I’ve written maybe 20 posts or so on this here website. Almost all of them have been explainers or reviews. The following will be something different, something personal. It will probably be a bit short, but I’ll work on that, a journal entry so to speak. Incoming.
The timeline has been a bit cluttered with people giving advise, based on their experience, on what they would focus on if they were starting over in tech. For example, one of my favorite follows on twitter John Breth weighs in:
This got me thinking a bit about my own journey and what it means to ‘start over’ in tech.
I’ve started over, money/job/career wise about 5 ‘major’ times since I turned 18; 40 today. I ‘started over’ in tech in July of 2018, enlisting full-time in the Washington State Air National Guard. The first year and change, when you first dive into the job and associated study, it’s easy. Not necessarily the content/job. What I’m talking about is the motivation.
Everything is seemly made for you. The new person in tech. The books, seminars, lectures, YouTube, study groups are 90% for those who are in the beginning stages of their careers. Or, at least that is what it seems to me. Especially after consuming tons of this content over the last 4 years and change.
The rush of taking your first few certs is pretty bad ass. It rivals that of finals week at the collegiate level in my opinion. Sharing your news with those that helped you along the way and those who you’ve studied with is equally as fun. I’m pretty close online with the connections I’ve made at or around this time. It’s a very special time.
But I don’t really want to talk about the beginning. What comes after that first little rush. When you’re just getting your feet wet but think you’ve come to some standard of knowing something. Right before you realize you barely know anything.
The Hard Part
I’ve been in this hard part for the latter part of the last 3 – 3.5 years. Trying to climb your way out of being a novice and getting to something deeper, unsure of what you can call yourself. To motivate myself I spend a lot of time online. Most of the people I look up to online are some sort of engineer, gave talks at conferences, been doing the thing for at least 15 years or some 18 year old CCIE candidate. There are so many freaking awesome people out there to be inspired by.
All that inspiration you get when you are first starting out, when inevitably comparing yourself to those you are inspired by, begins to weigh on you when you are reaching year 3 and into year 4 and you are diving into yet another new technology and having to learn the fundamentals of something new.
I can tell I’ve made progress when I’m talking to those I work with, or someone who themselves are just starting to learn a certain aspect in tech I’ve spent some time on. I surprise myself by how articulate I can explain something. After the conversation I’ll marvel at how much I actually do know.
But then I’ll do something like go to my first tech conference and meet a bunch of super amazing people again. An inner dialogue begins. Am I good enough? Is this the right career? Do i ‘love’ this? What am I doing with this?
How do I relate what I do to my kids? This question right here weirds me out, as the answer is something close to: I respond to emails, solve puzzles and google stuff for people that are too lazy to read. How is this a rewarding life? I’ve always had trouble selling stuff, myself included. I don’t see it as a bad thing but rather see it as me having a true heart and an understanding of what’s actually important (I have trouble lying…).
The Next Thing
This is what I’ve come to accept as what whatever this tech thing is. It’s continually learning. It’s not knowing (but finding out). It’s not something to master, it’s something to be in awe of, to be curious about.
How do you know tech is right for you? If you see something, tech related, and wonder how that works. How can you make it do something else. How can I get it to do what your friend did. I think this attitude, if you are nodding your head north and south, means you are in the right spot.
I doubt 10 years from now will look a lot like today. So that means nothing but learning ahead. Even though I’ll never be Ivan Pepelnjak, the hope is that I’m able to draw on my experience to pick up things faster. Notice that this new thing is actually this old thing bolted on to this other old thing. Speaking of finding little nuggets. When thinking about ‘if I could start over in tech’ I’m reminded of a cool RFC I was linked to a book I was reading. I find it fun to follow a lot of the links when reading 🙂
1. IntroductionThis Request for Comments (RFC) provides information about the fundamental truths underlying all networking. These truths apply to networking in general, and are not limited to TCP/IP, the Internet, or any other subset of the networking community.2. The Fundamental Truths(1) It Has To Work.(2) No matter how hard you push and no matter what the priority, you can’t increase the speed of light.(2a) (corollary). No matter how hard you try, you can’t make a baby in much less than 9 months. Trying to speed this up *might* make it slower, but it won’t make it happen any quicker. (3) With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. However, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead. (4) Some things in life can never be fully appreciated nor understood unless experienced firsthand. Some things in networking can never be fully understood by someone who neither builds commercial networking equipment nor runs an operational network. (5) It is always possible to aglutenate multiple separate problems into a single complex interdependent solution. In most cases this is a bad idea. (6) It is easier to move a problem around (for example, by moving the problem to a different part of the overall network architecture) than it is to solve it. (6a) (corollary). It is always possible to add another level of indirection. (7) It is always something (7a) (corollary). Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two (you can’t have all three). (8) It is more complicated than you think. (9) For all resources, whatever it is, you need more. (9a) (corollary) Every networking problem always takes longer to solve than it seems like it should. (10) One size never fits all. (11) Every old idea will be proposed again with a different name and a different presentation, regardless of whether it works. (11a) (corollary). See rule 6a. (12) In protocol design, perfection has been reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.Request for Comments: 1925 [1 April 1996]
So if I could do it all over I’m not sure I have any better advice to give. Do what you like to do. I’ve heard John Capobianco on more than one occasion ask people what they are interested in, whether it be Pokémon or baseball, and tie those interests or hobbies into a tech project. I think this is great advice, and I’ve tried to share it with others. There are so many ways to tie something tech related to things out there in the world. If you can combine the two you can learn more about both at the same time.
Like I alluded to above, sometimes I don’t feel all that into everything all the time. Sometimes I use this hobby/job/phase of my life to distract myself from other aspects of my life. We all have our lows. I’ve been there. I doubt myself. I wonder what I’m doing.
In the end I’m just a curious dude. I studied philosophy and my favorite word when I was a seven year-old was why. Every profession I’ve taken up I’ve looked into the science, tried to hone my craft with a bit of flare. Perhaps I’m just in this particular game because I enjoy puzzles. This is just another phase in my life. Another chapter. Will the next chapter be tech. Maybe, but I’ll be equally immersed in whatever I’m doing because as I’ve come to find out that’s just the kind of guy I am.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
Like this blog post.
If you feel something in your heart is pulling you, I’d say follow it, and give it your entire heart. This might not be it for you or maybe it isn’t for you ‘right now.’ I’m not super into long term goals. For me, I focus on daily routines. What do I like to do? Spend time with my family? Yes, put it in the routine. Read? Yes, put it in the routine. Run? Yes, put it in the routine. I control each day, as much as one can, and put my effort in things I enjoy. Where will this get me in 10-20 years? I don’t know career wise, but I know I will have been an active parent who attempted to do his best on any given day.
As with journeys, i’ll see you around the bend, until next time. If you see me, say hi.