For me, 2012 was a bad year. Between a host of medical issues (brutal chest cough that led to pulled muscles, to appendicitis, to strep throat, a couple nasty colds-cum-killer flus, and a minor outpatient surgery), ridiculous amounts of stress, the ever-present struggle of being a parent to young children, a general malaise, and an unfulfilled burning need to travel, it’s truly a wonder I got out of bed in the morning.
So it wasn’t with any reservation that 2012 walked out of my life on Monday night, yet it still managed to leave me rather depressed. Sadly, 2013 woke me up looking already a lot like 2012, so I’m not sure if I’m able to look at this new year with much hope yet. Instead, I suppose I shall have to try harder to make things work more my way.
This not to say that I “didn’t like” 2012. It’s hard not to like an entire year in one’s life, especially one that brings so many new things to learn and experience. I just wish it hadn’t been so darned painful…
I like long years. Really. Yes, I complain about when things seem to drag out far longer than they should, or if I’m busting my arse far harder than I think I should. That’s part of being human, no? In the end, though, I like long years because I get to look back and not worry about how quickly time has flown by. Time should never fly by quickly — it means I’ve missed something, and … well, darn it, I just hate missing things!
This last year was a big one for me in one major way: it was a redefinition of my professional existence. Since the end of 2009, I’ve transformed from a professional manager to a … hmm … well, my title (however formal it needs to be) is “Solutions Lead”, but that belies a lot of what I do every day, and just using “web developer” or “programmer” — even with a “Senior” prefix — completely understates the reality. This year was really about taking all the skills and knowledge I’d acquired as a leader, and merging that back into my day-to-day development practices.
And that, as the saying goes, was only the tip of the iceberg…
Sorry for the long silence, folks. I’ve been a very, very busy boy the last couple of months, and … well, writing hasn’t really been a high priority for me. Family, as always, comes first, with my job (which provides for said family) a very close second. Sanity has eeked its way into third place … and anyone who knows me also knows how much attention that’s getting as of late. Writing is in fourth, which is a very sad last in terms of actual attention.
So why now? Well, let’s go back to that second point. Today is my first anniversary of (full-time) work with Evans Hunt. While I had been kicking around here since January of last year, the full-time aspect is more recent, and in this case, also important…
…it’s Annual Review Day.
On Saturday, my wife Alex and I went out on our own. (We manage to do this every couple of weeks thanks to Alex’s mother, who comes over to watch the kids so we can behave more like adults for a while.) On our little excursion, we spontaneously decided to go up the Calgary Tower, for no other real reason than to take a look.
The sun was getting low in the sky, and the horizon was nearly completely obscured by haze (likely due to the city drying out from a few days of light-to-heavy rain). The shadows cast through the downtown were fantastic, the trees (most of which now have leaves) and the fields of grass were bright green, and light glinted off the glass of a hundred skyscrapers.
And I realised — almost surprisingly — that from way up there, Calgary really does look quite beautiful.
On Monday, Alex went back to work for the first time since August 2007, which is when she went on maternity leave. Then we moved to Costa Rica and back, and had a second child. During that entire time, Alex stayed at home, her job being a Mom.
Even before we moved back to Canada (Alex knowing she was pregnant), she had started to plan her return to work. She wanted to do her job again, not just because it’s something she’d spent many years training for, and not just because it helps the family income-wise. It’s also a value aspect — anyone who’s had a job feels a certain amount of ownership and responsibility about what they do.
And besides, it gives her a chance to get away from the kids…
A year ago, I was a “free agent” of sorts. I had gone self-employed, and had started to live in the world of contracts, invoices, expenses, and running around without adequate amounts of personal injury insurance. Not that I’d had to stray far — I started the year working for a small local agency almost entirely staffed with ex-Critical Massers.
Evans Hunt looked like an ideal little home for me. A place where I didn’t have to worry about establishing myself, having to build up major amounts of credibility, and not really having a clue where I stood. Not to mention that when working in the contract field, it was always good to know that you were going to get paid, eventually. It was, for all intents and purposes, as close to “perfect” as I thought it could get.
Then they made the most grievous of errors: they hired me full-time.
Man, it feels like a year ago since I last wrote one of these … oh, wait. (Yes, it’s a stupid joke. You should know me by now…)
2010 was the year we made contact … wait, sorry, wrong catchline. 2010 was the year my family welcomed new members, notably my youngest, a daughter (code)named Choo Choo. It was a year I changed my career outlook (yes, again), and found that I’m not (completely) useless. This was a year of family, for me, and that’s perhaps the most important aspect.
But despite all that, I hesitate to call it “a year of change”.
Not so long ago, when I managed a team, I used to coach people in their career directions. (How well I coached people is another matter, and I can only leave it to those people to assess my real effectiveness.) I’d help them understand their successes, their opportunities, and help them avoid the pitfalls that were common with advancement. Everyone wants to get ahead, after all.
One thing I always cautioned more senior people was the “fork in the road”, the point at which you decided on your “next” direction. One avenue would take you down the road of the specialist, the code ninja who could seemingly pull miracles out of thin air. The other avenue was expanding one’s view beyond the initial skill to encompass the Big Pictureâ„¢. In other words, management.
Watch out for that wrong turn — here be dragons.
If I were to summarise the last ten years of my career prior, specifically from about June 2000 to June 2010, it would look something like this: web developer, specialised web developer, senior web developer, junior manager, manager, director, technical architect. What, in many ways, looks largely like an “upward” progression in knowledge work.
During these last ten years, and notably the latter five, I trended more and more away from programming and more into management. I managed people, I managed projects, I managed implementations, and pretty much managed to avoid coding of any kind. I convinced myself that it made more sense for me to focus on the higher-level technology planning than it did on the actual implementation — there were others who did it better than me, and it was a waste of effort to try do it all.
And suddenly, I found myself checkmated.