Stephen J. Healey, Author of Mid-Life Re-Creation
You might be surprised to hear that I nearly flunked out of high school. I didn’t care about much back then. I managed to flunk the chemistry final exam (Regents) twice. I even scored lower the second time around. One of the most beautiful girls in our high school, Amy, asked me how in the world I managed to do worse the second time. I told her, “I tried.” I went on to explain that if I knew the right answer, I intentionally put down the wrong answer. I had learned enough to do abysmally worse the second time.
I was teaching my parents a lesson about sending me to summer school and the idiotic extent of my iron will. My poor parents! I went to summer school at Troy High School with my good friend Kurt Bergman. Troy High School was right next to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), a top-notch engineering school. Kurt and I would make fun of the egghead geeks who went to RPI.
I didn’t start out my career as an entrepreneur and author. Ironically, I began my career in 1979 as a Chemical Engineer. Guess where I got my degree. Yup, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute! Guess who also won a scholarship. Yup, yours truly! Guess who else became an egghead engineer. Yup, my summer school buddy Kurt! But he’s a mechanical engineer, and that doesn’t really count.
My employer was Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. I worked as an expert internal consultant using the ASPEN+ program for high level process simulation. I loved it. It was like having my own little business within Kodak, a hint of entrepreneurial things to come. I loved the work, excelled at it, saved the company lots of money and was appreciated for doing so. I even taught ASPEN+ classes to a roomful of forty engineers. Talk about being in the hot seat! I had come a long way from flunking the chemistry Regents, twice.
This was back in the 1980s, the waning years of the industrial age. If ignorance is bliss, then we lived in nirvana. We had no idea how good we had it or how radically it was all going to change.
In 1990, after eleven years at Kodak, I chose to leave and join a BioTech spin off, thank goodness. It felt incredibly energizing to make this choice and change, although some people told me I was crazy to leave the big ship of Kodak. Boy, were they ever wrong!
I worked for this company for twelve years until 2002 when I was forced out. It always feels better when you choose to make a change, rather than have change foisted upon you. But sometimes being pushed off the cliff is required.
At this time, the industrial age was in its final death throes. The spasms were cascading throughout America and around the world. And I was about to allow myself to become a victim of that implosion.
I tried to claw my way back into the corporate world. I was unemployed or underemployed for nearly one and a half years. Finally, I chose to step up to my right path rather than shrinking from it. Despite the tremors of fear that rattled through my soul, it felt good to choose to create my own destiny.
In what I now refer to as my “traditional” career I worked in the biofuels, biotechnology, bioremediation and chemical industries. Going backwards in time my positions spanned Director of Business Development, Project Development Director, Director of Product Development and Commercialization, Business Integration Manager, Plant Manager, Program Manager and expert Internal Consultant for ASPEN+. I have worked in manufacturing, research and development and business organizations.
I still have a driving passion for technology; for developing, applying and commercializing it. To make it sustainably viable and profitable in the real world.
I’m deeply grateful to all the companies and people I have worked with, every single one of them. I learned so much and was given so many opportunities. If you’re one of those people, thank you.
You will read about all my “other” various entrepreneurial initiatives in my book, “Mid-Life Re-Creation.” Some folks think they are very disjoint, but they are all connected by either my “right livelihood” passion, my driving desire for financial independence or my propensity to invent holistic systems and then optimize them. Usually it’s all three!
At the forefront of my journey is my unrelenting quest to provide for and protect my now 14-year old son, Stephen. I am creating a beacon of light for his own journey, by example. Our little family lives in Penfield, New York, in a very modest split level ranch. On the grounds of our home I have built a child’s paradise, a sculpture and garden sanctuary and an ever more self-reliant homestead, with my own hands. Watching the kids play with what I’ve created gives me pure joy!
From our cantilevered deck up on the ridge we overlook an expansive view of the wetlands below, a large stream running through it and hawks soaring overhead. My wife, Barb, owns her own funeral home and does her right work in the world every day. Together, we show Stephen how to create his own destiny, by walking the path ourselves. For both of us, this has been one of the greatest challenges of our lives. It has also been the most worthwhile.
“To Create Light, We Must Face The Darkness, Head On, Then Light Our Own Fire!”