Nothing Like a New Challenge

Today a co-worker and I had lunch with someone that offered me anopportunity that I haven't had in quite a while: basically a new job.My day job acquired another company recently and this new group hassome support positions open. The products this division supports is abit different than my current area of expertise. No big deal, I canalways learn new products. What they need is someone who has a generalunderstanding of networking, which I definitely have. A co-worker ofmine also has this expertise and is in the process of transitioninginto this group.

Transitioning within a large company givesyou a lot of the benefits of getting a new job without a lot of thedownsides, namely the loss of seniority and redoing your entier benefitpackage. It's also good for the new group because you are basically aknown quantity and they don't have to go through as much red tape toget you. It's a win-win.

This manager I had lunch with wasparticularly gung-ho. "When can you start?" he asks us. This co-workerof mine will probably transition in a month or so. The project I amcurrently on is winding down, but probably won't wind down until theend of June at the earliest. There is no way I could transition beforethat. I have to get some people in a different office up to speed totransition my work to them--something that already in the pipelineanyway, but it takes time.

I was feeling a bit rushed intomaking a decision about this. I could totally sense the urgency in thismanager. I have to say, he was extremely high energy, clearly knew themarket, and would be a great person to work for. I know that I have alittle bit of time to think about it, so I'm not going to make any rashdecisions. But it looks like a great opportunity that, unlike mycurrent project, appears to have some life to it. And I got scared fora little bit and even a little excited.

I think I nowunderstand what it is that I've been missing for a while: a newchallenge to conquer. A new product. A new situation. New people towork with. New customers. New situations. For too long now I haveexperienced "too much" of the same. The same customers. The sameproblems. I'm just bored. I think it's the reason I lost my desire towork with Check Point FireWall-1 (though, ironically, I installed ittoday for the first time in two years).

I suddenly understandwhy a friend of mine is big into working in small startups and thenleaving after they reach a certain point in their evolution. Iunderstand why people change job every few years. I understand whypeople are serial entrepreneurs. The thought of a new challenge mustenergize them.

I remember some of my "new challenges" and how itgave me some extra energy. I remember when I first started at my dayjob in 1999. I knew I had a bit to learn, but I was also good at what Idid and I had something to prove--that I could be effective workingseveral hundred miles away. I remember in 2003 when I was given anopportunity to try something new with Knowledge Management. I didn'tknow how over my head I was going to get when I started, but I embracedit and took it on as a new challenge. I ultimately ended up backsupporting products again a little over a year later, which itself wasa new challenge due to the fact it was a different product. Each one ofthose changes was an infusion of energy.

I think I understandwhy I like new gadgets: they too can be a new challenge. Unfortunatelytheir challenge is short-lived since they tend not to be too hard tofigure out and decide if I want to integrate it into my daily life ornot.

Bottom line: my day job needs a new challenge. Fortunately, I see it on the horizon.

The Ever-Evolving Job

As many of you know, my day job is with a large, multinationalcompany. I didn't know how things would progress whe I started in early1999, but it has been quite an adventure that has stretched mycapabilities and even my endurance. Having a family to support(hopefully) increases your constitution for dealing with job adversity.At least you have some reason for enduring it all.

Meanwhile,some changes are afoot for my job. It's fairly clear what I will bedoing for the next few months. It is unclear what the future beyondthat holds. It is quite likely I will be repurposed as I have been inthe past. Some possibilities have been thrown out, but I clearly needto flesh those out in detail. That is something I hope to accomplishthis week in the office.

Meanwhile, some projects I am involvedwith at Voxilla are coming along quite nicely. I am looking forward tothose projects seeing the light of day. Can't say much about them, ofcourse, but it is nice to see the progression.

Walk The Line

I finally got a chance to watch the movie about the life of Johnny Cash. I personally liked the movie. Maybe I enjoy seeing a bit of the "reality" of a famous person, which isn't always pretty. I also didn't mind the music either, which this movie had a lot of. I don't usually listen to Johnny Cash-style music, but I enjoy many of Johnny Cash's songs.

My wife, on the other hand, doesn't understand why this movie is popular. The thought it was too long and a bit strange, but at least the strangeness was based on a person's actual life rather than something completely made up. But then again, most of the "popular" movies we've watched together she didn't get either.

The Electric Company

Up until a few years ago, there was this huge hole in my memory. There was this Nike commercial on that played a very familiar sounding song. It has two heads saying B, OING, BOING over and over. I knew that looked very familiar, but damn it I couldn't remember what show even though it was so familiar and I loved it so much. Edit: Here's the commercial on YouTube

Since then,of course, I realized the show was none other than "The Electric Company." It was a show produced by Childrens Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) in the 1970s that ran on PBS stations into the mid 1980s. The show's primary goal was to teach kids who graduated fromSesame Street (another fine show from Sesame Workshop) how to read. The show used a series of comedy sketches, animation, and just plain silliness to get the point across. Of course I didn't know it at the time, but the show had some star power, both current at the time (RitaMoreno, Bill Cosby), and "future" stars (Morgan Freeman), not to mention some state-of-the art animation technology (Scantimate, according to Wikipedia).

