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.

22 comments:

Thomas "Duffbert" Duff said...

Glad we could help... :)

Ed Brill said...

I'll be back in August (I think)... Would be a pleasure to host geekdinner II - the sequel in your honour...

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear things are better. Happy Canada Day. Wish I was at home in Toronto, no one here in Boston seems to be celebrating! ;-) Alan Lepofsky

Karen said...

Yay, you're back! Now we can yell at you... don't EVER do that again.

It's worth noting that when you're part of an online community and you disappear - for whatever perfectly legitimate reason - your online friends and suppporters are renedered totally helpless. I'm glad someone was able to reach you. Now go to your room and don't come out until dinner's ready. Oh, wait... nevermind.

Spanky said...

My buddy Ben Poole put it best: "This isn’t charity, it’s payment for inestimable consulting services rendered...".

Our community is an eclectic extended family. Being a member of this family means that when a member (even the resident curmudgeon) needs help; we help. Period.

I'm glad things are turning around for you my friend.

-Devin.

raschi said...

Stan, thanks for your thoughts on this. I myself are on the job hunt currently, even though in good old Europe it's a little less strain on the pockets. But your thoughts on "selling yourself as a commodity" really support my experiences so far and help me planning how to go further about this application process. Thanks for sharing, really!!!

Rob McDonagh said...

Good to have you back, sir!

Ben Dubuc said...

Stan, I am so happy you're back. I got over the "bringing you to Montreal" thing, but that previous post was a total shock, especially since we exchanged emails a few days earlier, and you didn't mention anything.

I'm quite workless myself these days, but I'm glad you managed to get back to Volker.

I'm sure things will get better now, and as it's been said before, don't be ashamed of all the money you got (get): it's just a little thng for all you've done for us. Wish I could do more, but running after your phone or mail address at CHC has proven to be a challenge!

Keep it up and next time, let us know in advance.

:)

ben dubuc said...

Stan, I am so happy you're back. I got over the "bringing you to Montreal" thing, but that previous post was a total shock, especially since we exchanged emails a few days earlier, and you didn't mention anything. I started having bad dreams again...

I'm glad you managed to get back to Volker. I'm sure things will get better now, and as it's been said before, don't be ashamed of all the money you got (get): it's just a little thng for all you've done for us. Wish I could do more, but running after your phone or mail address at CHC has proven to be a challenge!

Keep it up and next time, let us know in advance if it's that bad. I've been relatively successfull getting work to do from home, so next time I might send you some...

Keep it up!
:)

Coatsie said...

Welcome back Stan

Coatsie

Ben Poole said...

Glad to hear that your gob was smacked Stan - in a good way I mean! But seriously, keep us posted as and when you can :-)

Bill Buchan said...

Glad to repay a tiny bit of the good work you've done in the past.

Now, get yourself a laptop (how many were you offered?), hit at least *some* of the certifications - they do help get your CV to the top of the pile - and get a nice "interview" suit sorted out...

:-)

---* Bill

Joe Litton said...

Seeing this post has made my day. Welcome back :)

Jess said...

Ditto to what everyone else has said. Welcome back! And, echoing Karen, you can't make posts like that and then disappear. :-)

Charles Robinson said...

Welcome back, I look forward to being awed on notes.net. :-)

Alex Hernandez said...

Hey!

I'm very happy to know about you and that things are going better.

.::AleX::.

Rajesh Haran said...

Welcome back Stan,

Good to hear from you,

All the best!!

Best wishes,
Rajesh

Phil Randolph said...

This is great news Stan...glad you're back! Keep us all posted on what's next!

jonvon said...

ditto what joe said, this post made my day.

:-)

Rock (Lotus Geek) said...

This is EXCEPTIONAL news, Stan. Please keep us informed of the GOOD things coming your way!

--Rock

Rob Novak said...

I can't believe how out of touch I've been - I just read your June post with shock. Stan I'm hoping that since this July 1 post 20 days ago that things are still looking up!

Anonymous said...

Hey Stan - don't go quiet again now. What's up? Your phone is on voicemail & your voicemail is full :( Anyone out there knows if you're all right still? New job yet? Please post us an update.