So, this is my first blog for SogetiLabs. Last month I joined after 38 years and a career of 14. For me, this seemed like a good moment to look back at the past years and see what got me this far. Today I will share some of these insights into myself, and maybe it will just help you as well. Perhaps you would even like to share some of your own.
So, fourteen years ago I finished my studies in AI, thinking companies would stand in line for this. Truth is they all thought it was very interesting but didn’t have any use case. I ended up at a small company, along with a group of postgraduates. Being such a small company provided some nice benefits, we had to do everything ourselves. These were the years of grinding practical knowledge. Knowledge in networking, operating systems, applications, data centers, storage, hardware, getting to the details of how everything works and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Which brings me to the first lesson: Spend the time getting to really know how things work. Find the challenge in the details, it will prove invaluable. These days it takes me so much less time to get to know a system, since so much comes back down to these basics I learned all those years ago.
At the start, all I knew was I wanted to be the expert, like all those fellow graduates with me. The thing is, to be the expert you need knowledge and experience, and everything you don’t yet have when you get started. Not just one previous project, but experience from different projects and situations. And that’s okay if you don’t sell yourself for what you’re not. Be patient and be curious. What helped me was to set small, attainable goals for one or two years, and evaluate. This pattern helped me build my skills in many different areas’ and switch in time. And I still use this pattern.
My second lesson would be: Dream for the sky, but set small, attainable goals and regularly evaluate them. It got me this far and is something I will continue.
Now that I got to the point where more and more I’m seen as the architect, the specialist that I wanted to be, I enjoy most when I get to share this knowledge with others. The type of roles I fill is more and more in consultancy, advising and architecting new solutions. And next to this it gives me great pleasure to be the teacher in the many skills I gathered over the years. Conveniently, it helps you so much having to explain something to others so they understand. It helps to clarify a topic you thought was clear to you already, and to separate facts from assumptions. Also, your focus shifts from understanding technology to understanding people. You will find out everyone is different, everyone learns differently and everyone has different motivations.
As a third lesson I learned: When possible, be a teacher, it enriches you.
And lastly, what I found out was that if you focus solely on your career you are at risk of one-sided personal development. It can make you feel lonely, so don’t be afraid to reach out. For me, I had a second focus on capoeira, and when I started dancing salsa and bachata I got a much better balance. And coincidentally this also helped me later when personal relationships started to matter more and more.
You never know which skills will ultimately matter, so make sure you enjoy what you do. Good luck to all!