What makes me tick

Curt Rosengren is asking why people do what they do.  Here are my answers:

What kind of work would you do if you got paid in the juice you get from your job, rather than money? (i.e., what jobs would light your fire in a big way?)

I honestly would do what I do today:  lead a test team in developing their testing infrastructure, mentor its members and grow their technical skills, work with Test teams across a giant corporation to make testing better, and invent all sorts of neato tools and technologies along the way.  I love coding, I love breaking things, and I love helping people advance their skills just like my own mentors have helped me.

If you had to choose a career that had nothing to do with any of the work you've done thus far in your career, what would would it be?

My college degree is in architorture, so I would probably do something with that.  I excelled at the technical aspects of architecture.  I could ink detailed here's-how-this-thing-is-put-together drawings all day, stone and trees are always fun to draw, and there's nothing quite like some quality time spent lettering a few pages of notes.  I was less good with the design side of things, but practice makes perfect.  I dink around designing houses in my spare time and while my first designs were pretty much boxes my more recent designs have some inspired bits.  So there's reason to suspect I wouldn't be a complete failure in that field.  <g/>

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I've designed houses for as long as I can remember, so I guess I wanted to be an architect even though I didn't know architecture was an actual profession.  What I *did* consciously want to be was a railroad engineer.  I have always loved trains, and spending my formative years in a) Omaha, Nebraska -- headquarters of the Union Pacific railroad, and b) small middle-of-nowhere-Nebraska towns where trains passed through on a regular basis, I had plenty of sources to nourish this ambition.

But then I found out you can't read all day but rather have to actually *look outside* and *pay attention* to what is going on with and around the train, and for some reason I wasn't so excited about being an engineer anymore.  (Which is just as well; I doubt any railroad would have agreed to include the several train cars my family would tell you I would have required to hold my library, milk cows to keep me in milk and cheese, and practice space for my piano.)

I did a lot of music growing up as well, playing piano from kindergarten 'til college, plus clarinet and bassoon in junior high and senior high.  Music was never really a career goal for me, however.

List five things you love doing, work or play.

  1. Coding.  I'm a true computer geek who stares at a computer screen all day, then comes home and stares at a computer screen all night.  And all weekend.  Banging out code the entire time.
  2. Walking.  I walk everywhere, regardless of distance, weather, or terrain.  (It drives my wife nuts that I don't need to slow down when I go up hills.  "Shift down to first gear!", she yells.)
  3. Reading.  If I'm not banging away on a computer's keyboard than I'm probably reading.  I read lots of tech journals, but when those run out science fiction and fantasy are my preferred reading matter.  (Yes, I'm a very geeky geek.)
  4. Spending time with my family and friends.  This may actually surprise some people who know me from afar, because I am that quiet, extremely introverted (I remember taking the Meyers-Briggs test in high school and having it say I had *no* extroverted qualities at all) guy who doesn't say much in meetings and positively dies at parties and other occasions where I'm supposed to interact with people.  The art of small talk I just don't get.  Once I get to know someone, however, I have lots to say about all sorts of things.  My wit is dry and out-of-phase from that of most people I encounter.  Over the years, however, I've slowly gathered a collection of people who at least *pretend* to enjoy having me around.  <g/>
  5. Teaching.  I love passing my experience and knowledge on to others.  You haven't experienced life until you watch someone's face light up with excitement because a particular point or concept suddenly makes sense.  I've been blessed with several excellent teachers and mentors, and I'm happy to be able to give back. 

Pick one of those things. Why is that so much fun?

Why is walking fun?  Hmmm...Walking by myself gives me zone out time, which a) refreshes, and b) leaves my subconscious free to solve whatever thorny problem I'm working on.  Walking with people is very different than interacting with them in other venues.  It's kind of social, but those awkward silences when conversation runs out seem much less awkward.  Not to mention that the local wildlife -- regardless of whether you're walking in the woods or downtown -- offers plenty of sources to inspire new threads of conversation.  <g/>  And of course, walking is an easy way to get good exercise.

What do you like most about your current job?

Not to be facetious, but that it's my job!  I straight-out love what I do.  When people ask what my job is I answer that I get paid to play.  What could be better than having your job consist of a) inventing, designing, and developing cool tools, b) researching the nifty things other teams and people are doing, c) breaking code other people write, and d) helping my team grow their skills?  I haven't found anything so far.

What do you like the least about your current job?

People management is somewhat of a mystery to me and an area where I have a lot to learn, but I wouldn't say I dislike it.  (Which is *not* to say I want direct reports!  As I've said before and will say again, if I ever have direct reports my career has failed.)  What frustrates me the most, I think, is not having enough time to get everything done I want to get done (both what I would like to do myself and what I would like my team to complete).  My estimate for my own tasks this milestone totaled about 500 hours; if I somehow manage to get twenty hours of me-work done each week I have time for about half that.  So cuts have to be made and tasks postponed.  All of which is much better than pretending it will all get done and then deathmarching the entire milestone, but still incredibly frustrating.

*** Comments, questions, feedback?   Want a fun job on a great team?  Send two coding samples and an explanation of why you chose them, and of course your resume, to me at michhu at microsoft dot com. I need testers, and my team needs a data binding developer, program managers, and a product manager.  Great coding skills required for all positions.


Comments (2)

  1. Pete says:

    It’s a small world indeed! This blog and Curt’s blog are favorites of mine because I love to see the passion that both of you bring to your work. And passion is contagious! Both of you have really inspired me to wake up earlier, eat healthier, and live a better life.


    For anyone who is interested, here’s the permalink to the original Curt Rosengren article:


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