SW engineering, engineering management and the business of software

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Tar Pits, Trampolines & Safety Nets

I’ve been programming for over 35 years. I’ve done it professionally with 8 languages (including C, VHDL, Go, Swift) and as a hobby with at least 5 other languages. I’ve done mobile apps, embedded programming, backend, frontend, devops, system architecture, and more. In addition to pure engineering roles, I’ve had stints in a diverse set of roles, including Technical Marketing, Field Support Engineering, Engineering Management & Recruiting. I’ve worked for startups with as few as three people and mega-corps with six digit employee counts. I’ve run my own companies. Some of the companies I worked at have had soaring valuations and others crashing. Some companies had both separated by a surprisingly small window of time.

I worked in Tokyo for six years on a sweet ex-pat gig and taught myself Japanese while I was there and did business & training presentations in foreign languages. I was once sent to Korea from California, SWAT team style, to fly in, successfully teach people who don’t speak English as their first language a highly technical topic and fly back in 24 hours. I’ve helped close multi-million dollar deals. I’ve charged as much as $1000 an hour as a consultant (not that often) and received as little as $0 when I got stiffed on professional work done (also, not that often). On the whole, I have a fairly diverse skillset, with a more than a few spikes of proficiency in certain marketable areas of expertise.

I only recently started going grey and despite being a dad, people laugh at my jokes more than they groan.

Despite all that:

  • I still have days where I have to google trivial shit. (often)
  • I still have days where I stare at a screen and freeze up. (less often as I grow older)
  • And yes, I have days when the imposter symdrome is strong. (fairly rare, but one episode recently)

When my self-belief, willpower, etc. suffers, I am grateful that I have done the best of my ability to surround myself (IRL and virtual) with amazing people who respect & care for me. This obviously means my family and friends, but also includes close peers, a handful of mentors and a broader circle of “my people” (peers who are like minded on more than a few axis of measurement, but may not be connected directly via work).

I cannot overstate enough. Think carefully about the people you surround yourself with. I find that in the worse case, they drag you down and keep you trapped, like a tar pit. In the best case outcome, they are both your trampoline to help you reach new heights and your safety net in case of occasional (yet inevitable) falls.

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