From Tin Foil Hat to Friday The 13th

Y’know, I talk about work on Twitter/Facebook/whatever quite a bit. I mean, mostly it’s complaining about the users doing dumb things. But altogether, I really DO enjoy what I do. However, I decided to make a change. And after teasing you people for days about it, I’ve finally gotten around to putting together exactly WHAT it’s all about. I’ve been an IT pro for almost 13 years professionally, and over 20 years as a hobby. I REALLY love to do it. But the place where I am has kind of gotten me into a rut. For nearly 5 years, I’ve been working for a mid-size construction company here in Florida. The company itself isn’t bad. It’s been a great place to grow. Since I’ve been there, I’ve completed one Associate degree and I’m nearly done with another, I finally got certified (5 times, actually, not counting changes in cert programs that grandfathered me into new certs), and I’ve really advanced my IT career to a fairly satisfying level. Plus, being one of the best IT pros I’ve ever seen (hey, I get to toot my own horn once in a while) is pretty damn cool, I think. I’m farther along in my career as an IT pro as I ever have been, and I’ve done a pretty good job.

What’s the problem? For me, a pretty major one. I’ve been sitting in an office in the back of the building – BY MYSELF – for those 5 years. For most tech-immersed people, that wouldn’t be so bad. A lot of them I know prefer to have a nice, quiet place where they can work alone and uninterrupted. However, I’m not one of those people. Because of my mother’s contribution to my genetic code, I was compiled to LIKE people, and LIKE interacting with them. It’s weird, especially for an IT pro, but that’s just the way I am. So after developing a pretty bad case of cabin fever for a while, I decided it was time to move on.

So now it’s time to throw that all away.

OK, fine, I’m not throwing it all away. I mean, I’d be pretty fucking insane to just stop some I’ve loved doing my entire life just to go in a different direction. After all, I’ve been investing time, money, and energy into this career field since I was a kid, so there’s really no way I’m gonna flush it all down the shitter, never to be used again. So I decided to stay in technology in some fashion. And I found a way to do that but go along a similar, while still “philosophically” different, path. I’m going to be a developer.

“Wait a second. Isn’t going from IT pro to developer basically a 180? Aren’t they polar opposites as far as tech is concerned?” In a lot of ways, they kinda seem that way, yeah. The way I’ve always been told, IT pro vs. developer is kind of a “left brain/right brain” kind of thing: IT pros typically see the big picture without understanding the little tiny pieces that make it all work, and developers put all the tiny pieces together, but typically don’t see the big picture implications. Well, I do both. And frankly, I do them both pretty damn well.

I’ve been coding as a hobby since I was a kid. 4, actually. I got my first computer, a Commodore 128, at that time, and it came with two things: the User’s Manual, and the Programmer’s Reference. So I started learning PET (Commodore) BASIC. Which, reflecting back on it, was actually excellent foreshadowing, since PET BASIC was licensed FROM Microsoft originally. So yeah, technically, I’ve been entrenched in MS tech since I was 4 years old. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it? Didn’t think so. Anyway, that’s how I learned to code – by fiddling.

When I was 7, I got my first legit PC – a Packard Bell 450CD. This bad boy was AWESOME – it was running Windows 3.11 for Workgroups on an Intel 486 SX/2 CPU running at 50MHz with 4MB of RAM and a 405MB HDD. Yeah. It was BAD ASS. And I was 7, coming off of a Commodore that only had a BASIC interpreter on-board, with no internal storage. C’mon, that would have made ANY kid happy. So I started messing around with it. And DOS quickly became my friend. More specifically, the QBASIC interpreter. See, MS had written this new language called QuickBasic. QB took BASIC and added a LOT of cool shit to it (like subs/functions). In fact, Visual Basic is the successor to QB, so if there are some long-standing characteristics of VB you really like (or hate, whatever), you probably have QuickBasic to thank. Anyway, I started screwing with QB, and at one point, I was able to poke the internal PC speaker and have it emit specific tones. And at that point, I had a revelation.

“This is what I wanna be when I grow up.”

Not many kids at 7 wanna be devs. Especially kids in the early 90’s. I mean, let’s face it: kids at that age typically wanna be something exciting or fun, not some tech nerd. But I’m a rebel, god damnit, and I knew what I wanted. But when it came time for to actually CHOOSE my career, I just kinda fell into the IT side of things. I mean, I was always the one that helped people with their computer issues, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to hang out with tech-related staff when I had any free time at school. In fact, that’s exactly what led to me getting my first IT job.

On the day of my 16th birthday, I became an intern in my high school’s IT department. I got to spend a good 23 months of my life doing what I love, working with my best friend in the world, and learning the ropes from some of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. Eventually, my dad made me quit. Sure it broke my heart, but after nearly two years, they were still paying me $6/hour. Yeah, fuck that. So I continued my journey. I started going to school, then stopped, then started and stopped again, all while I worked an odd assortment of jobs (all related to tech in some way, however weird it was). Then one day, I decided to move to Florida. I needed a change. My hometown was wearing on me, and I was ready to find a new city with more/better opportunities. So over 5 years later, here I am.

I was always afraid to take a job as a dev, because I KNEW the IT pro side of things, and I enjoyed doing it for work, so I didn’t want to shake things up that much. In fact, my biggest fear is that I’d end up hating coding if I did it for work. I wasn’t terribly concerned about that happening with the IT stuff, because it was already second nature to me. But I didn’t want to “code to eat” and end up hating my favorite hobby. So I decided not to do it for full-time permanent work. But after over 12 years, I’m pretty burnt out on the sysadmin deal. That’s when I finally decided to take the plunge and find a new career as a developer.

Now, for the juicy details. I’ll be working as an entry-level developer for LabTech Software (my proper title is Software Engineer I). They actually write software FOR IT pros. So for me, it’s a huge win. Plus, they’re a really laid back company with a lot of perks and plenty of room for growth. My first sign? I was interviewed by a guy they call Goat. My second sign? I got to tell them that I’d “milk drink every single one of [those] fuckers under the table”. And they decided to hire me ANYWAY. Hell, maybe that’s WHY, who knows. But I’m getting a pretty good pay bump, a shitload of perks, and a whole team of coworkers to talk shop with.

Sure, any big transition like this is scary. Especially when I’m the ONE guy everyone currently depends on. But my current boss has been behind me 100%. She actually told me I’d be crazy NOT to take this opportunity. I talked to her when I first started looking for a new gig, and she told me that she was glad I was trying to find something that would make me happy. Yeah, I’m definitely gonna miss working for her. She’s been pretty god damned amazing. In fact, that brings me back to the title of this post.

After this, I SWEAR I’m done rambling.

When I first started working for my current employer, they held their last Winter Workshop: an all-hands meeting to talk about the state of affairs of the company and to discuss the upcoming year. Well, not long before the workshop, I went to dinner at bd’s Mongolian Grill (It’s delicious. Find one. Eat there.). One of their specialties? Tin foil hats. So I got one during that visit, and took it with me to that workshop. And walked in that Saturday morning wearing the hat. My boss’s immediate reaction was to run outside, call the IT contractor that works out of the main office, and say, “You will NOT believe what he just did.” That kinda set a precedent for the rest of my time there. So now that my time is up, it just happened that the two weeks after I gave my notice ended on Friday the 13th. That? That’s pretty damn fitting, I think. It gives a nice little comical end to this chapter of my career.

So that’s it. I’m done rambling now. Hope you enjoyed, and go bug me if you wanna talk about it more.