I realised that actually I probably made two pretty good career decisions in my life so far. The first one was a hard skill, the second one more of a rapid improvement in people skills.
The Hard Skills
When I was studying, in my first semester we had the task to create a portfolio website, also it had to be available to the public.
I had a blog at that time, on some cheap webspace and I didn’t really like it. Changes took forever to get out of the cache.
So I could either:
- go for a cheap web host and not worry about a thing (except the cache)
- go for a real server and put my Linux skills to a test (I had been using Linux for a couple of years at home back then)
I went for the virtual private server that cost roughly 12 times as much as the webspace and that decision kind of added about half of the skills I have on my CV over time.
Through taking the financially stupid, hard way I could:
- offer other people to host their stuff that only had a domain (even a company I was very involved in)
- learn about DNS entries and how to assign them
- what the hell to do when your server crashes
- crashing the server while running a Minecraft server for study buddies and me
Also having that server taught me a real interest in a lot of the technology, because I really wanted to keep my portfolio running, I wanted my blog to receive hits and I didn’t want to shoot myself in the foot by neglecting that, so I spent quite a fair amount of hours on that server through ssh.
Not being uncomfortable around servers, Linux shells and mission critical stuff has gotten me where I am in my current line of work and it kept me coming up with projects and daring to start them. Even though none of my projects has hit any kind of jackpot yet, I have learned so much from all of it and I would not have coded half of the things without being confident of getting them out to the world to show it to somebody.
Right now that server contract is cancelled, everything moved to another one and more are added for different projects. They all run. It’s a nice thought to me, that they’re there and even withstanding the front page of hacker news 😉
Go for what you love, but also take the hard roads when you can afford it. I tried learning a lot of things and some I still suck at (like drawing or playing any instrument), all the time I invested in nerdy server stuff I value and would never consider wasted.
The People Skills
Another good decision was becoming a teacher after I was done studying, because you can’t fire your students.
When working with your study mates you can walk away from a project or just not work with them again. You can even throw them out of the group if they’re not contributing. On my smaller clients, I could do the same (or they to me). It’s all considerably easy.
When you’re teaching, especially the younger students (15,16) I had in the beginning or the many I had on the Autism Spectrum at my second teacher job, you can’t fire them easily. You have to pick them up where they are and teach them what you know. It’s you job to approachable, accessible and to find a ton of ways to communicate the same thing because not every example or case works for everybody, but you have to teach everybody.
This social responsibility and the practise in communication I got is still helping me. It helps me when I write tutorial posts, it helps me when I interact with people or when passing on knowledge or rules. Try to speak publicly or host free workshops when you have the chance!
At this point I would like to thank the people that gave me a chance to be a teacher, fresh out of studies and to even teach young adults on the autism spectrum with little prior experience. I still see that as a huge leap of faith to this day.
These were my (I suppose) best career choices so far!
What were yours?