Tuesday, July 31, 2007

What do you love to get paid to do?

I’ve found at least three things. Only one though that paid what I thought the job was actually worth.

Fixing, building, welding and/or painting vehicles was definitely the first thing I loved getting paid to do. . . and I did that with great enthusiasm until about 1979. I loved (and still do) the way a project car just 'comes to life' as the last nuts and bolts are tightend.

After that I found I loved getting paid to teach, and it really didn’t matter what the subject was, what mattered was seeing that ‘light’ go off in a students head. . . and knowing I got paid, was earning a living, to get the joy and satisfaction of seeing that happen.

While I loved both of those jobs, neither paid close to what I felt the skills were worth.

My teaching career lasted until 1985, when with the computer business booming, I got hired to bring my computer skills (I'd become quite interested in all thing computer while teaching) to teaching customers how to use computers, and more specifically to use things like WordStar, Lotus 123, Wordperfect and dBaseII. . . That very quickly morphed into building systems, from simple Lotus 'macros' to full on accounting applications.

For the next 20+ years I’ve loved the work of being in the computer business. I’ve been in, and out of virtually every aspect of it. Most of the things I got involved in however were simply to help me keep doing the one thing I really loved, designing, and then building, business software applications.

From the moment I delivered that first business system to Bill Beck, my future was cast. That look of surprise on the office manager’s face, the smile on Bill’s face, told me all I needed to know. This was not only something I was good at, enjoyed doing and found challenging, it was also something that paid pretty well, and that customers were (almost) happy to pay for.

This was not a ‘luxury’ like a custom paint job, these were mission critical business tools. Not only were they less likely to be ‘cut’ if times were a bit lean, there was actually a real possibility projects like theses would be stepped up to build competitive advantage in lean times.

So what made it ‘Ok’ with me, made it seem reasonable to alter this seemingly wonderful career path I’ve been on?

I think there are a lot of small, yet contributing, reasons, but, the one that keeps coming back to me is the ‘design’ aspect of development.

It’s always been the design piece I really loved, building something in my mind, writing it up, drawing it out and conveying that dream to someone else as we set about to build it.

So, today, in my new role as a business analyst, drawing up those business needs, drafting that requirements document, and then conveying not only the words but the spirit’ of those words to a development team *is* my job. I’m responsible for seeing that the application becomes a useful tool, ties into the overall vision of related applications, and the over all business plans of the company. All of this while still meeting the very real business needs of an entire industry. . .

Pretty cool stuff the more I think about it.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I’ve just made a natural transition.

Back in the day, there wasn’t ‘specialization’ we were all generalists. We had to do a little bit of everything as there was not enough work (or enough people) for someone doing ‘just one thing’. I watched many startups come and go who claimed they were going to alter the business model, stick to strictly development, or only do the design work. I modeled my operations more like a ‘Design/Build’ construction business. (I’m sure it helped that I had a half dozen or so customers in exactly that business).

Today, with ‘offshoring’ and now (can you believe it?) ‘OnShoring’ becoming such a large part of the development environment, there’s less and less opportunity for the ‘design/build’ generalist. We’re in an age of specialists when it comes to things computer…

I had a choice I guess, continue to try and find those few projects that required a generalist who could do a little bit of it all, or, find another way to stay gainfully employed for the next decade or so…

When this chance came along, I’m not sure I really saw it for what it is. It’s a chance to continue to design software, design it in a way that makes a difference to the company, the user and the industry. I’ve always been a ‘business guy’, I just wore the “puter guy” hat because it let me do something I loved, and get paid to do so.

That’s what I’ve been doing, the real difference is, that now, once I’m done with the design, I can watch it being built, and make necessary adjustments (hopefully small ones) in the process as the product materializes.

Maybe it’s true… do what you love, everything else will fall into place… any thoughts?

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Lorna said...

I have always been a "love what you do" person.....an eternal optimist, a pollyanna and quick to adjust. when I no longer love what I'm doing, I do something else. WE're two sides of the coin, Bill.

No_Newz said...

This is why I am always broke, Bill. I have learned at a relatively young age, people will pay me to do things I love, like writing. :)

I wish everyone knew there are jobs out there that can make you happier to be at work.