Friday, January 17, 2003

Getting Started

Why should anyone listen to what I have to say about surviving as a techie? Let me start by saying that for a number of years I worked in Tech Support. I'm sure I'll feel like writing more about that experience and what I learned from it soon but that's not the point here. The point is to give you an opportunity to say "blow-hard!" and run off to some other site. After all, when I taught flying, the people who swaggered in saying, "I've got ten years in a tail-dragger!" were the ones I learned I had to be the most suspicious of. That's another story. Maybe you can talk me into telling it sometime.

So, I might not be able to convince you in two paragraphs or less (can we make it three?) that I'm worth listening to, but I can try. Even though I wasn't the MOST technical in the bunch, I was probably top two-thirds. Good enough that other tech-types didn't run screaming when I walked up to ask a question. Sure, there were people who sometimes didn't think I knew what I was talking about but then it turns out that at least some of the time they were wrong. After a while, *I* got used to the idea that I knew what I was talking about - which turned out to be helpful when I had to tell network administrators that they had their networks set up wrong.

Except for establishing some level of credibility amongst a group of people (that would be you) that often cares ONLY about that, my technical ability is probably meaningless here. What should be more important is that I was able to say those kinds of things to network admins in ways that resulted in them going and reconfiguring their networks right so they didn't have to call me anymore; and if they did call again, they did whatever I asked because by that time, they thought I was god. And I was one of those people who got regular (and often fat) raises, had good relationships with my bosses, got to work on a lot of the cool projects, and almost always got to do what I wanted... let me also assure you that I did all those things without sucking up, without giving up who I am, and without selling out. In fact, people usually got to hear more about what I was thinking than even the most prolific whiner could dish out; not only that, but at least some of the time they took what I had to say and did something about it. Best of all, I started this blog because you can have all of that too - and probably more. If you want it.

These days, life is pretty unstable out there, especially in the tech world. Flat out, there are simply no guarantees - though that's probably always been true. However, if you want to be one of the ones who gets at least some of whatever raises might be available if your company is handing any out, I can probably help. Ditto for if you want to improve your chances you're NOT part of the next big lay-off... and feel better prepared to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem if you are. If you've got a pet project in mind that you've been dying to get permission to work on, or want to change the way you do your work, or what it is that you do, I can probably help there too. It'll be here for the reading.

Before I get into any of that, though, I have to also make a confession. Ultimately, I went over to the Dark Side and became a manager. I wasn't on some power kick. I just figured that after watching so many friends report to idiot managers that must've been templates for Scott Adams' manager in Dilbert, maybe I could help out by getting into it and doing a better job. I like to think I've succeeded; the number of people who have followed, or expressed a willingness to follow me, as I've moved around seems to be a testament to that. So the advantage here is that I've seen both sides. I know what it's like to work for a manager who gets it and also what it's like to report to ones who don't. I also know what it's like to manage geeks like you. Most importantly, I realize there are plenty of things that you should be aware of that managers either don't understand themselves, don't know how to tell you, or don't think it would help you to know. Maybe I can bridge that gap & make it better for everyone in the process.

I'll start by brain-dumping a topic or two at a time. If you feel like dropping me a line to ask I cover a specific area first, that's alright by me. Send it to and I'll use whatever you send as a jumping off point. The only thing I ask is that you keep it to stuff that you actually would be willing to read about and try to learn from - or suggestions you have for others based on what you've seen work. If you're not, then it's just whining and one thing I've never tolerated well is whiners. No whiners allowed!