Tuesday, April 5, 2011


...what to talk about.

So, I feel better about stuff that I did a few days ago.  My emotions right now are like the stock market - or how we hope the stock market is, anyway.  It has its ups and downs, but the general, long-term trend is up.  I am getting better, but I still fall down a lot. 

But I'm doing better. 

So, let's talk about my new job.  That's a topic I haven't explored a lot yet.

In my old job I was, basically, a software engineer.  The software I was writing had an intimate connection with engineering hardware -- so it wasn't a purely software sort of job, like writing windows applications or iPhone apps would be -- but it was still mostly about writing code.  I'm very, very good at writing code.  Not the ins and outs of syntax and little tricks with the compilers or whatever.  That's not me.  But being able to quickly whip up a nice, little script that would do what we wanted right then - that's me.  OK, someone who WAS the expert ins and outs of syntax and who knew all the tricks would have to come around and clean it up to make it run with any sort of efficiency.  But the functionality -- the designing of the algorithms -- that was all me. 

It was a fun job, that I enjoyed a lot, and that I was very, very good at. 

But the economy being what it is, that company started having issues.  They started laying people off.  A lot of people.  But they did it really slowly and, well, wrong.  Instead of saying, "Over the next year we will only have work for X people, so we have to lay Y off," they would say, "What is the MOST people we can support at all this month, giving us the LEAST number we have to lay off right now." 

OK, so they were trying to be nice and lay off as few as possible, but it meant that the next month they had to come around again and do another round of lay offs.  And another one the next month.  And so on and so forth for, like, a year.  Over that time we lost half our staff.

Really scary, and all the worst because there was never one big cut and then it was over.  It just kept going on.  We all got REALLY tired of looking over our shoulder.

So, I decided to be pro-active and start looking around for something else on my own.  Well, I had talked about it.  But then, before I had even gotten around to sending out one resume or applying to one posting, out of the blue a former colleage called me.  He had seen which way the wind was blowing a LONG time before that, and had left then.  The place he was now working at is a kind of quasi-government sort of place (we always say it feels like the center between private industry, government, and academia).  The project he was working on needed someone with a particular skill set and asked him if he knew anyone with it, and he thought of me and gave them my name. 

I applied and got the job.  Yay me.  Nice, big increase in pay, too.

But the job, I quickly learned, was not software engineering.  It is systems engineering.  Highly related, yet very, very different.  What my manager wanted was someone who knew the software world I came from - the ins and outs, what it takes to do it, and how to apply it to these sorts of applications - and to then relate all that to the rest of the project.

So, I don't get to write code anymore.  At all.  (I've even been forbidden by my manager from even loading the programs necessary to write any of it on my computer.)  Instead, I write requirements.  I write systems engineering plans.  I plan configuration management schemes and release schedules.  I help formulate test plans and requirements verification matrices. 

Good work.  Easy work - a lot easier than what I was doing before.  A lot higher level, a lot more management-oriented.  A lot more being the guy in charge.  But, wow, do I ever miss writing code!

Don't get me wrong, I love my new job.  I've described my job to people as mainly consisting of going to meetings and then acting like I know what I'm talking about.  How easy is that?  I write power point charts a lot.  It's easy.  Kind of boring.  But easy.

The issue is that it is just SO different from what I did before.  I know what skills I had then, and I had a LOT of confidence in them.  This job...not so much.  Half the time I'm expecting my manager to come in and say I just wasn't really who they were looking for and so I have to go.  Which isn't going to actually happen - whenever I DO talk to my manager she raves about how everyone thinks I'm so great.  But, still, it's been a hard adaptation. 

Especially since in my former job, someone else would figure out what needed to be done and then tell me and I would do it.  Alone and by myself.  Now, I'm having to figure out what to do, but then I have to delegate it all to someone else.  And that's hard.  Now, I have the responsibility of telling them to do the RIGHT thing, and if it's not, then I screwed up - yet I don't have control of the actual process, so I can't fix it if it is wrong. 

Plus it is, as a job, a lot more people-oriented.  And I speak code a lot better than I speak people. 

But I seem to be doing well, by the standards and opinions of the group/company.  So, I don't think I have anything to worry about.  Just another weird change.

1 comment:

  1. You remind me of when I left my first company, altho I ended up hanging around until they asked me to leave.

    I actually tried a couple times to get interviews with the company I work for now, as I saw the company slowly imploding. I found out after I finally got laid off, that the car companies had a kind of 'gentleman's agreement' with the supplier companies that they wouldn't hire the suppliers' engineers away from them. But then, once I was laid off, I was fair game. . .

    I imagine that, as you get more acclimated to the new job, you'll get better at 'speaking people'. And that's almost certainly a good thing. . .