Languages and Books

Kimball Larsen kimball at kimballlarsen.com
Fri Jul 22 13:41:16 MDT 2005


On Jul 22, 2005, at 12:16 PM, Mister E wrote:
>
> However, Josh does have some good advice if you want to climb the  
> corporate IT ladder.

Let me pop in here real quick to relate something - I found that I  
was not one who wanted to climb any corporate anything.

I graduated from BYU with a BS in CS a few years back, and  
immediately found a job at a huge (>50K employees) corporation.  My  
official title at the time of hiring was "Senior Systems Analyst",  
and I found that I was superior in many ways to many of the other IT  
staff with whom I worked, as most of them had taken (or were still  
taking) the "I'll work on a degree at night for the next few years  
and eventually get it" track.  Most of them were Visual Basic  
programmers, and struggled severely with the changing environment  
moving to webservices and a java-centric approach to solving problems  
(this was the trend at this particular corporation, not necessarily  
everywhere).

Anyone here ever heard of the Peter Principle?  In short, it states  
that w/in any corporation, an employee will be promoted to the  
highest level of his/her incompetence.  What does this mean?  Well,  
I'll illustrate by relating what happened to me.

Since I was able to keep up with the changing face and needs of the  
organization, and in fact suggest direction for the technology used,  
and wind up implementing many major pieces of tools that are still in  
use, I was viewed by the PHBs (Pointy Haired Bosses) as someone who  
needed a promotion.  I was doing a great job as a programmer, and I  
was happy doing it, as that is why I busted my hiney in school to get  
the degree.  So, the promotion came, and within a few months of  
starting there, I found myself as a team lead directing the daily  
work of 3 other programmers, as well as handling my own work.  This  
was ok with me, as I felt all important that I had gotten a  
promotion, but I quickly noticed that instead of spending the  
majority of my time designing software, I was spending an increasing  
amount of my time on planes or the phone. :-(  Programmer Morale --.   
Then, the organization shook up a bit more, and I got promoted again  
to an "Information Systems and Technology Manager".  I had become a  
PHB myself, and had all but stopped engineering completely.  During a  
typical 8 hour day, I would spend 6+ hours on the phone talking to  
other PHBs who were not qualified to be in the positions where they  
were, as they had been promoted out of where they were really  
effective as I had been as well.  Programmer Morale --.

When the suck-o-meter got pegged at 10, I decided it was time to move  
on.  I had only been with this corporation for about 20 months or so,  
and I had intended to stay with my first "real job" for at least a  
few years so as to bulk up my resume, but I couldn't handle it  
anymore.  I dreaded waking up in the morning, as it meant I had to go  
to work.

So, I brushed up my resume, put out a few feelers, and w/in 3 days  
had offers for interviews.  W/in 3 weeks I was hired and working at  
my current job, which I love. My current company consists of 6  
employees, and as the lead engineer, I am able to make or break the  
company success with the technology solutions I employ.  I get to set  
my own schedule, make all IT related decisions, and have a whole lot  
of fun.

Now, why do I relate all this?

W/out my degree, I would not have had the freedom to just drop my old  
job and get a new one so quickly.  Many of the aforementioned IT  
staff at my old job wanted desperately to leave, but could not  
because they a) had no degree and b) had little or no other  
experience and c) could only solve problems with Visual Basic.

So, broaden your horizons, but do so not by focusing on a particular  
language, but rather on the basic paradigms that have and will always  
exist w/in software engineering.  The best way to find and learn  
these paradigms (as has been mentioned in previous posts) is to suck  
it up and go to a good school to get a CS degree.

There.  I said my piece.

-- Kimball 



> I've heard of Josh prior to moving to Utah Valley and I know he's  
> seen some of what I've seen, so I don't totally dismiss his  
> evaluations.  But I do think each individual should look at their  
> path and where they want to go in order to make that educational  
> path decision.  Basically, hit a higher end school fer technology  
> if you wish to persue mostly the corporate scene.  Otherwise, if  
> you wish to remain independent, then either path is fine, BUT never  
> drop the self education (whether reading a book or taking a class  
> here and there) despite your formal education choice.
>
> hope that helps a bit,
>
> Mister Ed




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