Inventory: Identities, Roles, Values, Plans

Circa 1988, while working for IBM, B.Michael completed a self-guided exercise to help clarify a kind of “life strategic plan.”

First, he was prompted to list roles that he played in his life, in order of importance:

UNCLE***
BLACK AMERICAN GAY MALE***

TEACHER*
CONFIDANT**
SOCIAL (aka Community) ORGANIZER*
SOCIAL WORKER*
Consultant*
ROLE MODEL*
ARTIST*
Businessman

The number of asterisks above indicate how intensely, at the time, he was playing each role. The roles in bold caps are those he wanted to increase in intensity. Below are responses designed to get at what brought him fulfillment at that time.

Principles he stands for:
Hope, Family

What has given him the most lasting satisfaction:
Education, Sharing

Major stumbling blocks he has overcome in his life:
Being Gay, Being Poor, Being a Black Male

Activities he most enjoys:
Reading, Movies, Teaching children, Listening to people, History

Experiences in life that stimulate him and make him feel it’s great to be alive:
Children, Acquiring things he thought he could not get, Achieving things that [illegible] only slightly [illegible]

Experiences in life he wants more often:
Teaching, Creating, Helping my family

Skills or talents he would like to improve/develop/become proficient at:
Speaking another language, Writing, Having children, Socializing more via work

Present activities he would like to do less of/drop entirely/avoid:
Working on sales to my customer set

What appears to be the “central values” of his life — the “matters of highest priority” when planning how he wants to live:
Empowering others

Finally, given all of the above, he was asked to bring it back to his context as an IBM employee.

What he wants to do inside IBM:
Improve income, Work for community sector

What he wants to do outside IBM:
Teach, Travel, Learn another language, Raise children, Help others


It would stand to reason that this inventory helped him arrive at and/or confirm his decision to leave IBM in 1989.

1988-Role-Inventory




IBM: First Contact

In early 1984, during his final semester of law school, Bert began weighing his options. On the one hand, he considered taking the bar exam and practicing as an attorney. He also explored companies that would offer him professional advancement while allowing him to pay down his student loans.

In February of that year, he interviewed with IBM. Here is a draft of his post-interview letter of continued interest:

1984B29-draft-ltr-to-IBM

Soon after graduation, Bert accepted a position with IBM in Boston and would remain with the company for 5.5 years.


(1) Mugging for the camera. (2) The lone Person of Color, posing with fellow IBM newbies, most likely at training camp. (3) Featuring leg, Walkman, and IBM tee, rehearsing for what seems to be a water- or beach-themed workplace skit. All photos circa 1984-85.