If you work in the IT or it is just your hobby, you must know it. If you know anybody who works or is passionate about IT, you must know it as well. I am talking about THE question: „Why did you choose IT and what do you actually do?“. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? If not, then you might read it as well, because at some point in your life, I assure you, it will hit you, no matter if you are asked or you are actually asking THE question. I was always before the camera being asked and had hard time to answer as there is no easy explanation. Now it is time to switch roles and ask myself: how can I explain a non IT person what I actually do every day? Being a practical person (IT is all about best practices and examples), I rather not hold a speech but prefer something easier to digest.
I always wanted to become a ballerina, it was my childhood dream! Coming home from school, eager to meet my grandmother, as she was waiting for me, with cookies, I could tell her: „Grandma! I want to be a ballerina! I want to wear tutu, spread my wings graciously like a swan and dance into the sunset.“ If I could travel back in time and meet my grandmother again, if I could sit on her lap and stuff myself with her famous cookies… sorry, just got distracted a little bit :)… knowing what I know today, what would I tell her?
What do the kids nowadays say? „Grandma, I wanna be a programmer! I would love to sit day and night in front of the computer and stare at the monitor for hours, read and write in a cryptic language…“. Hmm, that does not sound attractive at all!
Let’s try some other approaches, feel free to choose your favorite.
Grandma: „My dear, what would you like to be when you grow up?“
Me: „Grandma, I want to help people have a better and easier life. Computers were invented to help people by executing and finishing work much faster and do less mistakes. They could even finish tasks some people are not able to do. Those machines should also take over repeating tasks which could save our precious time, so we can focus on something better (cookies, for example). I want to teach those computers to do all these wonderful things“. Oh, my grandmother would have loved it! Being a smart child, I could have said: „Grandma, achieving this, you would not have to cook and clean yourself, you could spend your time with me in stead.“, or even better „The clever machines could do my homework so I could spend more time playing!“, but let’s not upset Grandma.
I know, this is a rather naiv way to see things, but sometimes it helps to go back to the roots and think simple. I certainly would not want to scare my beloved Grandma trying to explain the concept of object oriented programming, talking about design patterns, architectures, firewalls, endless loops, multithreading and rendezvous messaging.
Grandma: „Tell me little child, what would you like to become in 20 years from now?“
Me: „Grandma, you are my favorite grandma, today I am your grandchild, tomorrow I am just a kid playing with her friends, later I am a nice girl who always listens to her mother. We all play different roles in our lives. IT is not different, we wear different hats every day, every hour, in every situation (it is the so called multirole). There is no strict border between programmers, developers, designers, architects or project leaders, you need to be flexible. Through my IT career I had the opportunity to be a firefighter, an artist, a pastor of souls, a protective mother, a diva, life rescuer, a nurse, a politician, joggler and let’s not forget about being a soldier, a fighter. I want to be all of them when I grow up!“
You might know the panic situations, when you feel like the whole world is burning and you need to stop it. I have had the chance to be in escalation meetings and task forces with the goal to solve highly urgent problems like system outages or applications with unexpected behavior. Just when I thought that the fire was deleted, it started in another place. It is the same feeling as trying to stop a leakage in the boat, fill a gap, hoping that it holds for a while. What you don’t see (or do not want to see), is that beneath the „bandage“ the hole and damage is getting bigger and at some point you cannot go back, the process becomes irreversible. In those situations, you feel that you only have two options to choose from: you either stay in the sinking boat and keep on patching it or you jump out and swim hoping that you reach some better places. This might sound crazy at this point but I assure you, I will do my best to explain through my next postings.
Grandma: „My sweet girl, what do you want to become, when you will be the same age as your mother is today. Have you ever thought about that?“
Me: „Of course I have, Grandmother, I know what I want to become: I want to be rich when I grow up! I would like to have plenty of pocket money to buy all the toys I wish for. I think if I learn how to program I could achieve that. Everybody needs good programmers and their work is highly appreciated“.
No comment on this one.
Grandma: „You know, you will not always be a child. Someday you will have to choose your own path…“
Me: „Yes, I know, and I can hardly wait to grow up and become an artist. I want to create something amazing, something what seems today impossible! I want to explore the universe and reach the stars. I would like to learn the computer do things that humans can only dream about. People will admire me and call me a magician because most of them will not understand how I make IT work. I know it will be a long and curvy road, but I will love it for sure. Programming computers is like teaching small puppies how to behave according to your own ideas and instructions. Computers could be my playmates, they never get tired or bored, no matter how many times I start the game from the scratch. They also do not argue and do not complain. What a luxury!“
Of course, this might sound a little bit exaggerated, but believe me, I met many people who actually think like that. IT could become quickly an obsession, it could even isolate one from the world outside the box without even noticing it. In the same time, it does really feel like magic. You build systems and feed them with code. They grow up and become stronger and smarter, exceeding your expectations. Just make sure you never stop polishing and improving them.
Full Stop! It is getting late and we are out of cookies. I am sure you will also find your own version of the story, if not, you better have one of these ready.