What I Do All Day

This is silly. I’ve been sitting here for the past ten minutes trying to start an entry about my job, and haven’t really been getting anywhere. Lots of people are asking me about what I do all day, many of those people probably wouldn’t understand the technical details anyway, and frankly I just am not feeling in a zone right now to write about it. I tell people that if you’re ever writing a blog entry that starts with “I know I haven’t updated in a while,” or “I feel like I need to post something,” you might as well just give up. On this blog I write when I feel like it about whatever feels like it needs to be written about. Plenty of interesting and/or important things happen in my life that I just don’t really have much to say about, and so I don’t, or I have something to say and by the time I’ve gotten to a computer the urge has passed. So it goes.

So my job. I like it. In many ways it is similar to what I did in the Student Union, except completely different. When I came into the Union I had almost no training and very little idea what I was getting into. I had to dive deep without a parachute (mixing metaphors, whatever) and trust that I would be able to figure it all out and stay on my feet (a third metaphor! Head…exploding!) It was kinda like that…all mixed up and jumbled, and complicated, with lots of things happening because thats how they used to happen. The trick was figuring out why things were as they were and what was the way it was for good reasons and what was like that just because no one had bothered to try something better. There was a heck of a lot to do. I started making changes. People got really upset with me. Over time, many of the changes stuck, people realized they were the right ones, and couldn’t imagine going back to things the way they were. A few things didn’t work, many things I never was able to get to.

When I got in to office I was given a huge budget and a lot of responsibility with minimal oversight and second-guessing. I figured out the big purchases that needed to be made and I made them, and they were almost always the right ones. I updated our infrastructure, I consolidated our offerings, I documented like crazy, I brought the web site to life. I turned a lot of things around.

I’m not trying to boast. I made many mistakes. I made many people angry. I did my job, and I think I did it really well, and in the process I discovered things about myself that I never knew, and I realized, in a very abstract way, what I wanted to do with my life. I really liked what I was doing, for various reasons, a major one being that I was bringing order to chaos, and I felt good at it. Another major one was that I was doing what was best for my employers — the students who elected me — whether they realized it or not. I was trying to make Brandeis better in various ways, some small, some large. It was exhausting. It was exhilirating. It was a blast.

You can’t expect to find your dream job in your first try, and I really didn’t expect, by the end of the search, to find anything remotely close. That I ended up where I am in a job I enjoy is a gift.

So when I got to Berkman in my job as a tech support guy, I knew that that was not somewhere I planned on staying. Nothing against Berkman or against tech support guys, but I know what sorts of things I’m good at, and I know Windows support isn’t one of them. (And yet somehow I convinced them to hire me!) I was either going to find a way to move up — to do things that interested me, to be able to have an impact — or I was going to find a way to move on to something that fit me better. It looked like the job was going to be flexible enough that I would be able to, with any luck, prove myself a bit, and be given a few more interesting projects. And then on my first day my boss told me that he had just given four weeks notice, and soon I would be on my own. Wow.

So here I am, slightly less than four months into the job, and I never did get a new boss. Instead, while we were looking for one, I was given a budget, and some responsibility, and some more interesting tasks. And I’d like to think I did them reasonably well. The person they ended up finding to fill the senior geek role turned out to have different and complementary competencies that Berkman also needed, and so I’ve stayed in my new role, and I’m growing into it. And I’m buying things. And I’m making changes. And I’m screwing up. And I’m making things better.

And I’m having fun.

So in many ways, this job is a lot like what I was looking for — a lot like what I was doing before. There are, of course, many differences. My employer is no longer a student body that elected me for a year, it is a corporation that can fire me at any time. And my job is more precious, in that it is my primary means of support, and so I’m not going to take the sort of risks that I would on the Union. And the biggest thing I miss is the advocacy.

I miss the strategizing, the planning, the meetings with high-level administrators, the strange chess games of politics. It is amazing, really, that we, as students, could have the kind of impact we did. That we could have real power. We generally weren’t great at wielding it, but that is a completely seperate discussion. We were taken seriously. We were on the same level. We could make change. I could sent incredibly nasty emails to important people and get away with it, if the situation warranted. I had a friend and mentor who taught me and guided me. I actually made a real impact for students, actually got shit done.

You can’t expect to find your dream job in your first try, and I really didn’t expect, by the end of the search, to find anything remotely close. That I ended up where I am in a job I enjoy is a gift. I don’t plan to be here for the rest of my life, but I do plan to be here for at least a few years, and I’m pretty darn happy with how everything has turned out so far. I’m sure in time I’ll end up doing something that lets me combine my skills for strategery and technology and advocacy in a fulfilling way. Until then, you’ll find me typing away in the geek cave on the third floor of Baker House at Harvard Law School.

So there, an entry about my job, sort of. Happy?