I listened to the candidate as he shared his work history. We were about the same age. As he began, I realized the story began in an era that reminded me of my first University work assignment. For both of us, keypunch machines and paper tapes were a normal part of our day. In my case, the TDY-33s and TDY-35s were military surplus that our school has acquired to support the computer science program. It was my job to make sure these machines stayed connected.
In the candidate’s story, he was an operator that typed in instructions and then took the tapes, later cards, to the TT room. Using exchange keys for security, the instructions would be routed and shared with other banks around the world. It was a cumbersome process, yet it worked. Instructions rarely got lost because of the logs everyone was required to maintain. The process had a predictability to it that gave comfort and assurance. This is where his work history began.
Every story has a beginning. I often brush over it, pushing myself to get to the present. As I listened to this story, I realized he understood the process from the old cumbersome days through the present automation. At its heart, yesterday’s process is the same as today. Computer files and application integration layers have replaced yesterday’s logs and manual handoffs.
I listened to the story replaying in my mind and found myself thinking of how other stories began. It is not always obvious where things are going to end up. When a man spoke of his youth, how he “stormed through their meeting places, bullying them into cursing Jesus, a one-man terror obsessed with obliterating these people. And then I started on the towns outside Jerusalem.” (Acts 26.11) You had no idea that he would end up being a man of letters.
I often think I know where things are going, for others as well as myself. The beginning of a story is important. Yet, it is only the beginning. Anything can happen. What follows tells who we are.