What amazes me is that up until the release of Electric Company on DVD, it was impossible to find any legitimate mechanism by which these olds hows could be viewed. There were various sites on the Internet that hosted sound and video clips, there were some butchered episodes run on the Noggin network, and who knows what else.

Personally, I think this would be great for my son, which is getting closer to age 6and is learning to read. I think even if he gets nothing out of it, he will enjoy the show because it was just a fun show to watch, even with the focus on fixing grammar.

Something About Live Music

This evening, I was looking around on my hard drive for things to cleanout. A while ago, I had downloaded video of the four songs Pink Floyd played at the Live 8 concert in London. And when I say Pink Floyd, I mean Pink Floyd with Roger Waters too! Watching that video reminded me of when I went and saw PinkFloyd sans-Roger Waters in 1993, as well as some of the other acts I've seen.

I really like music played live in front of a real audience. A sizable percentage of the credit card debt I accumulated in the 1990s went toward bootlegged recordings of Pink Floyd and a few other bands. While I stopped buying that stuff years ago, I've still got most of the stuff I bought. When I get the chance, I enjoy listening to it. I didn't go to too many concerts back in my free-spending days, most likely because the bands I liked didn't tour then. I did get to see a couple of favorites, though.

I think what I like about live music is that you're never quite sure what you're gonna get, even with songs you know and love. Sometimes it's a nice surprise, sometimes it's not so great.

"And nobody knows what it's really like but everyone says it's great" -- They Might Be Giants

Too Close to Home

A co-worker in my team was handed a layoff notice this past week.Considering the layoffs I have seen there over the years, this is one is as close as it's come home in several years. There were plenty of signs this was going to happen if you add them up, but then again hindsight is always 20-20.

Things have been unsettling at my day job for the past several months. While logically, I understand what is going on. I can accept the "worst case scenario," emotionally it's difficult to accept what is going on and the uncertainty has been driving me nuts. Having a team member laid off made things that much worse.

This past week, however, I have been given some hope. I expressed some of my concerns to my management. They basically told me that I had nothing to worry about and that there would be plenty for me to do. Some of it may even be along the lines of what I am looking to do. My wife's observation: your job is changing to what you want right before your eyes. Will it? Time will tell.

But even if it doesn't and the worst case scenario happens, I will come out ahead.

PhoneBoy the Product Manager?

Having just spent the past two days in a class about the basics ofProduct Management, I know the answer to this question: yes, but not inthe next few years.

Is it what I expected? Somewhat, having spentyears dealing with them. There is more to the job than I knew, ofcourse, but none of it seems like it would be impossible for me to do.Do I have more respect for their job? Most definitely. Is it somethingI want to do? It's something I want to keep in my mind as a possibiltygoing forward.

The main reason I took this class is to learn theformal product lifecycle so I can learn when and where I need to getinvolved as a support person. This will hopefully increase the qualityof the products that are produced. For one thing, we can ensure thatsupport requirements are included in the product specifications fromthe get-go. Hopefully we can also catch "features" or "product designs"that are known to be problematic to support.

I won't be able toapply all this knowledge right away, of course, as I don't see any newproducts in the immediate future. In a few months, maybe. Even so,since I am dealing with Product Managers regularly, some of theknowledge will come in handy. I now know some questions to ask thatnever occured to me before.

A Three Hour Delay

Obviously I am bored at the airport. But at least I'm connected because I'm blogging. :)

It turns out my 8:05pm flight is leaving just after 11pm Central Time. If I am lucky, between the flight to Seattle and the drive home, I will get home at about 3am. I can't say I'll be terribly functional tomorrow, but I've done worse.

On The Way Home

I'm now sitting on the train to O'Hare watching the world go by. I am watching the bars on my cell phone come and go. They definitely go when I descend into the subway, which happens on the Blue Line train. Above ground, I am looking at a chilly but sunny Friday afternoon.

Not sure why the subway in Chicago feels different from the Tube in London. Of course, I haven't written the tube since 2000, which was the last time I was in the UK. I actually enjoy riding the train. It's one thing I like about a big city, being able to utilize a mass transit system that works. It satisfies my environmentalist ideals somewhat. Unfortunately mass transit only works in large cities due to the economics of the situation.

Off To Chicago

Later this week, I am flying to Chicago to take a class on Product Management. Now I've spent the past several years of my support career dealing with Product Management, so I have a vague idea of what they do. I've also thought it might be an interesting way to gain some lateral (and maybe upward) mobility as well a bit later on. I've also been given a vague sort of direction from my management at my day job that it might be a good idea to learn some stuff about ProductLifecycle Management. What better way to learn about that than to learn the life of the person who manages that: a Product Manager.

I will be down in Chicago's Central Business District. If anyone can suggest any decent places to eat or things I should see for the couple of days I am there, I'm all ears.