Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Planning is for wimps

Today I participated in an internal career event where I served on a panel explaining how I got to "where I am." I was somewhat stunned to even be asked to be on such a panel. I can't say I have a career plan, and I certainly have not taken anywhere near the standard path to architect. My style is certainly winging it - maybe they wanted to show that there are many paths for many different people.... Chemistry major -> Chemistry grad school -> tech writer -> software engineer -> software architect.

I learned relatively early on that I have to follow my heart. If I don't care passionately about what I am doing, I don't invest the energy to do my best work. That may make me a spoiled brat, but it's how my mind works and I just have learned to stop trying to second guess my instincts...

I don't feel the need to climb the ladder per se, what I really want is to get better and better at engineering, and to learn more and more. And I like to have a say in the product that I am building :-) Whatever falls out from that is fine with me. The point for me is to stay happy, to always grow and learn, and to build something I really care about. That is all I need.

So my career decisions have been primarily focused on what I found interesting. My definition of my career success is that I have managed to work on many projects that I really believe in and care deeply about. ViP, Domino Designer, Workplace Designer... I still like what I'm doing now, so I'm not even thinking about "next." The experts may say I should be thinking five years down the line, but I like surprises. Maybe I will be on Workplace Designer v17 by then, maybe there will be something new. But I will make all the career decisions from now til then with my heart.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blueberry will ride again!

She's fixable, no frame damage. Expensive enough to be painful, but still less than you can get a replacement used Camry wagon for (they stopped making them in 96, and their resale reflects their rarity). Not that Blueberry could ever be replaced.

So we said go to the body shop.

She will be an island car when she's done. Driving maybe 5K miles a year, she should last a good long time. Though my son has already been trying to stake his claim. I will probably have to find the heart to let him drive Blueberry again, but it's going to be really difficult.

But I will be the first to drive her again!

Monday, March 13, 2006


As my working life progresses, I'm finding an increasing tension between architecting and coding. My problem is that I love both. My managers would be perfectly happy if I spent my entire day architecting. But I would be miserable without that real connection to code.

Code grounds me and connects me to the project in a way that architecting does not. And I tend to do my best architecting *while* I'm coding. Coding puts me in an almost meditative state of mind where I can do my best work. I think this breaks traditional rules of design first, code second, but coding puts me in the moment and lets me see the issues all in context.

And I love the creative control of architecture. I moved to coding from technical writing partially because I wanted to have a say in *what* got built before it was too late. I want to figure out what features belong, what features fit, how we can best solve customer needs, etc. I want to design. I don't want to code someone else's design, I want to code my own!

I would posit that you really can't architect without also coding. If I had only been an architect on Workplace Designer rather than coder and architect, I would not have had the skills to know what could be done - I needed to retrain in Eclipse and Java, to get that connection to what's real.

So I am going to have to be a rebel and be a coding architect.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

long may she run

Blueberry, as she is affectionately known, is my 1994 Camry wagon. I am unreasonably attached to her. Last summer, our son was in an accident that smashed in her hood and broke the radiator, the grill, and the left quarterpanel is pushed backwards. Major damage, except that he hit something tall, so it is all damage high enough to be away from frame stuff (we believe).

The debate has raged all fall and winter about whether or not to repair a car with 173000 miles on it. Today, her winter of waiting is over - she was towed to a body shop. Stasis has ended. I hope they tell us tomorrow that the cost to repair her is within reason. Though reason may not be the right word in this case.

Early this week the decision will be made. I am certainly leaning towards repairing her. But if nothing else, motion feels good. Wondering back and forth is tiring - spring is in the air, and it's time for life to begin again.