Marc - Column for 9/9

Geeky thoughts..

I thought I would continue my bit of fiction, but I'm not happy with the current state of that. I'll be working on that. In the interium, here is an article that I wrote instead.

At times, I think of myself as a rather geeky person who knows a fair amount about computers, software and most things techie. I also know that there are many (and I mean many) people that know a lot more than I do. Sometimes, I wonder whether I will someday lose my “techie” credentials. You know, I might become one of those old (40+) guys who do not understand the software that is being built. Of course, the age part is inevitable, but I really wonder about the second half.

When I worked for a software company in my early twenties, I would see folks like that at customer sites. They would sit rather confused in the technical design meetings and then ask questions that were irrelevant. In the arrogant prick corner of my mind, I would laugh hysterically at their ineptitude. That is the part of me that never gets to talk when I am in a room with a customer. The normal, customer presentable part would calmly explain it over, and hope that some part got through the fog of their ignorance. During those meetings, I always got consolation from the fact that I billed per hour.

Now, life has moved on. I have an MBA. The language on my resume has morphed from “led software team doing enterprise-wide, high performance Java implementations” to “managing a technology portfolio project, with staffing and budget responsibilities”. I am still doing geeky things on occasion, but the really interesting stuff is done by others doing work on the project. There have been days when I realize that I spent the entire day worrying about a budget and the most advanced programming I did was an Excel formula. Job fulfillment and other things aside, those days I really feel like a different person.

I know change is great and all. I also know that it is something that one needs to come to grips with, if one wants to grow and mature. But I also know that I sometimes feel awesome spending an entire day procrastinating and reading really obscure technical articles from the IEEE. (In case you don’t know what the IEEE is, think of it as the professional association for all the world’s Dilbert look-alikes.) Those days are not that common, but they do make me feel like I can still be geeky with the best of them.

The crux really comes down to me finding the path that I want to have for my career over the years. But I can’t help but think of the image of doors closing. One philosophy I find rather compelling is that life is an accumulation of decisions. As it progresses, choices made have their effect and you start to lose the chance to step back and re-open some other doors. So far, I am pretty happy with the way things have gone, but I am starting to feel that I have moved down that path of “manager” versus “techie”. I am not too upset by it, but there is a part of me that really wants to spend a day tweaking Emacs and experiencing the jubilation of an automated build that goes through perfectly.

Columns by Marc