Retirement is a long sought after goal for many, and life after retirement can be pursued in a variety of ways. However, it may be difficult to find a new purpose during retirement. Whether it is time for relaxation, finding a new hobby, traveling, or focusing on family, the different paths to take are endless.
For David, 82, his life after retirement took him right back to work. Shortly after retiring after 37 years from his engineering career, David became a college math instructor. He also returned back to his place of work to provide mentorship to current staff and review their projects and products. Before and after retirement, David continues to live a life of providing mentorship, supporting his family, and being an active participant in the community.
The Search for a Passion
After high school, David first began attending California State University Long Beach with a focus in mechanical engineering. During his sophomore year, he began to understand the initial concepts of electricity and magnetism, and with this new interest, he transferred to the University of Southern California as an electrical engineering major in his junior year.
At USC, a part-time job opportunity in the Electrical Engineering Department that he accepted as a student opened new opportunities for him. Upon graduation with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering, David was awarded a Hughes Aircraft Company Master’s Work Study Fellowship and this started his career at the Hughes Aircraft Company. The company supported him in his Master’s Degree Program by allowing him to take classes alongside working.
Moving Up Over 37 Years
David started in the antenna department as an engineer, but to further advance his career, David was awarded the Howard Hughes PhD Work Study Fellowship. After graduating with his PhD, the antenna department was reorganized, and he was assigned to work in the communications satellite field.
Over the course of 37 years, David held various positions in the company as technical staff, organization management, and program management. As a program manager, he was responsible for the entire communications electronics of a satellite program. He most enjoyed that every day at work was different. He shared, “You don’t get bored, and sometimes you even wish for a boring day!”
Jumping Back into Work
After a successful career, David decided to retire at the age of 60. Shortly after retiring, he applied to be a college instructor, something he had always envisioned himself doing after he retired. He taught one math class a semester for five years at El Camino College. He then taught a senior level electrical engineering class at USC for one semester. While he was teaching, David received a call less than six months after retirement from his company asking if he would come back to help.
David agreed to come back as a part-time employee. He primarily reviews products that the current employees work on. Not only has returning to work allowed him to pass his extensive knowledge and wisdom on to the company’s current workers, but David genuinely enjoys engaging with the younger generation of engineers who have the same passion and drive as himself.
He shared, “[My job] is a little bit of mentoring and a little bit of being the outsider looking in… I make suggestions as part of the engineering assurance team. You have to learn to work within the new community.”
He also added that returning to work also provides him with an additional income, which continues to help him support his family such as going on vacations with his wife, supporting his grandchildren, and buying his dream cars.
Finding a Work and Retirement-Life Balance
Although David works part-time, he enjoys the flexibility in his schedule and makes sure to have a proper balance between work and making the most of his retirement life. On a typical working day, David will leave work around 2:30 p.m., which still gives him time in the day to enjoy his personal hobbies such as gardening, maintaining his cars, and building model trains and cars.
David and his wife, Lily, have also been frequent volunteers at Gardena Buddhist Church for over 30 years. It started with him assisting at the church’s carnival and as a bingo caller, followed by being the church’s board chair for three years and board chairman of the Japanese language school for 10 years. To this day, they both continue to support the church’s activities and find great joy in connecting with the community throughout the years.
While he enjoys his work life, David envisions that the day he fully retires from work is on the horizon. “Eventually, I’ll get to the point where [work] might get tiresome as I get older.” In which case, he is ready to fully live his retirement life.
When asked what advice he has for those who are recently retired or about to retire, he said, “The most general advice I have would be to just seek out what interests you. And if it is not the right [hobby], then change it! You’re not stuck with it, so you should feel free to pursue something else. Bottom line is: retire with a plan and change it if required.”