Monday, November 20, 2006

Evil Genius in Training

To those in the know in Sponky-world, you will realize that I have recently had a reasonably significant promotion. One, that in all honestly, I expected, and I can tell you, I definitely deserved. But, I had never really intended to work for my current company for long enough to get to this career level, and this promotion has actually caused me to think quite a bit about what I am doing with my time and why I am still working where I am.

I work on project-based IT jobs through a consulting firm. And the things that I did and enjoyed on a day to day basis when I started 8 or 9 years ago are very different to what I do know. I started out being a programmer, and loved nothing more than a day with a development tool, some CD's to listen to and no human contact. Over the years, I have had to get over my desire to not talk to people (why would I need to talk to people, I obviously know EVERYTHING) – really, a big part of my job is actually communication and management of perceptions. Now, my job is more ensuring the work gets done (by people on my team) rather than doing the work myself. And while I did enjoy programming, and fiddling with computers, I am starting to think I enjoy my roles at this level more - lots of talking to people, issue resolution, chasing people up and generally ensuring things get done to the quality they need to.

Who would have thought that persistent, antagonistic and organized are things you can build a career on? Apparently in this industry you can. Having said that, being permanently argumentative and 'continuously proactive' can be pretty wearing at times, and there are definitely days I don't like my job. You aren't really a consultant until you have made someone cry, and I can definitely call myself a consultant (should I be worried that you can actually get use to people crying on you?). And as you move up in experience, the type of role can vary widely between projects, and I have recently found myself going from a role where I was my own boss, to where I am one of many people at my level, reporting to a more senior person. The luxuries of setting your own standards can be difficult to give up, and as I get older, I am finding it more and more difficult to suppress my own ego and opinion in face of yet another project manager.

But in my own self-check, I am finding there is one major thing about my job at this level that I really enjoy, and enjoy much more than I would have anticipated. I do a lot of mentoring, both formal and informal - in a young workforce, it is possible to be an expert at age 30, and I like that my experiences (read: stuff-ups) can help these fantastic people who I work. I wish that more people would do this – I had a few people mentor me over the years who were great, but a lot who sucked. And most of the time, all you need is a bit of perspective and belief in yourself – everyone DOES feel this way, and you may feel way out of control, but you are a smart person and when it gets down to it, you will work it out (this is actually one of my mantras: You are smart, you will work it out – STOP STRESSING)

Unfortunately for me, the only way to remain relevant to the people I mentor, to ensure they are getting value out of me - is to keep doing the crap I don't particularly enjoy - so when they have to something similar, I can tell them what I have learnt, and they can do it better.

The other thing I am getting out of doing these sometimes crappy, stressful and generally overwhelming jobs, is I am starting to work out what I am REALLY capable of - not just what I feel like doing, but what I can do if I need to. I don't enjoy it at the time, but I think it might be useful knowledge to understand what I really can do. For when I want to take over the world.

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