Change is nothing new in the life of Karel Matejovsky, who escaped from the Iron Curtain of his native Czechoslovakia to Switzerland two decades ago, then relocated with his U.S. wife to Maryland six years ago.
The challenges of a new environment, a new language, were accepted with the same fierce determination that made him a champion long-distance runner in Europe.
When he lost his job in March as a newspaper design coordinator with Patuxent Publishing Co. in Towson, Mr. Matejovsky, 49, saw that he desperately needed to relearn his occupation, to master the rapidly changing world of computer-aided design.
"I didn't expect to lose my job. I flattered myself that I was given extra responsibilities, that the managers sent me notes complimenting my work," he recalled. "My supervisor told me that I was a good worker. But she said they were comparing the computer capabilities of the staff to decide who they would let go. I understood that message."
Asking a colleague for help in learning computer skills, that co-worker steered him to Catonsville Community College.
The thick computer manuals with complicated English and mind-numbing jargon were difficult, but Mr. Matejovsky's computer experience with the suburban newspapers was helpful grasping the concepts.
When Dixie Printing & Packaging Corp. in Glen Burnie asked the printing school in October for a trained computer designer for its carton plant, he was hired.
"They respected my work, and I was very happy to show that I could use this new technology to do the work," he said. "It proved to me that retraining was a good idea." The company even supported his studies at Catonsville.
It had taken him almost nine months to find a new job, the first few months spent sending out resumes and calling employers without success.
His unemployment benefits and his wife's day care center had helped to keep the family financially afloat. But with a family of six, Mr. Matejovsky knew he needed to get a new job without a lot of time spent on extensive retraining.
The state Job Service tested him for its printing retraining center, also in Catonsville, and he enrolled in that class. For several months he attended the center in the morning, the college in the afternoon and evening. Both experiences helped him to gain a new perspective on his occupation. Unemployment had forced him to focus on retraining. By studying full time and not having to work a job, he was able to accomplish it.
"Some people I worked with are talking about it, but they don't have the time to devote to learning the new technology."
Now working for a company that stresses computer capabilities for design and production, and a deadline-driven schedule, Mr. Matejovsky believes he has found a job that matches his career experience and his newfound skills.
The pay is similar to what he earned in his previous job, but the TTC Dixie firm is expanding, and its sales are growing. He likes the work and sees a good future for the plant. "People always have to have cartons to sell their product," he noted.