Still the New Kid
Five months later I’m still figuring it out. My job.
If you were desperate enough to read of my sortie into the tech industry, this is an update.
Late last year I was the “new kid” who segued from a 26-year law enforcement career into the “Edu-Techie” team at L-Tron Corporation where I author content about OSCR360 – our spherical photography solution for crime and crash scenes. The content most often takes written form and is sometimes photography. I consult on “cop culture” – some aspects of which might shock and surprise my co-workers – but are always prefaced with warnings.
Now, at five months into my transition I’m still the new kid – at 56, grey hair, spare tire, arthritis, and trying to remember where I came from and where I need to go. I laugh at the fact I remain the newest employee at L-Tron, and likely the oldest. How the hell did that happen? Did I take my meds this morning?
What I’ve learned
There’s life after law enforcement – not exactly news, but a truism. The simple path to find that life, I think, is continuing to work. At something. For yourself or someone else. Paid or volunteer. Whatever keeps your mind occupied. Whatever has less stress than law enforcement. And THAT shouldn’t be hard to find.
If you’re about to retire, and either HAVE to work or simply WANT to work … having something to transition to helps leave the stress behind.
It’s nice to believe you can simply retire and do nothing. If you’re THAT stable in every aspect of life, you’re the envy of us all. For most of us, somewhere between economic demands and staying healthy is the survival sweet spot. Nothing earth-shattering, but survival is more than economic – it’s staying active – something work can provide for mind, body, and spirit.
Whether you find a “retirement job” within law enforcement, loosely related, or something completely different, just changes in environment and routine provide relief (life after law enforcement). New people, new challenges, new skills to develop all keep you from languishing. Retiring from one job makes you more viable than you think. And you’ll be trending.
There’s a continuing upswing in companies hiring older, experienced workers. “Unretirement” is a real thing, and has measurable impact on the U.S. economy. In 2013, some 40-plus percent of people over the age of 55 continued to work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today, 20% of the nation’s workforce is 55 or older, and is expected to grow to 25% by 2024. (https://www.rand.org/blog/rand-review/2018/03/why-unretirement-is-working-for-older-americans.html)
Applying your skills, knowledge, talents, and energy elsewhere doesn’t just benefit your economic bottom line. Someone somewhere needs you. Whether creative or routine – there are outlets for all that experience you acquired. And all the grey-matter-based data you store inside your little pumpkin head.
I run into cops who have their time in, are considering retirement, but are hesitant to leave the familiarity of law enforcement. Hesitancy is good. Finding a job while you still have a job is typically easier than looking for one while unemployed. Examining what you want to do, seeing what’s available, and not rushing into the first thing to come along … all good.
It took a friend of mine, a road patrol officer who sidelights as a property manager/landlord, to get me to examine the hard questions:
- WHY are you staying?
- WHY are you leaving?
- WHAT are you passionate about?
- WHAT do you want to do?
- WHAT DON’T you want to do?
Hesitancy allows you to answer those questions, re-write your resume to today’s standards, join and post it to job-search sites, and network. If you can develop a marketable skill or manage a part-time gig while you’re still on the job, you’ll obviously be ahead of the curve at retirement.
That same officer points out the economic obvious benefit to retirement. If you’re lucky enough to have earned a pension, and/or planned and saved for retirement … you can collect AND work, full or part-time, and better your family’s financial bottom line. He asks, “WHY wouldn’t you do that?”
No, I don’t miss the job. Everyone asks. Cliché – yes, I miss many of the people with whom I worked. More importantly, gone and forgotten are those who made my job and being a cop difficult. Gone are self-imposed stressors, busy work, both the mundane AND the unpredictable. I haven’t forgotten friends, allies, and the truest of teammates on road patrol, and in criminal investigations with whom I worked singular cases, sometimes for days, weeks, or months at a time. I particularly miss those still on the job. Their continued safety weighs on me every day.
Teamwork isn’t just for cops, firefighters and sports. At L-Tron, we’re organized into teams that don’t compete with each other. There’s an overall spirit in our small firm, particularly when faced with a challenge, which brings everyone together in a huddle of sorts. That huddle can occur with an impromptu “stand-up meeting,” conversation on Skype, e-mail, conference room gathering, happy hour, or beer-thirty. Teamwork isn’t just talked about, it’s practiced, emphasized, and woven into pretty much everything the company does.
Being valued is palatable and effective. Traditionally, in public service, there is little that rank can do to motivate personnel. Praise and recognition often fall short, not for lack of good intentions, but because of prevailing negative attitudes and environment. In police work, politics can derail even the most deserving of employees, so awards and commendations aren’t always taken seriously.
Honestly, it’s a culture shock to work in a positive environment like L-Tron’s, where the owners, supervisors, and co-workers regularly seek each other’s input and opinion. Appreciation and encouragement for your work and your contributions are expressed almost daily.
The buzzwords keep on coming. And I continue to be entertained by them. There’s a real learning curve, but in at least OUR corporate culture, if I listen to context, I can usually figure them out. My current short list of simple, not-so-simple terms:
- Action items
- Pain point
- Value add
It’s all about the data here. And for me, more importantly, it’s all about how data is an integral part of photography, imaging, and the morphing of information and visual media. It’s incredible how all these things are simply woven into our lives. What’s scary is we not only didn’t notice, but we take them for granted.
Take that cell phone attached to your hand. Were our kids born with them attached? Mobile devices are not only integrated into our world, our very existence is largely dependent upon them. Authoring content, scanning, document conversion, photography, presentations, video, people tracking … much of our world is mobilized. We thought the world became smaller simply based on communications capabilities. We literally carry the world in the palm of our hands.
Positive or negative, data has impact; often with devastating consequences upon the masses and individuals. Bullying, online gaming and social media disputes, any number of social movements – lines between the real and the unreal are not only blurred, but conveniently and continually morphed to serve people’s agendas. Integrating data into reality – augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are approaching the determination of what we want our reality to be.
Think about THAT. Determining what we want our reality to be. Whether it’s real or not. Accurate or not. The truth, or fantasy. If we look at some of what prompts the violent day-to-day headline-grabbing events which are the cops’ reality, we find direct connections to distorted realities.
Where does it all end? Where the hell did it begin? Where do we, as a society, draw the line with our kids, our co-workers, our neighbors, our leaders, ourselves?
Phew. Data. I didn’t know there was a data soapbox.
Finally, food. There’s always food here. I bring it up as a lesson learned here because I was misled by L-Tron Corporation. There’s a real condition here called the “L-Tron 15.” It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago when I told L-Tron COO Gayle DeRose I discovered that morning I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. (Not good when you’re a member of the unofficial Second Chance (heart attack survivors) Club.
Gayle, who doubles as the company’s HR director, revealed the “L-Tron 15” is a real condition here. As in the 15 pounds you immediately gain because of all the food we have here. (Gayle is all of 90 pounds soaking wet.) I point out here that I don’t see any the 15 pounds mentioned in the employee handbook.
HR apparently stands for “healthy reality.”
Hank Kula is a retired police sergeant with 26 years in law enforcement. A certified crime scene investigator, crash reconstructionist, and former journalist, Hank works as a police instructor with recruits, veteran officers, and supervisors. His instructional specialties are in crime scene management and investigation, photography, communications and public information.