Upon graduation from Aviation High School in Long Island City, NY, Joe Formola decided he wanted to enlist in the Navy. Joe’s father served as an Army Medic and his favorite uncle had served in World War II. With their example and a love of aviation Joe decided that he too would serve his country. Being only seventeen though, he would need his parent’s permission to enlist. That would prove to be a hard sell since the Vietnam War was just starting to escalate. His parents relented, knowing how important this was to him. Joe served in the Navy for six years training sailors how to care and maintain various types of aircraft.
Joe was fulfilled by the experience of working in a field he loved, but when it was time to re-enlist, his priorities changed. He decided he needed to leave the Navy because his childhood sweetheart was waiting for him and they had decided to marry. A job in the commercial airline industry looked to be the next step in Joe’s aviation career. But times were tough, the economy was struggling due to the war, and the airlines weren’t hiring.
Instead of putting on an attitude, Joe put on a suit, went into the city and headed to the place where his father worked-IBM. In 1968, Joe became an Administration Clerk with IBM. He saw the potential for advancement in programming and decided to teach himself Application Programming. As it turned out he discovered he loved programming and his attitude towards his job was best reflected in a sign he had posted on his desk that read “Nothing is really work unless you want to do something else.”
After 30 years, IBM decided for Joe that it was time for him to do something else. He was laid off. Three more programming jobs with three more employers turned into three more layoffs for Joe. All this adversity could turn many people sour towards his fellow man, but not Joe. As he did in the Navy, Joe decided he would focus his efforts on being of service to his fellow man as his career. And little did he know he was preparing for this venture since 1975
You see in 1975, Joe’s Dad died of a heart attack. It had a profound effect on him. Joe’s father was the kind of man who was always helping others. Joe saw first hand the joy his father experienced by helping people and it was something that just stuck with him. So, when his father passed, Joe decided to learn CPR and First Aid. The more he learned, the more he knew he could handle. Joe was even able to help himself when he suffered from two heart attacks. Throughout his programming career, Joe would volunteer at work to lead the Emergency Response teams and he learned more and more. He was glad that he had the skills to help someone when they needed help the most. And at 63, after his last lay off, he decided to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).
Besides being an EMT, Joe teaches CPR and First Aid training to others. He really loves seeing the “light bulb go off” in his students eyes when they learn something new. And when he sees that, he realizes that, just as his father had done for him, he is now teaching others the joy of being of service.
SOUL Survey Questions
- How do you stay focused and motivated?
I’m doing what I love and always striving to do my best.
- How do you deal with naysayers?
No one knows me well enough to tell me I can’t do something.
- How do you blur the lines between work and play?
It’s what I had hanging at my desk at IBM, “Nothing is really work unless you want to do something else.”