House of Damp Cards/The Jack

It’s a weird thing, my skill set. Across the span of nearly 10 years, I’ve held more than a few “IT” jobs, all of them (nearly) being that of supporting systems. A myriad of systems, written in a myriad of languages, on a myriad of platforms, all of which I developed at least a passing familiarity with. With each (although there are some exceptions), I grew to understand their workings, but only superficially. I knew what errors could be thrown, absolutely, and how to fix them, without a doubt. I understood, on some broad level, the basic systems that fed into them, and that they in turn fed into. The problem is, that’s the depth of the knowledge. Sure, I’ve worked with AIX Unix, and JCL. I can do some basic things, but that’s the extent of it. I can say the same about Java, Javascript, AJAX, C#, ASP.net, VB.net, SQL, and a dozen other languages, systems, what-have-you. I’m a jack of all trades, as it were, and a master of none (barring macOS, which I can definitively say I understand better than 90% of the people who work with it).

This leaves me with a feeling of greater and greater dis-ease. It’s swelled over the past few years, like a suspicious bump in your back yard, particularly in the area where you’re keenly aware your septic tank is buried. It wasn’t a problem, because the job I had didn’t really need any of those other skills. It needed the one, and the one I had in spades, which was excellent. However, it’s slowly dawned that my tech portfolio, while standing, is… well, limp. Thus the house of damp cards analogy in the title. Thus my entire point for this blog, thus my drive to refocus, to forge forward towards actual career-based mastery. The question is, what and where am I best served?

I have no problems with programming. I have a bit of a knack for it, although I don’t breath it like it was air, as some people I know do. I do love design, and I think that’s more of a passion than anything. I love finding ways to slot things together, to make them move, and, more than that, make them move cleanly. I love finding ways to improve processes, to make them faster, better, more tidy. I know there’s a career in that, somewhere, but for the life of me I haven’t really been able to nail it down. Finally, there’s management and administration. I feel that’s the course I’m on currently; I’m an admin, absolutely, but not in any concrete, “provable” sense of the word. The systems I administer are, for the most part, ones I assembled. They’re ones I understand, because they’re my handiwork, and no one really questions that, which is, itself, its own problem.

It’s like a craftsman in some remote mountain village, ages past. Maybe a blacksmith? See him, arms and brow blackened by soot. See his workshop, with its stone walls and clean floors. See his forge, his tools on the wall. He’s good at what he does, his work gives the village the implements to farm, to defend themselves, his work does what it needs to. But without contact with other blacksmiths, other metalworkers, can he ever be sure his tools are as good as they could be? He may experiment, and find new techniques, better ways of quenching, or folding, or sharpening. But he may never know the best ways, he might well die some day, having never achieved the apex of his craft, regardless of his innate talent, for lack of others to show him what he doesn’t know. That’s where some of my fear lies. I suppose that’s the point of tech conferences, though, eh?

I tend to wax dramatic. I am fond of my own words. My prose is as purple as a stormy sunset sky. I’ve decided to lean into it, when the subject matter allows it. It’s probably not going to make reading this any easier, or win me an audience, but shit, it’s who I am. So, it goes here.

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