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I’d like to share a personal note on thinking about a long term career.
When I started as a Software Engineer in the good old days, I was allured by the thing that I wanted to work on. It was the “what” that mattered. I’d chosen an organization where software was the core business and not just a supporting function. The rationale was a deep desire to learn the craft.
Journey to be a craftsman unfolded somewhat unawares for me. I landed amongst some awesome colleagues working on interesting challenges. We had fun learning a thing or two about the craft. Today I am just another mediocre craftsman at best and still learning everyday. However, the companionship of skilled people rubbed off a bit. It was no longer the what that mattered. “How” we do things became more important. I started caring about the means more than the end.
A decade or so into the journey led to another fork. So far I’d been imagining myself to be a good mason. Give me a layout, and I’d do my best to get something created. Like a professional I’d build an educational institution or a gambling parlour with equal passion. One fine day I couldn’t keep up the passion. I treated educational institutions to be a nobler pursuit and one worth spending hours on. It was probably triggered by the old age or the realization that there are a finite number of breaths left in me, I’d rather spend them wisely. But “what” and “how” had been replaced with a love for “why”. I started caring about the intention, cause and vision.
The challenge with this is two fold. First, the opportunities are now limited based on some compass (principles, values, world view etc.) that determines the why. I consciously choose a path and see it through. Second, the moment I realize a path is not right, and the why was incorrectly modeled, I start to course correct. In a smaller time window this appears aberrant. More on this in a later post.
There have been times after this realization where I took a detour. It was often an external desire - to learn, earn, or simply try to be happy. Rather interestingly the “why” followed like a shadow and haunted after the glamour of tactical rationale worn out.
It is not possible to generalize or call these stages a pattern. However my takeaway from the introspection is simple. If the “why” is aligned, I figure out a “how” to reach the “what”. I defend the cause against the odds and it drives me to show up everyday. I will continue to ask why.