. I am human and have personal weaknesses and challenges. But the biggest career barrier I have is my speech.

Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.


At Saturday, April 08, 2006 1:41:00 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Hey man tell me about it.
Yeah, I always wanted to be a doctor, but sadly i did not get in ( not because of my speech). However, i got into pharmacy, but because pharmacist need good communication skills, and we had to do role plays every week. During my 2nd year, i hadnt gone through any therapy at all, so when i said the world "clean" I would get stuck on C, so it went like this" CCCCCCCCCCCCClean" And I remember One time, I was telling someone to fasten the seatbelt, I told him to push it until u hear a click sound. And when i said "click", well I dont have to say, you can imagine how embarrassing it went. The driver burst into laughter. And being a covert stutterer is really painful, people think you dont understand english, but i do, people think you are slow, but im not. anyway, I quited pharmacy because I think my speech will become a big problem to me. And i signed for the army in USA. And i did not tell them i have stuttering, i wanted to but my recruiter told me not to. Im not in the army yet, but who knows what would happen if they find it out. Perhaps get fined or jailed, who knows, or perhaps nothing would happen. But i dont care, my life has been painful anyway, it wouldnt hurt to get jailed because I lied about my stuttering. And when i was doing group discussion, when i stuttered when i share my opinioins, some of them wouldnt even give a toss, they just continue talking. But john, i think you are doing well, at least you have a wife and beautiful kids and a job, i think my stuttering will not get me any girlfriend, so sometime i dont even wanna think about marriage. Anyway, God bless you.

At Saturday, April 08, 2006 4:04:00 PM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Hi Tom,

I read about the recruiter thing in your thread on the Valsalva forum. I have to wonder how much they get paid to sign up a recruit. They sound like used car salesmen! ;-)

As far as the girlfriend thing goes; I know it seems unlikely, but you will most likely find one, since most adult stutterers I know are married.

And if you have meet a girl, who can't deal with it ... you're best bet is to interpret her inability as a sign of weakness and move on.

Good luck Tom

At Friday, June 23, 2006 2:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a book called "Perfect Voice" or look at the website This book claim it can repair voice and that the sound are made from the use of of tongue muscle. And it claimed it can help stammers who are willing to work hard and be patient with the techniques in the book.

At Tuesday, October 14, 2008 10:27:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your article, it was very insightful. If you don't mind I would like to ask you a couple questions regarding this article. One: Do you usually try to tell people you stutter before you continue with a conversation (on the phone)? Two: Were you in speech therapy growing up??


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