A recruiter called me this week, and while we were talking he wanted me to explain to him how it was possible for me to be ‘just a contractor’ after having been a CFO and a CIO.
There were a couple of seconds of silence from my end as I pondered the question, yet again, and before I answered.
In those few seconds, a couple of things became very clear to me, in fact you could say I had a genuine “moment of clarity”, one is that I'm not "just a contractor", the other had to do more with what it is that gets me out of bed each day.
I’ve never sought out a management position, not once, in any of my various careers.
In each and every case, management was 'forced' on me. You might be thinking that forced is a strong word, but in retrospect, there really was no other choice if I wanted to stay employed.
By the way, to set the record straight, I’ve never considered myself a great, or even a good manager. Hell, I’d fail my own tests!
Regardless though, in every job I’ve ever had, eventually there was the conversation where I’d be told I was being moved, or asked to move, into management. Early on, I was flattered (impressed with myself even) and leapt at the opportunity. Initially I’d “set the house on fire” making changes. I would work hard to make things more efficient, better organized and to foster a better sense of ‘team’ within the department.
Once I got through that process however, I’d find myself bored. Anything that remained to do seemed only incremental; inversely proportionate the effort required to bring the change about… in short, it just wasn’t worth the effort, to me, or to the company.
For quite some time, when that happened, instead of simply finding a new job, I’d find a whole new career.
Then, in the early 80’s I discovered computers, and in particular, programming. There’s been no turning back for me since.
Most would say, or think, that I hit the pinnacle of my career when I became CIO. It’s the top gig in the IS/IT field, when you’re CIO, you’re definitely the top dog in the yard.
What I found though is that despite being the top dog in ‘my world’ I was still not the top dog. Also, once I would make the jump from actually doing, to managing, for me all the fun was gone.
Well not all the fun, but a big chunk of it anyway. I’ve tried, in every management role I’ve had, to take pride in leading my team, and I’ve had some great teams. Most were not comprised of stars, but of folks who had a passion for software development, or infrastructure building and simply needed a place to exercise that passion.
While I’d like to think I provided that, within either my abilities, or the available funding. I do know for certain that I’ve seen some folks, who couldn’t catch a break job-wise, shine once they were given an opportunity.
It wasn’t what I wanted though. I’d find myself envious of their being able to be ‘doing’, to be building the things I’d (or we’d) designed. To be pushing the envelope, finding new and innovative ways to utilize not only new technology, but even the tools we already had.
So, to me, the pinnacle of my career was when I had my little company, in Upstate NY, and Ken and I developed software, together. I never ‘managed’ Ken, he didn’t need managing. Like me, all he ever really needed was to know what was needed; he’d take care of the rest. I definitely wasn’t making much money, in fact most years I paid him more than I had left for myself. It never mattered though, because the truth is, I loved, and I mean loved, going to work!!
If I’d been born with any athletic ability, I would have been a player, not a coach. I know, given my track record I might have coached, but I would have always wanted to play the game.
There’s been some talk recently, of having me manage a project or two at work. While once again I’m flattered that I’m being considered, I’m pretty sure I’d decline the offer. Even if it meant I’d have to find a new gig. I don’t want to manage anything, any more. I want to be doing, building, troubleshooting, debugging, data mining, data manipulation, inventing… I don’t want to manage anything, people or processes, I want to design, and then build them.
I could be happy just building teams, but once they were built, I’d want to be able to turn them over to someone else to manage, and move on to building another.
I’m a builder, not a manager. It’s taken me a while to discover this about myself… I’m almost embarrassed at how long it’s taken… when I look back, I can see, and very clearly, that the points in my life where I was happiest, involved building things. Cars, trucks, buildings, software... it really hasn’t mattered, it’s been the building, the creating, that’s always ‘lit my fire’.
Along with that, has been the team, Ken and I were a team, at times it was difficult for folks to know which sections of an application Ken, or I, wrote. We’d often arrive at the same solution to a problem, at times with nearly identical processes. We had a synergy that I’ve rarely had since. The times I did have it again, we were always following someone elses agenda, so it wasn't quite the same.
So, as I look forward to the closing years of my career, I’m seeking to back up, not move up. I’m trying to get back to doing those things that bring me joy and happiness. I find myself wondering if it’s a good plan, as ‘common sense’ says I should be looking to maximize my earnings now, not seeking ‘fulfillment’…
But, in the end, what good is status, or money, if the price you paid for it was not doing what you love, or enjoying the process of obtaining it?
Technorati Tags: Careers - Comfort - Decisions - Software Development
-IceRocket Tags: Software Development - Decisions - Comfort - Careers