I started my career as a programmer at IBM and spent the subsequent 3 decades developing software and managing its development at 4 different companies in 3 different countries.
During that time I have learned a lot and have had several major revelations. At some point I will reflect on most of them here.
But the one that led to this blog was an incident 6 years ago when one of the managers who reported to me came to me with a problem that he was having. I started working through it with him, starting at the beginning and exploring it as a new problem. It suddenly occurred to me that I had faced (and handled) a very similar problem earlier in my career, and did really need to start from scratch in this case. Now we all rely subconsciously on our accumulated life’s experiences to guide us in our personal and professional lives, but usually do so in a very informal, ad-hoc manner.
It occurred to me then – maybe for the first time as a coherent, conscious thought – that during the course of my many years in software development that I had indeed accumulated quite a body of knowledge on the subject, but just how much I really didn’t know. At that point I decided to start writing down everything I knew, as a catalogue and perhaps even as a test.
A few subjects and pages came very quickly, but what I hadn’t expected was the snowball effect: one subject led to another, and soon I was nearing 100 pages. Doing this was a fascinating experience that I would recommend to anyone, in any field, at any point in their career. I started simply, just creating a Word document that I did not publish. However, I did bring copies along to the interview in which I got my current job, and while I don’t know for sure, it might have been a “tipping point” factor that led to a job offer.
Over the past few years I have been so focused on my job and other life activities that my paper on software development has just been quietly spinning around on my hard drive untouched and unread. A recent re-read was interesting, showing just how much I had learned in intervening period – life being an endless quest for and accumulation of knowledge and experience. So instead of going back and rewriting the paper, the second edition is now appearing in the form of this set of online articles.
My motivation for doing this? In any life situation, newer and younger people are coming along all the time. Like young(er) people everywhere, they lack the wisdom that comes from long experience. Some don’t think that they need it, some think that they don’t but don’t know where to find it (classes and books are great but have their limitations), and some don’t even know that they lack the knowledge. In every case, every new generation of leaders tend to make the same mistakes over and over again until they, too, accumulate “the wisdom” (if they are lucky). So my motivation is to pass along what I have learned and concluded during my time in the business, in hopes that it helps even just one person.
Meanwhile, I will continue my life’s journey of continuing to learn. By the time I am 800 I will probably know most of what I would like to know – or perhaps my horizons will just keep expanding.