Throughout the years I have reinvented myself several times.
I started my technical career as a software engineer. I got paid to program in COBOL, ALGOL, BASIC, Pascal, C, and C++. I learned structured programming and later learned object oriented programming. I worked my way up the engineering ranks, eventually becoming a consulting engineer and a trusted technical lead. I mastered each of these areas, and eventually got bored.
So I reinvented myself as a project manager. I focussed most of my efforts on building high performing teams of high performing individuals. I made our work fun. I made our experiences together rewarding and meaningful. We built amazing products. I made great life long friends.
Eventually I got bored and reinvented myself as a software quality director for a small start up, responsible for product quality and customer experience. I worked closely with the engineering teams and built a group focussed on assuring the customer received a reliable product they could trust. Our product worked, but it was the wrong technology at the wrong time. The internet bubble burst, and our company went along with it.
I reinvented myself as a program manager, responsible for pulling together the work of many engineering teams into a cohesive system, and managing that system through the commercialization process. This role required me to work with nearly all functions within a large corporate, including engineering, manufacturing, quality, legal, export control, service, training, IT, and applications. My job was to coordinate and drive the efforts of all of these departments in delivering major corporate system releases.
One day an opportunity in another part of the business presented itself, and having grown a little bored, I reinvented myself yet again. I became the engineering quality manager, being responsible for regulatory compliance (ISO 9001), engineering product quality metrics and engineering process compliance. I brought a special viewpoint to this role, as I understood both the engineering pragmatic view of the world and the quality black-and-white view. I did this for quite a few years, but eventually I got bored, and asking around quickly found what I considered a dream opportunity.
I love systems, as many engineers do. I also love being creative, putting things together in new ways. Early in my career I put the two of these loves together and became a “process guy”. I love learning about and experimenting with personal, business and engineering process.
So when the opportunity was offered, I reinvented myself as a software engineering process architect. My role was to help our global engineering force evolve into a high performance, high productivity, high quality value creating organization. We introduced a new product development methodology that could be customized to the needs of different types of projects. We deployed leading edge engineering tools and techniques to improve the throughput and quality of our work. It was a very exciting and rewarding job.
I never lost sight of the fact that the true value in the engineering organization is created by the engineers who do the work. The corporation had poor financial results, and manpower had to be cut. If I were in the shoes of the decision makers I would have made the same decision. Process engineering is not as important as the engineers that produce real value for the customer.
I had been with this company long enough that I got a nice severance package. This gave me time to think and to ask myself the question “what do I want to reinvent myself as this time?” I decided to start with a skills and interests inventory. I’ll discuss this in my next post.