WISE WORDS
Meet the Perennials - Interview with Steve Schechter and How he successfully found a job at 65!

Priyanka Gothi

June, 10 2019, 7:28 PM

As the first feature in our series, we meet Steve Schechter, an incredibly inspiring seasoned professional who’s always looking around the corner to see what’s next.

Hi Steve, tell us about your background – where you grew up and your childhood.
I grew up in the Bronx, New York City, an only child in a middle-class Jewish family. I wanted to be a movie director and graduated from college with a degree in film production.

So, how old are you now and what are you currently doing?
I am 65 years old. I am starting a new job in one week as a director in a HK IT consulting company. What would you say you have been doing for most of your career?
I have worked in IT for 33 years. I ‘accidentally’ started doing IT when I was 32, went back to school to study it when I was 35, got my first suit-and-tie job in IT when I was 36.

What would you describe as the proudest moment of your career?
I have done work that I was proud of in every job I held. I often point to the project I managed for Warner Bros. in Shanghai in 2003-04 doing the IT set up for a joint venture in China, a very difficult job that finished on time and on budget. In my most recent position, I drove down the cost of cloud hosting by more than 30%, saving my company an amount equivalent to 1% of annual gross revenue.

What has been the turning point in your career that led you to explore other avenues?
I tried for several years to make it in the film industry. When I was 26, I saw that it wasn’t going to happen. It took me several years to figure out what I wanted to do next. I did any work I could get – loading docks, TV repair, office temp work, shop clerk, taxi driver. I accidentally fell into an IT career.

When not at work, what brings you joy? Could be hobbies or passions in life? What do you most enjoy about them?
I’m a writer and photographer. I have been blogging since 2003 and am finishing my first book, about American films in the 1970s. As a photographer I had a photo studio with my friends in San Po Kong for many years, but we shut it down two years ago. I specialize in photographing indie bands in Hong Kong and Manila.

Does being older bother you? When does it bother you the most?
The only time it bothers me is when I’m job-hunting. And maybe when I have to walk up a lot of stairs.

Tell me a time in your life when you looked for a job after you turned 60. What was that experience like?
I searched for new jobs successfully at the ages of 63 and 64. You can read more about those job searches here:
http://www.spikeinmanila.com/2019/04/job-hunting-at-64-years-old-yes-it-can-be-done/
 

What advice would you give to those who are older and exploring second careers?
Stay current with technology. The internet has opened all sorts of avenues to finding good work that didn’t exist before. There are all sorts of internet-based businesses, consulting opportunities, contract work that open up entire new worlds.
Lessons learned:

  • Don’t ask other people to do your work for you
  • Focus on your most recent successes, no one cares what you did ten years ago
  • Rely upon your contacts and forget job boards and recruiters
  • Be prepared to package yourself differently than you did in the past
  • Don’t try to cover up your age
  • Remain positive on social media.

What keeps you motivated to stay productive?
I get bored doing nothing. And I still need the money.

Which aspect of work gives you the most joy and why?
Interacting with others. Having tangible accomplishments in which I can take pride.

How would you say your approach to work has changed since you first landed a job?
I continue to learn on every job I have – even at this age – and strive for continuous improvement.

What advice would you give to your 30 year old self to prepare for a 100 year life?
One thing I considered but never did (and should have) was go back to school for an MBA or other advanced degree. I don’t think it would have helped me find a job but it would have helped me be better at the jobs I had.

What advice would you give to companies who are not sure if they should hire older talent?
I can only speak for myself. I am still mentally and physically strong and do not require any special considerations in the workplace. I have two qualities that many younger people may not possess – a sense of responsibility and truly caring about my work and the quality of my work, as well as being able to identify how my work contributes to the company’s goals. My years of experience mean I can contribute much more than someone younger in terms of mentoring and providing mature decisions.

Where can people find out more about you?
Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steveschechter/
Follow my blog: www.Spikeinmanila.com