Coders of Finance – Abandoned Cubicle

Coders of Finance – Abandoned Cubicle

Welcome back geeky FIRE seekers. It seems that we cannot leave the Twin Cities without having our other local fellow blogger featured in this series. He is Cubert who blogs over at AbandonedCubicle.com.

As you will see (or as you know) he does not have a coder job but he works in IT, still had his share of coding back in the days. Featuring not only coders but anyone who works in IT was part of my initial plans, just was not able to reject calling the series Coders of Finance. Maybe I should rename it to Geeks of Finance 🙂

It is interesting to see how different we are even in this “tiny” PF community. My first interviewee, Chris is enjoying a mini-retirement which could become permanent (at least I hope so :)). The second one Mr. BoaS is killing it in the corporate grinder. And now here is Cubert who is looking forward reaching FIRE soon. It seems we have all types of awesomeness here.

Take it over Cubert.

Introduction

Tell us about yourself!

Hello! I’m a typical middle manager at a Fortune 500 company, residing in Minnesota, U.S.A. Our winters are long and the summers run way too short, so we all bite down on the stick and put up a good front for 7 months out of the year. I’m married with twin four-year-olds (boy and girl.) We enjoy walks in our city neighborhood and traveling to visit family and friends.

Having been in the cubicle workforce for a little over 20 years since college, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of not withering away my life in a box. So a few years back I started a blog, AbandonedCubicle.com, wherein I post about my early retirement strategy. It’s loaded with some good tips, but plenty of epic fails as well.

The Beginning

When was your first encounter with computing?

I was in the sixth grade I think – must’ve been around 1984 or 1985? The Apple II was pretty popular. My cousins had one, and the school created a special room with about 12 of them for kids to learn computing on. At my cousins’ house, I enjoyed playing the very original Castle Wolfenstein. It was fascinating even in 2-D top-down. At school, I learned how to code some basic graphics schemes, interspersed with rounds of Oregon Trail.

What was your first machine?

I’m pretty sure our first computer was the Texas Instruments 99-4A. It was on its way out, but that didn’t stop my dad from thinking he’d made a steal of a deal to get one. Ha! The thing came with a standard issue cassette data recorder for saving your programs. It also had a cartridge slot for purchased programs and games. I spent a good amount of time programming basic on that beast while playing the occasional round of Burgertime. Remember that classic?

Texas Instruments 99-4A

Did you started with games first or jumped straight into programming?

As you can see, I sort of dabbled in both starting out. I’m glad I did because it gave me an appreciation for the amount of work that went into making those games happen.

What about education, was it related to computing, did you learn in a traditional way or something else? What kind of degree do you have?

There were a couple of computer classes available to us in grade school, and both were labs stocked with Apple IIs and IIIs. Those machines were great for learning basic, and they seemed pretty reliable. I’ll never forget my high school computer teacher almost having a nervous breakdown after some knuckleheads nearly electrocuted themselves messing with the outlets…

Apart from that, I basically was self-taught. I eventually got a hold of a Commodore 64 and began to program some fancy statistical baseball utilities. (I could’ve been Billy Beane if I had the ability to catch pop ups during high school tryouts!) I also enjoyed trying to make my own scenario games, like Zork. Trouble was, (and is), I have a short attention span. So my games never lasted more than 5 minutes!

I took a computer course in college and even got my first PC while working towards my degree in SOCIAL SCIENCE back in the early 90s. Why I didn’t pursue computers for a career I’ll never know. Because I’ve always been in tech since graduating, despite my non-tech degree.

Career

When did you start to work? Was it in your field? How was it?

Full-time? Right after graduation from college. I spent my first two years working call center jobs supporting point of sale registers and eventually corporate desktop software. Definitely NOT in my field. I also realized how quickly I needed to step up my game since I knew I didn’t want to keep taking calls day after day.

What are your experiences about the industry?

