Priorities and Choices

Priorities and Choices

Hello everybody!
I had been asked a few times to tell you something more about me and what I do when I’m not judging; as I’ve had a very recent professional change, I would like to take the opportunity to tell you something more about me. I will take the opportunity to tell you about a few very important life lessons I learned in the last twenty years.
The keywords are “priorities” and “choices”.
Happy reading.

Nice to meet you

Some months ago, I gave you some of the reasons that make me have a great time when judging.
Today, I would like to expand that article, and I would like to tell you something more about my professional activities and about the many choices I made in life.

Let’s start from the beginning, in a small town next to Turin, in the north of Italy…

OK, OK, not this beginning.
After I finished high school, I decided to study engineering, as I had a talent and an interest for all scientific subjects.
Here comes the first choice.

In 1992, there weren’t many different types of engineering in Turin: chemical, mechanical, electronics were the main areas, with small variants like environmental, electric, telecommunications.
There were two that were the most intriguing: nuclear and space.
Let’s see how it sounds:
“Hello, I am a nuclear engineer”, damn, boys, it was supposed to be the most special and difficult.
“Hi, I am a space engineer”, again, ladies, it’s about building spaceships!
Unfortunately, these two fields of study had just been retired; they existed on paper, but there was no possibility to study them, as the very few people in the university studying them were finishing their course of study (there was actually only one student of space engineering).
The choice was then between two new areas: materials engineering and management engineering.
As I was much fonder of chemistry than of economics, I chose material engineering, which happened to be the smallest course of all (we were 30 students among the 2000 in first year).
Management engineering might have been a better choice, as the percentage of girls was enormously higher (do more research next time!), but I ended up having a girlfriend who was in that class, so I could say I fixed the mistake ^__^.
After four smooth and enjoyable years in Turin, I had the second big choice.

I had heard about people going abroad to study, and I would have wanted to have an experience in England or in the States (as I had studied English, which was also the main language for scientific studies).
My area offered no possibilities to go to an English speaking country, but it had strong connections with a couple of universities in France.
There were two possibilities for the subject (material engineering and papermaking engineering) and two for the city (Montpellier and Grenoble).
As “papermaking engineering” didn’t exist in my country and an association of papermaking companies was offering a significant economic support (the sum was higher than all the university fees I paid for all my five university years) and they really wanted to hire us immediately after completing the studies, I chose papermaking engineering in Grenoble.
Had I done some more research (again, it’s important to do the correct research!), I would have discovered that my colleagues in Montpellier had half the number of lessons and they also had the beach, while I had a very hard year (in France there is a system that allows people with a degree to get a second degree in only one year, which was what I did in my year in France… 42 hours of lessons per week, not my favorite definition of “holiday”).
Despite the difficulties of the intense studies, I had one of the best times of my life and, if you are still studying at high school or university, I would like to offer one quick and passionate advice: make an experience abroad, it’s amazing.
It was wonderful for several aspects; I could learn a job and I immediately get a good position in a company (which is something not easy at the moment), I learned a language (I could watch anything on TV, I could listen to anything on the radio, and I was able to speak with people in music clubs… which I’m still not able to do in English), I could meet people from ALL continents and many religions (it opened my mind a lot) and it was just great fun.
Then, I finished university, and as expected, I immediately started working for the papermaking company, except for a few months in the army (yes, at that time, we had military service); it was a nice experience, but I felt I wanted something more, something different.
I first changed the area inside the company, moving from research and development to information technology, where I was managing outsourcing projects about networking and communication.
Then I decided to change the company, and also city, and this was my third big choice.

I was looking for more; be it a different city, or a different company, or a higher profile role; I went to Milan to work as a CISCO network designer, and my role was to create the first designs and to develop the knowledge base of wireless networks for the IBM locations in Italy… would you believe that there was a period when Wi-Fi networks didn’t exist at all? ^__^
Let’s stop for a moment and let’s find  outwhat these three major life choices have in common:
  1. Material engineering, an innovative type of studies in my city
  2. Going abroad for the last year of university
  3. Moving to Milan to work for a big company
The pattern I see in the first two is the desire to explore new territories; I am still very fascinated by the possibility of creating a new path, in autonomy, and help developing something new.
Another pattern I see is the search for growth, first about knowledge and geographical scope and then about the role in the system; I am still looking for continuous growth and for a central role, in any system I am part of; though I may sometimes use the word “destiny”, I firmly believe that it’s us who create our future!

