Saturday, July 01, 2006

Gobsmacked.

First of all, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for all of the support and encouragement I've received over the past few days. Frankly, I was at the end of my rope, and was absolutely sure that my programming career had come to an end. My previous posting wasn't meant to beg; it was just my best explanation of my absence. Thanks to all of you, though, things are not just looking up, but moving up as well. I will be replying personally to all of the email you've sent, but there's enough of it that it may take me a little while to get around to you. Oh, and enough with the donations already -- we're not quite at the dying-wish-scam level of monies or anything, but you have given me enough to take advantage of the other opportunities I've been presented, and if I manage to blow it from this point onward, then I would fully deserve to crash and burn.

(For those who are interested, and in the interest of fairness and transparency, the total was just under twelve hundred dollars Canadian, which is just about the total sum I had to work with over the previous ten weeks. It means I don't have to be particularly careful using the intarweb today. Since I have real prospects in the offing, I'd prefer to be off the community dole. I'm not going to turn down token recompense for actual help rendered, which is why the button was there in the first place, but I don't particularly like being a charity case. Them what's gone a bit overboard should expect return when I can afford it.)

But Brian Benz was right. This was a hard-learned and hard-earned lesson. There are a lot of things I could have done a lot differently along the way, and I'm pretty darned sure that I'll be doing a little more effective networking and leveraging from now on.

I've been coasting through life, depending on technical talent to get me where I wanted to go. Not that I haven't put any effort into things -- I have spent at least as much time as anyone else learning and practicing my craft (whatever that craft may have been at any given point in my life). That is as true in the Notes world as it was in my avionics life (something that disappeared when discrete electronics gave way to reliable LSIs) or even when I mastered the art of bringing funky old footwear back to life. But as Brian pointed out, mere technical competence is not enough for any of us anymore.

Even those of us who are "mere" employees can't afford to have an employee mentality these days. I come from a long line of labourers and tradesmen who have pretty much had a job for life as long as they did the work and didn't make too much noise along the way. I had pretty much the same thing with my first couple of jobs (including the military), and although I've watched the world around me change, I failed to change with it. I've always believed that there was work out there, and that all one could do, really, was to apply for jobs, shopping oneself out as a commodity labourer. But showing up at the factory gates with work boots and hardhat in hand, hoping that you were close enough to the front of the line to get one of the jobs on offer that day ain't cutting it anymore. That's more or less what I was doing, and it shouldn't have surprised me to find that everything was going to young 'uns with crisp new diplomas and little or no experience -- in the commodity world, price point is king. (And yes, I was testing the waters on the Dark Side as well — I can speak Dotnetese, even if my VB does come out with LotusScript accent and my C# sounds a lot like Java.) I simply didn't have the financial resources to last long enough to make that approach work, and that approach takes time. More time than any of us have.

I haven't had a chance yet to explore all of the "Stan needs help" traffic out there. I was pointed to Volker's posting by Wild Bill and Ben Dubuc in emails, and found Brian's ruminations from the comments there. I only had a half-hour to look at the mail, this blog, check the ol' PayPal account (there was an implied "don't bother" in my previous posting that I am now immensely happy several of you chose to ignore or failed to infer) and so forth -- I was able to scrape up a buck for that, but that didn't leave a whole lot of time to do anything else, really. I have seen enough, though, and in surprising enough places, to finally realise (I hope) that I am not, and cannot treat myself as, a commodity resource. Even if my name wasn't the proverbial household word, I really had no reason to believe that being just one more CV in the pile on some HR desk was going to get me anywhere.

You know, for a guy who spends so much time showing off his m4d 5|<i77z and hanging about in spaces with the elite in the game, I'm pretty clueless in real life.

The only thing that kept the week from being the best of my life, really, was that I was completely in the dark about the Toronto geek dinner with Ed Brill. I didn't have a chance to see Ed's posting on his own site, and the half-hour I was able to manage on the net on Wednesday was timed perfectly to end minutes before a personal invitation/exhortation hit my inbox. The word "dammit" comes to mind. Well, actually, "dammit" is what comes to finger — the word or words that actually come to mind are somewhat less socially acceptable. I believe that makes three times now that I've managed to avoid meeting Ed in person in my own back yard. That's definitely enough of that.

Again, thank you all. As much as the technical sharing in this community has always amazed me, this episode has me utterly gobsmacked.