One of my ancestors, a great uncle, worked in Kansas City as a sign painter many years ago. He had a productive career, a good family life, enjoyed his retirement and passed away at an old age. What more could you want out of life? But I have always been intrigued by a career choice he didn’t take. My uncle was asked by a co-worker to come work in a new business drawing cartoons but with a family to support he felt it was too risky. The co-worker, a young Walt Disney, was just beginning to follow his dreams.
I have always been interested in designing, inventing, and creating things. That’s one of the reasons I started programming computers. I liked art and drawing but thought trying to make a living as an artist would be too risky. Instead, I started working as a drafter and enjoyed the creativity while working with engineers. Eventually I got to bring my interests together by writing programs for Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CAD) systems. My CAD niche market lasted over twenty years until clients began going out of business due to market changes and other potential clients turned toward outsourcing overseas.
I’ve experienced the hardships caused by the loss of jobs and that sense of identity once derived from my career. Now, thousands of people are loosing their livelihood as corporations claimed to be too big to fail are failing and we worry what other cornerstones of enterprise will be taken down with them. “Publish or Perish”, “Innovate or Die” are more than just slogans, they reflect modern reality as we shift into a new world economy.
On-line communities are a vital lifeline I’ve used for research and re-inventing my career to expand into robotics and automation. Publishing ideas, inventions, and creations has never been easier and getting attention is becoming easier through the use of social media techniques. Local communities also play an important role. I’m the founder of Make: KC in Kansas City. As Make:KC and the Fab Lab grows, it will help to enable creativity and provide a place to physically build prototypes and inventions. Our greatest resource for the future comes from our ability to innovate so we can take a great idea then jump start or restart our careers.