Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Old dog, same tricks

Due to overwhelming demand to post again on my blog, I feel compelled to write about a conversation I had a few moments ago with a colleague. The conversation was nothing special, but I observed something that gave me pause for thought.

Before I continue, I should add some background here. I've been working in IT for (coughs) 25 years now. I've worked for only a handful of companies. Partly down to loyalty, partly down to laziness. But I think it's fair to say that I've had my hands in a number of pies. Mostly programming related, but I've managed projects, and even a small team in my time, as well as been under such large amounts of stress that could lead a lesser man to lose all of his hair.

And that leads me to my point about the conversation. My colleague was trying to explain to me that the changes made in one my teams code may cause problems at their end. A common conversation indeed. But what struck me was how very quickly I was able to grasp the reasoning behind why it could fail. It was particularly complicated, and involved the way the data got initially parsed from the database. I really don't need to go into detail, suffice to say I knew nothing of their codebase, but was able to very quickly effectively tell him what he was trying to put across. That then leads to a large sigh of relief all round as the problem is understood and we can address it in parallel.

I'm in danger of sounding like I'm blowing my own trumpet here, and I kind of am. But this isn't some "beautiful mind" moment here. This is that 25 years of experience coming together to analyze and evaluate what is going on. And that was the revelation. I am actually very good at my job, but in ways I hadn't really realized before. Had somebody from a different field (say an athlete) taken that call, they would have been totally unable to grasp it. Of course, many of my other colleagues (but not all of them) would probably have been able to derive the same outcome of the call. And that's what got me thinking.

What things come naturally in other careers after 20 years+ of service?

A plumber would probably be able to feel the screw connector in the dark, or immediately know the pipe to use with just a glance. And what about of we go into the world of music and arts. Had I been blowing a trumpet for 20 years, I would know to the millimetre the exact position to put each finger and how hard to blow. Imagine that. Just pure instinct.

Athletes... Do you "feel" the track? TV producers... Do you see multiple screens at once? Traders, do the numbers form shapes in your mind? Basically,  look out for those instinct moments. I'd love to know what they are.

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