This question creeps up in my brain from time to time. Honestly, it is usually during the trying times that it creeps up most. This being one of those times I suppose.
A little backstory.
10 years ago, I had no aspirations to do anything involving computers. NONE. At. All.
I tell this story all the time to clients and potential employers to show how easily I picked up the talents I have now…
I didn’t use a computer until I was 19. I mean I played on them when I was little and I typed up a few things in school – but for the most part I didn’t “use” one, unless forced – until I was 19 or so. I remember buying it and thinking you just got on it and it already had the “internet”. I pulled it out of the box and hooked it all up (using the instructions of course) and sat there thinking…
“Wow… the internet.”
What an idiot I was back then.
Once I got the internet hooked up (dial-up), I didn’t really know where to go or what to do. I was so amazed, but didn’t know really what I was amazed by.
After getting my first computer, I guess it was about 2 more years before I even began using it for anything. I remember buying a program to make music and playing around with some friends on it. I thought I was something else.
Of course I chatted, emailed… downloaded music and everything else people did on the internet.
It wasn’t until I went to school for 6 months or so for networking that I realized I could probably make money off my computer skills. Part of the program had me doing Word/Excel/Access courses and I aced those tests with ease. Before long I noticed that I wasn’t learning as much as I thought I should be from the school and so I left.
I got a job right before leaving the school though at a .com in our sister city. This propelled me into the career I have today. The one I wonder if it is right for me sometimes.
Development always came easy to me. Design, marketing… hell anything to do with online business just seemed to click in my brain and with little to no effort I could come up with elaborate creations that either I could put in place myself, or with some help from some fellow nerds. So I never question that part of it.
I am an innovator. A leader (by birth).
I just wonder if I am leading and innovating in the wrong industry sometimes.
What keeps me going when I have doubts?
I would lie if I said it didn’t have something to do with money. Everyone has dollar signs tattooed on their right wrist. But I also would lie if I said it was the only thing that motivates me. I have worked in web development for pocket change. I have done work of my own (like this site here) for no check (besides Adsense). I love seeing things come together. I get that giddy feeling when I finish a website or project and see it working and people using it out in the field. It is hard to explain. Imagine if you built houses and when you got done with a house someone moved in that had never owned a house before and you got to watch them (not like a stalker) using the doors, opening the windows – kids playing on the floor… all the things you built and put into place. That feeling.
I saw people in our line of work (Medical) struggling to do day-to-day tasks, and with our software in place – it is a breeze. I think of all the paper we are saving, trees that are spared because of our paperless system. I hear customers telling me how they did all their work and went home at the end of the day and played with their kids. They tell me how much that means to them and how before the system was in place, they spent 2-3 hours at the end of each day working on paperwork – the same hours they now get to watch a movie with the family or getting that much needed rest.
Not to mention the fact that this system allows for the documentation of home health therapy visits for older folks that might have broke a hip, or need speech therapy. I know that our software doesn’t do the therapy or help the old people in the same way the therapist does… but I can’t help but think that I aid in helping someone’s grandpa get back to their old self, or it gets someone’s grandma back in the kitchen cooking that pie they love so much.
Yeah, I guess that keeps me going sometimes.
What makes you want to scream and pull out the hair you don’t have?
I’m bald… so what. Doesn’t mean I don’t hit a wall sometimes and want to pull my tiny lil baby hairs out. A lot of you that are in the same industry as I am in (IT), realize that everyday could be a disaster at anytime. Whether it be an update that Microsoft put out to secure a vulnerability or someone had an accident that knocked out power to your main server… shit happens in our industry. I have to say that 80% of the time it has nothing to do with anything I did, it just starts at random.
So they teach us to have backup plans and backup plans to those backup plans and exit strategies, contingency plans and anything else you can think of to get the eff out of a bad situation. This is great, but the problem is that sometimes you can’t produce or even phathom the things that go wrong and you end up with your pants down. At church. On stage. Singing Amazing Grace. For the mayor. And his family. And yours.
This is when I contemplate whether people at Whataburger or Wal-Mart ever have the same problems. I know I should be happy to be in an exciting job that sends me across the U.S. to visit with folks and have drinks and live up each experience in each city. I should be happy to be the boss, leave if I need to – not clock in… you know the “perks”.
But those perks come at a price. Those folks at Wal-Mart don’t have boxes of cereal calling them at home going…
“HEY – you put me in the wrong shelf and someone just bought me at a discounted price! What The EFF!”
Or an angry customer doesn’t call the Best Buy employee that sold them the wrong connection for their HD TV, and now their kids can’t watch Cars for the 50-millionth time this week.
Nope, I doubt it happens.
And let me get something else off my chest here. I do my job, I do it with as much customer service as humanly possible. Last month, 2 days before we were flying to Miami to go on vacation, we had a problem with a new customer we set up in New Orleans. Instead of saying to hell with it, I’m going on vacation – I manned up and flew to New Orleans the next morning and then flew back the same day after getting them up and going. That is how I do business.
I say that to say this… I can’t seem to get a decent amount of customer service these days if I wave a 50$ bill over my head and say…
“THIS GOES TO THE PERSON THAT WANTS TO DO BUSINESS, THE RIGHT WAY!”
We order pizza and the guy doesn’t bring cheese & peppers after we asked specifically for that several times. We go to the grocery store and sit at the self check out for 10 minutes because the person “monitoring” it isn’t paying enough attention to notice we have an invalid weight for an item, and need assistance. The list goes on and on…
I know each job has its own set of rules and obstacles, but seriously… I program in a foreign language, several of them. I make things that are brodcast across the globe if need be. I make that gadget you hold in your hand and it does all the cool things you want it to. I book your reservations online using code. I get those documents from your computer to a big computer and allow for someone else to get them and everyone get paid in the process. I make sure the accounting is handled. I generate those reports you need. I MAKE MAGIC.
And you can’t get the pickles on my effin’ burger. PICKLES!
Why I think I could quit and still be happy or stay and be happy as well.
I have done a lot of jobs in my short life. I love to build things. I love working with my hands. I don’t mind sweating and getting dirty if need be. The same design concepts that are used in my line of work is also easily converted into many other fields. I could build houses, work on cars, manage businesses, market products or just brainstorm in a think tank. I could do any of these things and still be happy at the end of the day.
My Grandpa showed me a lot of things in life and I could go on and on about them, but one of the most important things I learned from him is that you can do just about anything and make ends meet and be happy. My Grandpa had his own business fixing lawn mowers. He also worked as a night watchman for the school system in a small town for 20+ years. He retired through the school. He eventually closed his shop. But by then, he over 10 or so rent houses that he worked on and kept up – so he was more than busy.
It showed me that if a man doing something as simple as night-watching, and something he actually loved (working with his hands on lawn mowers & houses) could make an honest living and be happy while doing so… there is hope. Hope for a programmer. Hope for me.
Hope that my doubts aren’t in vain, hopes my reasons for continuing on aren’t in vain either.
So… do I have a Home Depot story to tell pointing out both the good and bad sides of customer service. Let me get it together for an actual post – but man… perfect timing.