Dreams of Being an All-Star
by Dexter DeMurell
Since high school, I have had dreams of working in the IT profession. As is true of many people, I followed an interesting vocational path, with many twists and turns, never sure that I was going to end up in the place I knew I belonged. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where I learned early to work hard with the goal of establishing myself in a job that I could truly be happy with. Like most of my friends in high school, I would have liked to dream of being a football star, or of one day having a chance to play for my favorite team, the Knicks, but, being disabled by polio, my ambitions ran in a different direction. I knew that I could be an all-star by applying myself and gaining a solid education. So I decided as a teenager that, although polio affects my legs and hands, I would never allow this disability to handicap my mind.
Completing high school with a Regents Diploma, I embarked on my collegiate experience, from which I eventually graduated with a Bachelors degree with a double major in mathematics and theology. This degree was not what I anticipated while in high school. Nonetheless, it was where my life at the time had taken me, and it provided me with an enriching experience that I would never trade away. Like many recent grads, I needed a job and accepted a teaching position at a parochial elementary school. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, but in my heart I knew that something was missing. That old high school dream of working in the IT profession kept gnawing at me and it refused to be denied.
Eventually I came to the realization that I could not ignore this desire and understood that I had to act quickly or live regretting my choices. I knew that often in life we look back and wonder what would have happened if we had made different decisions, and I couldn't bear imagining looking back and regretting that I had not followed my dreams. I decided to resign from my teaching position and began attending City College in Harlem to receive the education I needed to enter the IT arena
However, although I was armed with a strong will, my disability brought challenges that I had not anticipated. I began to experience what is known as post-polio syndrome at the early age of 28. At that time, I worked as I attended school part-time, but I was faced with the crushing choice of putting my education on hold so that I could earn a living. Physically, I could no longer do both. And eventually, I needed crutches to ambulate and then could no longer meet the physical demands of my job.
For months I tried many other options that promised me the ability to work from home, but they eventually lost their credibility. And with my education on hold indefinitely, I wondered if the IT profession was even still a viable goal. Then a good friend told me about an organization called LIFT. Through another organization called VESID, I received the encouragement to step through the procedures for coming on board LIFT.
The great and caring individuals at LIFT became more valuable than they can possibly imagine. They not only worked with me to find a position with a great company, they offered hope that anything is possible. Within a short period I began training with an IBM mentor to become a pSeries (web server) technical specialist within the IBM Corporation. With LIFT's constant support and encouragement, I was able to excel during my training period to become grounded in the exciting technology I was soon to specialize in.
This position required a major relocation on my part from a place I called home for over 20 years, Brooklyn New York, to Bethesda Maryland. Though it was an enormous undertaking, LIFT provided me with the support that made the transition not only exciting, but also seamless.
The 5th of September 2001 marked my eight-month anniversary working with IBM as a contractor through LIFT. I am part of an organization known as Techline, where I am a subject matter expert on IBM's pSeries eServer line, AIX UNIX software, building server configurations and providing solution design. I am also part of Techline's WebSphere sizing on pSeries team and Linux on pSeries Solution Initiative Team. LIFT has made a dream I dreamed since high school a reality. Thanks to LIFT and IBM, I have achieved a goal that I will never look back on with regret.
A comment from Dexter's manager at IBM:
Manager, Techline Central and Federal Midrange