After those first two years, I had the opportunity to move on and become an on-site support tech. Instead of handling issues over the phone, I got to bounce around from desk to desk, helping grain traders with their PC issues. This was super rewarding. You got to know some great people who thought you were the best thing since Superman merged with Sheldon (though Sheldon wasn’t around back then.)

I also got to take apart PCs and upgrade hardware, though the dust bunnies were annoying. I like working with my hands so that was a lot of fun. We also got into imaging laptops and learned about secure connections and VPNs.

Within a couple years of desktop support, I moved on to client-server support and building web pages. Again, these five years were the highlight for me in tech. Course, you always look back and remember the good stuff, right? To be fair, there were times I had to crawl between desks with dress clothes and tie, battling all sorts of dust, crud, and what not, to plug in machines and route cables.

Finances

What is your current financial situation and what are your financial goals?

I’ve got my act together, money-wise. I’d definitely be retired by now if I had had my act together before I turned 40! The master plan is for me to retire early from cubicle work in 2019, not too far off. My wife is almost 10 years younger, and she’ll be in position to retire early as well when she reaches my current age.

Tell us about your journey so far?

It’s been full of ups and downs. Mainly just from a perspective of little first world problems, like whining about Minnesota winters. That and losing some of the freedom you had as a couple without kids. With kids, we’re proud and happy as a family, but we miss some of the travel and spontaneous stuff you can do, sans kids.

With money, we simply have stayed the course. No extravagant purchases and we are happy with our humble little house. Two cars paid for in the garage. And the mortgage is getting paid down slowly but surely.

How did your profession affect your finances (directly, indirectly)?

Interesting question. I think choosing a field in Information Technology has worked out rather well. Tech is a lucrative field that pays well, often because, in my opinion, non-tech people are too scared to realize how accessible tech really is!

I haven’t made big-big money like an Oracle DBA or world-class programmer, but I’ve done well for myself. Credit part of that to achieving my MBA about fifteen years ago.

IT Crowd Douglas

Opinions

Did you regret becoming a coder? What would you change?

This doesn’t apply to me. I’ve never been a coder, even though I’ve dabbled in some HTML and Basic.

Would you recommend starters/career shifters to step on this path?

Absolutely! Learn a bit and see if you like it. Worse case, you gain an understanding of how so much of IT works.

Tips for beginners?

Get a PC and take it apart. Put it back together again. Play some computer games. Try your hand at coding something. Join a club and learn from a mentor.

Goals

You are about reaching FIRE soon. Do you have plans on starting any passion projects when you finally escape the rat race, besides your AirBnB side hustle? Would you give us a sneak peak?

Too early to say. I’ve thought about house flipping though. That would let me get my hands dirty!

What are your short-term and long-term goals with it?

Short term – avoid boredom!

Long-term – secure our financial future, and give my kids a chance to learn some hands-on home remodeling skills.

Preferences

We coders have our eternal debates, let us know which side do you stand?

Favorite…

  • Desktop OS: Win XP (I have to confess that I share this preference, my favorite Win)
  • Mobile OS: Apple
  • Machine: xBox first edition
  • Browser: Firefox
  • Programming language: Basic (LOL)
  • And the most important… spaces or tabs: Jesus. I dunno … tabs? (Yes, that is the correct answer :))

Coding exercise

Would you write a couple of lines of code to present a simple financial principle?

If “Savings”, <=0 then “Retirement” = “No can do!”
Rem Go to AbandonedCubicle.com to get your financial code in order!

Epilogue

Thank you, Cubert, for your answers. It was fun to get some insights into the not strictly coder type of corporate job. You are another living example that handling your finances wisely, working hard and sticking to the plan ripens its fruits. Congrats for reaching this goal so early, I envy your kids 😉

Hope you enjoyed this episode. If you want to get you financial code in order visit AbandonedCubicle.com.

See you in two weeks when I will bring you another interview with one of our fellow bloggers who is a real coder rockstar. 🙂

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