A friend of mine created an amazing company called DailyEndeavor, where real people with real jobs explain what their job is… really. Not a “job description” where there’s a high-level buzzwordy list of things that you do, but actually… do you spend 75% of your time pushing papers around? Would a detail-oriented person love or hate this job? Who would make a great candidate? This site is fantastic for people who have just graduated from college and don’t know what actual job they want to pursue, or people who are looking to shift careers mid-stream, or… just anyone who wants to understand a particular job better.
I mention this now because I’ve been having a lot of discussions with my daughter about what she wants to do for her “job” when she “grows up”. She’s 14 now, at that age where she needs to start putting some focus and attention on how she’ll feed herself once she’s no longer a kid. She’s an amazing person, who loves to do many things at a time (marching band, professional Shakespeare, venture scouts, role playing games, art…) and I know there are lots of jobs she’d just love – and many that she would really detest. I, of course, think she would love my job because it is perfect for me in every way and she shares my genetic code, but really… no.
She currently thinks she really wants to be an animator at Pixar. The girl is an amazing artist, don’t get me wrong, but she gets frustrated by the indirectness of computer art – and I’m not sure she’d really enjoy the demanding precision of such an endeavor. She just spent a week on a tall ship with her grandmother and had the best time ever, and now she wants to spend at least a few years doing that sort of thing – which, to me, matches more closely with her personality. But really, I don’t care what she does. I just don’t want her to do a job she hates. I’ve done that, even things I was particular fantastic at (typing title policies at an insurance company) and the entirety of your life is really dragged down when you do a job you dislike.
I’ve had trouble explaining to her exactly how I ended up with the job I have, and why it is so perfect for me. I have a BA in Philosophy. I failed the only computer class I took at UCSC because the terminals gave me migraines. I took a job as a sysadmin at SGI in 1993, which I got because the interviewer liked my attitude even though I had no experience. While doing that job, I discovered that I hated seeing people do things that were unnecessarily hard, or failing to understand information because it was poorly presented. I created a hyperlinked sales system to run on Mosaic in 1994 because I didn’t like the Wingz experience for the Sales Managers. I created tools to do things for users or answer their questions because I didn’t want them to have to do it manually. I have, since the beginning of this experience, loved enabling other people by making things easier or clearer.
My current main loves are the semantic web and data visualization, but that’s just because I want a user to be able to fully understand a data space without expending any work to figure it out. Sharing our platform with other developers, and making them successful in helping our members, is a natural extension of this desire. So I have the perfect job for me. I get to write and debug code, which is fun. I get to help people past stumbling blocks. I get to talk in front of developers and get them excited about our system, which feeds my need for periodic attention waves.
So, how to help my daughter? I’m glad she doesn’t have the mindset I had in high school where you were supposed to breathlessly rush through all 16 years of el-hi-university and then off you go to work without stopping to consider where you were going. I’d love her to take a year or a few after high school to wander around and just be young. She’s studying Japanese, and while I know that at just-about-6-feet she’ll stick out there, I would love her to spend a year in Japan learning about their culture. I envy her this freedom, but can’t wait to see what she does with it.
If you haven’t see DailyEndeavor yet, I suggest you check it out. He could always use more descriptions, and you might be surprised to discover what other people do all day.
Posted in Geek stuff. Sent to my Friends circle. Really, that’s kind of a copout, isn’t it? What kind of circle would make sense for this, I wonder.