Archive for the ‘Backstory’ Category

Swing for the Fences

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

So this is what really got me off my butt, and working on changing my life….

Not to be a fanboy or anything,  but I really enjoy Joel Spolsky’s blog.  Here’s someone who knows what he wants, is competent at doing it, and is enjoying himself.  He’s got excellent advice for software engineers and managers of software engineers – if you’re in either category, it is well worth your time to read him.  Besides, he’s entertaining and articulate.  ‘Nuff said.  {end of advertisement}

So a little while ago, he posted three new job openings at his company.  This was sometime late on a Friday afternoon; I saw them Saturday morning as I surfed my usual web pages.  And. I. Freaked!  Wow!  Working for Joel Spolsky!  Back to Linux programming!!  Hell, I’d even clean the toilets for him, just to be able to eat lunch with his gang and hear the banter.

But was I good enough?  He has talked about the process of applying to and getting selected by Fog Creek Software, and my application would be one of hundreds he would have to review.  How to make mine stand out?  I might have only 30 seconds to get his attention with an email cover letter, and no more than that to have my resume make some positive impression on him.

I spent the entire weekend polishing my resume, and crafting a cover letter.  (I was totally pumped up for this, and worthless for anything else.  Ask my wife.)  Editing, tweaking, re-thinking, over-thinking, playing the “what if” scenarios out in my head. I zoomed from elation to despair.  Was I way too far out of my league?

And then I knew – if I never tried, I would always have the nagging belief that I could have made it, and was too scared or lazy to even make the attempt.

So, like the Babe, I pointed my bat to the edge of the stadium, squared up to the plate, and swung.  Spellchecked everything one more time, and clicked the “Send” button on my email.

Nothing happened.  No reply.  No read receipt for my message.  I waited a couple of weeks, and then re-sent it with a polite cover note asking if my original had been so wacky that it didn’t even merit an answer.  This time, Joel’s helpful email robot acknowledged that it had been received.  (So much for the reliability of email!)  Two days later, I received a very polite note from him that I hadn’t made the cut.

What’s the moral of this extended rant story?  Whatever you do, swing for the fences.  If you strike out, there’s always another opportunity at bat in an inning or two.  If you don’t swing, you can never hit a homer.

Raison d’être

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

    So, who are you?  (with apologies to The Who)

 I’m a professional systems administrator (and former software engineer), in my 6th decade, who grew up and has lived essentially his entire life in the Midwest.  I’ve been programming since I was 15, and doing it professionally for the last 25 years.  (Before that I did some electronics repairs, and a bit of digital hardware engineering.  I also assist my wife in managing the rental properties we own.)  I’m now the employee of a public University in a smallish city.

    So why would you want to write a blog?

 In the last couple of years, I’ve become disenchanted with the way my career has turned out.  In the last 9 months or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a Code Monkey Code Monkey [corrected link] – I would be happiest if I could just sit somewhere and bang out some software that was pretty, and useful to someone.

So, I’m going to do something(s) about it.  And I want to document my experience – partly for my own ego gratification, partly to get feedback, partly to give some assistance and encouragement to others “past their sell-by dates” who are trying to change jobs and/or careers.