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A Career Journey: Daniel Haffner
It was an unusual Friday, when I first met with Dan Haffner. I had just returned to the office after grabbing a nice assortment of fruits and vegetables, which had been given out as part of New York Tech’s free produce event. It was a nice deviation from my typical routine, but it would not be the only deviation that day. As I was typing away on my laptop, I saw a steadily approaching Amy Bravo, the Senior Director of Career Success and Experiential Education, in the corner of my eye. Following in tow was a man who I had not yet seen before.
Amy introduced this man as Dan Haffner, one of the staff members I had emailed in hopes of getting an interview. After I gave a brief and somewhat choppy explanation of what the interview was about, we scheduled one for the following week and parted ways.
I found myself anxiously awaiting Mr. Haffner's arrival in Career Success and Experiential Education for our interview. I had arrived somewhat early, so I proceeded to spend the next few hours enjoying the incredibly blissful feeling of having my fight or flight response being triggered by the mere thought of having to talk with another human being. Before I could begin to think about how my ancestors (who probably had their fight or flight response triggered by reasonable things like ravenous carnivores chasing after them) were cringing at my insufferable cowardice, Dan Haffner strode through the doors of the office and we started the interview.
I began by asking Mr. Haffner to give me a short rundown of what he does around New York Tech as a Mechanic B in Capital Planning and Facilities, to which he simply replied: “Jack of all trades.” I asked him to elaborate on this. “I do the mail, I do setups, I do maintenance.” He answered.
Next, I questioned him about how many jobs he’s had in his life. “Three.”He replied. Of these jobs, I was curious which one he considered his favorite. Upon asking him, he said: “When I was with recreation maintenance at an incorporated village on Long Island. Did that for 16 years.” I asked him to explain why it was his favorite. “Besides the guys that I worked with, it was where I became the Jack of all trades. I took care of the largest facility the village had all by myself. I was also a volunteer fireman in the village for 20 years. I’m an ex-captain.”
I moved on to my next question, in which I asked him what job paid him the most. He let out a chuckle, contemplating his answer before finally saying: “I got more excitement being a volunteer. That doesn’t come with money. Also makes your family bigger.”
“How so?” I asked him.
“Cause you all rely on each other. You all become a family.”
Next, I asked him which job he considered his least favorite, to which he replied: “My first job.”
“And what exactly was your first job?” I inquired, thinking about how disliking my first job was something I had in common with Mr. Haffner.
“Friendly’s food service. I worked in the restaurant. Fast food type of deal, almost like a diner.” He explained. “I worked there from when I was 14, till I was 18.”
“Why was this job your least favorite?”
“Got nothing from it.” He responded. “Other than free ice cream.”
I asked Mr. Haffner if there was anyone he was glad to have met with during his career journey. He answered: “A lot of things I learned in the recreation maintenance department were hands-on. And I learned that from the licensed technician and the licensed plumber. I’m still friends with those people, even though they’re retired.”
I then asked him what he considers the most important thing to look for in a job, to which he replied: “If you’re not happy where you work, look for a new job. There are always good people and there’s always bad people no matter where you go. But if there’s a lot more good people and you get along with the people you work with, you have fun and the job goes faster and the work becomes better. If you don’t like what you’re doing, go somewhere else.”
I asked him what he would add to his current job, if he could add something new. He gave me a pretty reasonable answer: “More money. A raise. A promotion, something.”
I asked him if he had any career horror stories. He said: “One day while I was in the maintenance building, I saw two kids. One of them was doing CPR on the other. I had to call 9/11.”
“Did you find out why one of the kids needed CPR?” I asked.
“The kids were on drugs.” He answered, solemnly. “You go through some crazy situations sometimes. You gotta keep your head on straight and do what you gotta do to make it through.”
I asked him to name an important skill he learned during his career journey. He answered: “I’ve learned a lot. Let’s put it that way. I’ve learned more things than I’ve ever used again.”
“What things have you learned that you actually do use?” I asked him.
“Things that I still do. I do electric, plumbing, carpentry, painting, sparkling, cleanups. I do a lot of things.”
Finally, I asked him if he had any advice for the NYIT students beginning or currently on their career journey. “If you’re beginning, work hard. Do not think about what everyone else is doing. Think about what you’re doing. Concentrate on your goal, keep it in mind. Do not let anybody talk you down. It makes no difference who you are, it’s what you set your sights on.”
He continued: “Those that are near the end of their time here at school, don’t give up. Keep fighting for what you want to succeed in life with. And just keep moving forward, don’t look back, just go. Do.”
After giving me some thorough advice on how to follow-through with my own personal ambitions, the interview was concluded and the two of us parted ways.
I lament that I did not follow Mr. Haffner’s advice for beginners when I first came to NYIT. I compared myself to my classmates, some of whom were already making strides towards their goals while I was struggling with the basic courses. I once met someone in my Biology lab class who was already working with his hometown’s police chief, getting a head start on his career in forensics. Such stories spurred a feeling of inadequacy within me, which contributed to me giving up.
I know now that it’s better to pay no mind to what others are doing and to focus on yourself and your goals, as Mr. Haffner advised. I hope that all who read this interview can find strength in his words, strength that will help them push through their own career journey.
This Article was contributed by Joe Tapia, CSEE Ambassador in the office of Career Success and Experiential Education.
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