It’s time for T-SQL Tuesday the forty-second, and Wendy Pastrick has asked that we talk about our experiences with change in our working lives, specifically as it relates to technologies we’re using. I’d like to share a bit of my own history and relate it to managing change.
Post graduation (and even pre-graduation), I was landing typical gigs as a temporary employee: admin jobs, stuffing envelopes, and data entry. Jobs that paid bills and allowed me to eat. While it provided me with a good amount of experience, the jobs were unfulfilling. To make the issue worse, I lied to myself about the situation: "As long as I have personal time for my own projects," I’d say, "then I’ll be happy with whatever pays the bills."
I was attempting to cover up the fact that I was holding a series of dead end jobs. Positions that were unchallenging, and didn’t have any means of growth or promotion. As a consequence, my work life tended to be lifeless.
I knew I had wanted to work in technology for years at that point, but didn’t know how to manage or act upon it. And it didn’t help that most "entry level" tech jobs required "two or more years of experience." In that place in my life, I had a mismatch between my goals and my ability to meet them, which isn’t to say that I’m special in this regards. I think many twenty-somethings have the same experience as they stumble about post-graduation and figure out how the world works and their place within it.
Simply, I was in a dead end, had a goal in mind, but no way to prioritize it to move forward.
Drowning in Technology
After the happy accident that turned me into a DBA and technologist, I still ran into challenges. Burnout on the job, learning to manage "poser" feelings in relation to the greater community, and balancing both a career and family became the new obstacles that shifted my priorities. But that’s common: everyone deals with that.
Technology itself often becomes a burden for me. I have a love of learning, and a love to figure out how technology works, but these traits aren’t solely positive. There are repercussions to being a "jack of all trades." The main problem is that you’ll spend time away from your primary focus, which in turn will delay your professional growth. And with the exception of DevOps, technical generalists aren’t ever in demand.
On a side project, it had been decided that we would build an app using Python on top of Django. "Perfect!" I thought. "This will be a great chance to build some basic programming skills and learn more about MVC!" And it was. But in the scope of a data professionals career, how helpful are those base level skills? While I spent only a few months on that particular project, I’ve not used Python or MVC since. What SQL Server learning opportunities did I miss in the meanwhile?
On a more hostile note, when I was a contracting I had the misfortune to troubleshoot deep issues with SharePoint. I was the only person on staff capable of the work; project managers were spinning and playing the blame game. While we all failed from a customer service perspective, I was still successful in closing out the issue. But since the work was so specialized, the knowledge I gained from it wasn’t useful towards my larger goal of becoming a more competent data professional.
As in all things, there is a need for balance. On one hand, we need to maintain a base-level knowledge of new and upcoming technologies to remain competitive in our careers. But always chasing the shiny new hotness can lead to dead ends slowing down your growth instead.
Finding the Right Mix
In all honesty, it wasn’t until the end of 2012 that I figured out how I wanted to focus my career, and started to lay out concrete goals for myself. And even before I started laying those goals, I had to come to a difficult decision about where my true technological passions lied. And in the end, it was with data. It had always been data. (I apologize for this having turned into a sappy love note.)
While I cannot deny my love for learning, I’m maintaining a greater focus on technologies that are closer to my chosen profession, and with an eye toward the future. That’s why I chose to take my current job with Sanametrix, because I could pair my career in data atop of AWS‘s cloud platform. While I didn’t work directly with Obama’s AWS team, I saw the results of their work, and it changed how I thought about availability and serving end users. It is the future, and the future is here. Returning to my theme of balance, it’s not that the cloud will ever fully replace the enterprise (at least foreseeably), but that they’ll be used in conjunction to meet business needs.
It’s in this latest job that I’m finding an alignment of my priorities and my goals. And thanks to the continued growth of data and the cloud, I’m staying well away of dead ends.