What I Do All Day, 2009 Edition

While my previous employer was very pro-blogging, my current employer seems to unofficially discourage it. Or, put another way, my organization, due to a variety of historical factors, is very sensitive to reputation. It is felt, perhaps to our detriment, that it is important to keep up a unified front.

Fortunately, I have never directly mentioned where I currently work, which I suppose is for the best. And I have never been good about following edicts.

So. Work. This is pretty much the first thing I’ve posted about it of any substance since I started there nearly eleven months ago.

The job I applied for, interviewed for, and was hired for ended up being quite a bit different from the job I found myself doing. When I was reorganized, my duties shifted even more. I came into this job with a conscious desire to put ego aside and learn a system that is completely new to me, at an IT organization that is far vaster than any place I have previously worked. I started in March, 2008. It took until, oh, this month to decide that my approach was not cutting it.

To simplify for the sake of coherence, my primary problem is this: when I got here, I quickly figured out that the scope of my responsibilities was far more narrow than I expected, and that what I was ostensibly in charge of was, at its core, an aged and difficult to maintain system that had no notion of a lot of modern developments in computing. It was expected that I would learn and maintain the system, and work within it, when my first instinct, in fact almost everything within me cried out, “start over! Make something better!”

I told the little voices to go away, and they did, for a time, but I became increasingly unhappy.

I am unhappy when I see inefficiences to be corrected that I cannot correct. I am unhappy when I am forced to do unproductive and rote tasks instead of innovative ones. I am unhappy when the community I support is underserved by the solutions available to them. And I am unhappy with this system.

But I shoved the voices aside, and I tried to make the best of it, and I became more and more unhappy and frustrated and angry. I couldn’t get through to the folks around me just by hinting or asking or making the occasional sarcastic comment. And while I spent a whole lot of time creating, improving, testing, and proving my new system, I was having no luck selling it.

In the last few days, something finally clicked for me. People around me recognize the need for some sort of change, but the specifics are elusive. There is so much work to be done just maintaining old, creaky code, and they are so wrapped up in keeping things running, that they do not have the mental energy to also be proposing radical changes. But I do.

I was hired into a role that no one quite understood, and my lack of a clear position in the institutional heirarchy was mostly a curse. But in some ways, it was also a blessing, for it gave me the time and view to see what should be changed and how to do it.

I have realized that the only way I am going to be happy here is if I push hard for the change I think we need. This approach may be risky, but I have confidence in both the strength of my ideas and the quality of my coworkers. If my plans come to fruition, things will be better around here. If it goes badly, I will leave knowing that I tried my best and that this place and I weren’t a good fit. But the odds are more heavily for the former than the latter, and this is a quest I have put off for far too long.

There. I hope that was obfuscated enough to be safe. Unfortunately, you still have no idea what it is I actually do. That’s okay, very few people do, including many of my colleagues. But I’m finally figuring it out, which is a good start!