I started my 2018 retrospective by questioning what motivates me, which has been a big part of my bio for a long time. Do “interesting problems & inspiring solutions” still “get me out of bed in the morning”? In this post I’ll talk about why that’s not necessarily the case, and what’s going to replace it.
A few keen observers that read my last post asked me why I didn’t close out the introduction with a matching conclusion. The truth is, because I wasn’t ready to talk about it. This is the follow-up post that hopes to address it directly – and then I can get back to technical + managerial posts, I promise!
Like I mentioned in the previous post; toward the end of 2018, from about November on, I started noticing that “interesting problems & inspiring solutions” weren’t helping me get out of bed any more.
Don’t get me wrong! A lot of the challenges I had in my day-job were certainly challenging, and required “inspiring” solutions, but they weren’t interesting; I couldn’t easily solve them, and when I finally did (occasionally with the help of my peers), it took far too much time/energy and I myself wasn’t even convinced of the outcome, let alone “inspired”.
It felt – and to a degree, still feels – like I’m just punching the clock, doing the same hours, but with less results, and a lot more disappointment, but of course, I covered some of that in the retrospective.
So I started using the results of the retro to figure out what gave me energy, and what I wanted to focus on: what did I do that could continue to give me concrete, repeatable, identifiable results, directly correlated with my inputs, much like coding did (and continues to).
Now, I love my job. I love that I can enable and empower so many people in the position that have. I love that I have the responsibility and accountability for the amazing work that we’re continuing to produce at an amazing rate. I honestly love my colleagues and the company I work for! I’m continually amazed by the people I’ve hired and the great jobs they are doing. I’m just trying to make clear, to myself, what areas it is that I want to improve, and then I can check if that’s something I could, or should, do in my current role. This post is ultimately just a means of catharsis for me.
Then I read this post from Charity Majors which was a follow-up to another awesome post she made a few years ago. I found myself nodding along to both; the idea that highly skilled engineers should try being managers, and highly skilled technical managers have been developers/engineers at some point in time. If it’s not a “promotion” into technical management, then it’s not a demotion to try something else either, right?
Cool, so that means…?
I found that a lot of the events that I enjoyed the most this year, were when I had the ability to tell stories from my heart. Addressing an engaged crowd with something as simple as an introduction to a department meeting, or as storied as sharing the history of my company with new-joiners, or as entertaining as being an MC at an amazing work function, or sharing my failures with new developers from a completely different background …and even that one time I used 300+ slides in a guest lecture on “decision making and continuous delivery from the perspective of a fast-moving company”. These were all awesome.
The key to most of my highlights in 2018?
The moments that gave me the most motivation?
It was when I had a story to tell, and managed to tell it well.
Thankfully, making new friends, learning new presentation skills, and pushing myself to improve – including giving my first presentation EVER just working from memory & background without pre-prepared slides – were all nice side-effects of just doing something that I find really fun!
So I’ve decided to spend a fair bit of my time this year further improving these skills; delivering a well-prepared story, well!
That’s quite a change
Yeah, this could be just another left turn at Albuquerque that ends with hilarious comedic value for you, the viewer, but how will we know if I don’t try?
Thankfully, I feel that there might be an opportunity to pursue this within my current organisation, especially considering how supportive they’ve been of me and my “speaking habit” in the past.
I would love that: sticking it out with friends, sharing our amazing successes (and failures!), helping teams to learn from others, and especially finding the right way to bring “bad news” to a group, while leaving them feeling energised and motivated. These are the key skills I feel I still need to improve, and intend to work on over the next year.
I’ll also reach back to that previous post and some of the “one-liners” in the summary that helped me to understand why I should work toward this… Remember these?
- Build adventure into every day, whatever that means to you
- Consciously choose everything you do
- What is most interesting to you? Do that!
- What does the world need now, that you are uniquely able to deliver?
- Find and celebrate the soul or essence of every organisation
- Follow your curiosity, talk to more people, try things, tell your story
- Look for where your personal voice and commercial opportunity meet
- What is the “from… to…” you want to create?
Looking through that list, which I really developed an affinity for, I think this is a good(-enough) goal for now. Keeping in mind that it’s quite possible, maybe even probable that I have read the list wrong, and you’re like the viewer watching Bugs Bunny reading the map upside down and screaming at the screen… If so, please let me know, but otherwise, I’m going to leave it at that for now.
So, …the bio?
Yeah, I’ll also update my introduction and bio soon. “Interesting challenges” has become quite cliché, and if I want to spend more time focussing on telling stories well, I might as well add it in there. I’m still trying to figure out the right wording, but how’s something like this sound?
I’m Pat Hermens, an Aussie that’s been based in the Netherlands for the last 5 years. I’ve been a .NET developer for 15+ years (and a technical manager for the past few), an international public speaker, a happy husband and father, but most of all, I’m just a geek. Over the course of my career, I’ve found that sharing fun stories about interesting challenges & creative solutions motivates me.
It’s a bit bland, right? Wish me luck :)