You know how every now and then something you read or hear will just click with your current situation, and provide an answer to a question that has been plaguing you? Happened to me twice today.
The first one was Rands’s new article on What To Do When You’re Screwed. An early paragraph framed the issue for me:
“You’re a manager now. Congratulations. Either you sucked at programming and wanted to try a different influence avenue or you’re fed up with every other manger you’ve worked for and now you’re going to REALLY GOING TO SHOW US how it’s done.”
Now, I’m not a manager. I’m a developer. What managing I have done has showed me that I REALLY DON’T want to go there. But once you get to a certain point in your career as a developer, it can seem like the only way to move onwards and upwards is to take that position as a team leader, and get your foot on the management ladder.
I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Amongst other things, I’ve been fretting about the fact that at 32 years old, I’ve got a decade of work behind me, but another 30-40 years ahead of me, and what the hell am I going to for all that time? Will there still even be a software industry in the mid 21st century?
Rands then goes on:
“I’m assuming you’ve have passion regarding your professional career. You want to do more. You want make more money and, if it all works out well, you want to change the world.
“Maybe I haven’t been kicked in the shins enough, but it baffles me when I run into folks who are coasting through life. Doing the bare minimum to get by and… enjoying it? What exactly are you enjoying?”
Another thing I often worry about is that I don’t have much “ambition” in the traditional sense. I have no burning desire to be famous, or run my own company, or retire by the time I’m 40. Professionally, what I really want to do is be recognized for the quality of my work. I want to work on products that will be appreciated. I want my efforts to make other people’s lives just a little bit better, easier, or more enjoyable. I’m more of a craftsman than an entrepreneur.
Sure, I’d like to earn lots of money. I’d like to be rich enough to retire at 40. But what would I do after that? I think I would probably carry on doing what I do right now in my spare time: write, design web sites, build software. I’m sure I’d make some time for the wife and kids, and I’d watch movies, and play games; but fundamentally I think I’d be driven to make things.
All of which really means that what I really want to do is exactly what I’m doing now–only more so.
Being a contractor/consultant is not the same as being an employee. I have to take charge of my own training, and keep my skills sharp. I’m not working towards a promotion within a single company: I’m trying to enhance my reputation and make myself valuable to a range of clients. The reason I decided to move into contracting was not for the money, but to do more building and making, and to get better at doing these things, because that is what I want to do.
Sometimes these goals slip my mind; when they do, I lose velocity, I stall, and my mood sinks.
“Good managers keep their teams, their products, and their careers full of velocity.
“That’s a better term than upward mobility. Constant forward momentum.”
I’m my own manager now. Gotta remember that.
The second click of the day was a pointer from Eric Sink’s new MSDN column (Hazards of Hiring) to an article he wrote last year: Career Calculus.
Thanks for the reminders, guys. Turns out my glasses were on my forehead the whole time.