In my mid-twenties, I had an existential crisis. “I’m just a database person! I’m not saving the world! I’m a corporate drone!” Luckily, when I told my CEO, Tom Usilton (still one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever worked for) that I wanted to give up my life of air-conditioned cubicles and go do something useful, he pointed a few things out to me. I want to share what he taught me, and add a few ideas of my own. See, I’m ,um, older and wiser now, and recent events in my career have reminded me why I decided to stick with this database thing in the first place.
1) I might not be feeding starving children in third world countries, but maybe I’m creating technology that makes life a little easier for a call center rep or accountant who has a stressful job. If he has a good, productive day because of what I’ve helped build, that’s success. If he doesn’t commit road rage on the way home from work because my solution sucked, even better.
2) IT is a high-paying field. There’s something to be said for being able to sign my kids up for lacrosse and piano lessons and take a memorable vacation with them. Maybe they’ll be the ones saving the world because I was able to give them a life full of adventure and cool experiences.
3) Find joy in the everyday things. There is nothing more satisfying that putting on my headphones, firing up Pandora (fav station: http://www.pandora.com/?sc=sh237031217773224416), and solving some really beguiling problem. It is amazing how much the phrases, “Query executed successfully”, and “Command(s) completed successfully” just make my day rock. And green boxes! I’m learning the joy of green boxes.
4) I like the people I work with. Really, truly. Most of my friends are fellow IT geeks, and I love that I get to work with people I truly enjoy spending time with. Let’s face it; I spend more time with them than I do my family. I’d better like them.
5) There is something to be said for having a career where you’re expected to learn new things. I can’t even imagine having a job where I already knew everything I needed to know to be successful. Where’s the fun in that?
6) Teaching is not always about sitting in front of a class and lecturing. A career where I can learn and teach, usually at the same time? Sign me up!
Every once in a while, I have to take a step back and ask myself if I’m still doing what I love. It is so easy to let inertia get the best of you. It is easy to stop questioning your existence. I still have my “save the world” days, but I’ve realized that I have an opportunity in this “database thing” to do my tiny little part to make people’s lives better. If I’m not, well then, I’ve cheated myself. If I’m not getting occasional moments of pure joy from a problem solved, then I’ve missed the boat. If I don’t love the people I spend my day with, then what am I doing there?
Not every day is easy, and not every day is fun. Sometimes this line of work is stressful and exhausting and infuriating. But on balance, I love it. I’m lucky to have found a way to make a living and still do something that has managed to retain its novelty. Maintaining that? Not easy. But so definitely worth it.
Rock on, my friends. (@Datachix2)