I’ve grown up reading Tom Clancy and probably most of you have at least seen Red October, so this book caught my eye when browsing used books for a recent trip. It’s a fairly human look at what’s involved in sailing on a Trident missile submarine…
For the past couple months I’ve been looking forward to a 5 week break, a chance to think about what I’ve learned and what I want to do next. I haven’t take 2 weeks in a row off in almost 3 years, so a nice vacation, some thinking, some yard work, that seemed like a good plan. That plan was also a hedge of sorts, I’ll return to that in later in the post.
I’ve never been just a DBA. Or maybe just anything. Heck, maybe no one is. I know that I look at people that seem to be just something with a bit of envy, it’s nice to have that focus and consistency. That seems like what serious people should do. I think about my grandfather who was a policeman for 26 years, retired, then worked another 17 years in the court system. I think about a line in a Spenser novel by Martin Quirk (the police captain), commenting that he has been a cop for 30 years and if he wasn’t serious about it,he’d be doing something else.
Somehow that’s never been my path. Or at least not so far. I think about job decisions and career choices,but it’s driven by some internal compass that is hard to express as a rule. I’ve said no less often than yes to interesting jobs, but I have said no at times, and left perfectly good jobs because it was time to go. Money matters, sort of. If I’m going work I’d like to get paid what I’m worth, but the work has to interest me (or at least I’d really like it to be that way). Framing a job as a challenge certainly gets my attention, but even then it’s some mix I look for – I turned down two very nice long term positions in the past year because that mix wasn’t there.
I’ve had a sense of wanting to acquire skills that I’ll need, for something, where something is not well defined, but I suspect is both that next business I build and the non-profit I’ll surely create at some point. It’s hard to make decisions about which fork in the road is the right one (or as Yogi said, take it) when you don’t have that clear destination in mind.
I don’t think I’ll figure all of it out in 5 weeks. My friend Steve Jones tells me I need to work on writing and I think he’s right. Serious writing is a whole different thing from writing blog posts that certainly can and do ramble at times. I want to do more on understanding and teaching professional development, but I’m not at all sure it’s what I want to do full time, yet anyway. I miss being a SQL guy, I miss the doing part of technology. I like the people side of the business. I like working alone and I like working with a team, how to reconcile that? I’m quite sure I couldn’t describe my dream job today, but maybe soon.
As much as anything for the past couple years I’ve been troubleshooter, taking on a tough project that had to be delivered, and I find I like doing that. Much like figuring out a performance problem, getting something moving that is complex, broken, or both is a fun challenge, especially when it involves people and technology. I don’t know that I want to make a career of it, but I don’t know that I don’t either. At heart I’m a problem solver – that’s what I do.
Maybe now is the time to return to the hedge. I have a client that has an interesting project. It’s been going on for a while and has a ways to go. It was unclear how or where I might fit into that and due to timing and other stuff it didn’t look like it would work out, as much as it might have been a good fit. Normally with an assignment ending I’d be lining up more work well in advance, but this time I was inclined to take a chance and just wait a bit. Waiting isn’t easy, for me and especially for my wife who likes at least the appearnace of job stability, so the compromise was to plan on the break that ended with the family vacation in June, and if nothing had materialized by then I’d have a good start on what I wanted to do next and could get busy trying to make that happen.
Waiting worked out, I think. I’m moving on to that project now, with only a light understanding of what the final role will be. Interestingly I’m not too worried about the lack of definition. I’m betting it will clarify over a few weeks and work out, and if it doesn”t, I’ll deal with it then. That does mean, sadly, that I don’t get my 5 week break, and that hurts more than I expected. I’m willing to postpone it for a while, but I want that time. Even planning for that break has been useful, and I have some things I can work on while I’m getting there.
Right decision? Hard to know.