OK, let’s go back to the story, we were in Milan.
It was 2002, I was 28 and I had been working for four years, and I had what was probably the biggest change of my life, because it was an internal change, triggered by the death of my father.
I had the chance of evaluating and adjusting my priorities, which is fundamental to find the correct balance in life.
In front of me I had a very interesting career at IBM, I had a salary and especially a role that was significantly higher than almost everybody of my age and also many people in the same working environment with a much longer experience.
The only problem is that I understood that it wasn’t the type of life I wanted.
I don’t measure professional success according to the money we earn.
I value an enjoyable dinner at home with friends much higher than an important business dinner in a fancy restaurant.
I value a kind-hearted person much higher than a person who owns companies and Ferraris.
I value internal richness much higher than luxury objects.
So came choice number four, a choice that had life prevail above work or, to say it better, a choice that had work occupy a more appropriate part of my life.

I guess this may be a choice made by rich or hardworking people who get, as I say, “enlightened”. Thinking about it now, I am extremely proud of having made that choice when I was 28.
Fast forward to 2015: I returned to my native town; I started working as a translator for games and then for engineering manuals; I continued working as a networking consultant; I moved to the center of Italy (between Rome and Naples, where I still live); I opened a games store; I continued dedicating my time to my favorite subjects: math, physics and chemistry, which I teach to high school and university students (as a personal tutor); I kept travelling to judge more and more.
Fast forward thirteen years during which I surely didn’t get bored, and we get to a month ago.
I’ve just finished a streak of many Grand Prix events, and the last one was the gigantic and very challenging GP Chiba, I finished teaching chemistry in a high school where I substituted a teacher who was on maternity leave, I completed the preparation with my students who had to take the final test at high school, I was continuing translating four articles of Magic a week (my favorites are Uncharted Realms, such as this one) and I returned to my local games store where we play a lot of Magic, board games and other card games….
Wait, there is something that looks wrong.
In a day there are only 24 hours, right?
Was I really doing all these working activities?
Was I also able to go to the gym, swimming pool, dance class, football field and evenings with friends?
And I was also able to sleep eight hours a day?
The answer to all these questions, except the last one, is YES.
My friends were asking if I was using drugs, if I had circuits instead of internal organs, if I made a pact with a demon (indeed, look at which Uncharted Realms article I linked above! ^__^).

My reply was “No, I just like EVERYTHING I do, and I find the energy” or “I may be tired and almost asleep when I get to the gym, but when I hear the music, I’m just not tired anymore”.
(private information: my friends have photos of me sleeping in any sort of places; I need to rest, sometimes)
Mixing all activities is a hard time puzzle; even if I am capable of effectively organizing all my tasks (multitasking, copy paste, shared files, templates… you would be surprised ^__^) and I can count on many people around me, well, it was becoming quite challenging, as I cannot stretch time….. YET ^__^

I had to make another big life choice
As my life is based on equilibrium, and as I decided that activities I enjoy should have always have a much higher value than “just work” (I do work a lot, I really do, maybe still too much, but it’s very entertaining for me, and I accept only jobs that make me happy), there is no way I am going to renounce my evenings with friends and my sport activities.
I had to choose to forfeit one of my jobs.

Judging: I dedicated 14 years to this activity, it allowed me to meet wonderful people (both from a professional and a personal point of view) and to travel all around the world (I counted twenty-five countries, not bad!), it made me understand much more of professional organizations, other people and also myself. I wouldn’t be as rich inside without my experience in judging. It’s the first job I choose to keep.
Translations: I’ve been translating articles, cards and manuals for almost ten years; though the interpersonal interactions are very limited, I really enjoy translating, as it’s both a technical and a creative activity. When my mom asked me what made me happy about translations, I replied with a very simple “it’s like translating a chapter of the Lord of the Rings every week”. It’s the second activity I choose to keep.
Teaching: I’ve been teaching since when I was in my fourth year at university; physics labs at university, public high school, private schools, private tutoring, I love it and I love connecting with my students; it would be very hard for me to stop teaching. It also has the advantage that I can choose to increase or decrease the time I dedicate to it. It’s easy to manage, and I choose to keep it.
Games store: there you are, at the end of the list. We grew up together in the last nine years and a half, it was great to make you become big and successful and to meet many people inside your four walls, but it’s now time to leave and walk on the path of my future life.
Yes, I’ve just sold my games store.
It wasn’t a simple choice, but there are times in life when we have to evaluate advantages and disadvantages of the possible choices; yes, you can actually engineer it, or you can also *feel* it.
Despite being a scientific person and an “engineer inside”, I also am a very passionate person like many of the Mediterranean people (in the series of articles dedicated to the qualities of colors, I would definitely be very RED).
I believe that I had just asked myself “What gives you the most joy?” and the answer was a quick “Judging, translating, teaching”, and the choice was made!
I would like to finish this article with a piece of advice.
I am convinced that it’s possible, and actually our responsibility, to shape our future.
There is no absolute right or wrong choice; each of us has a different “right choice”, and each of us has to look inside to find the best path of life.
Don’t be afraid, make your choice, no regrets, no remorse, live your life the way you want it to be.

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