Apr 292013
 

One of the things people always ask you as a teenager, or in job interviews, or when you’re contemplating doing something new, is: what do you want to do? And the questioner is often disappointed when you don’t have a barn-burning deeply-held specific desire just waiting there. Answers that are more generic (albeit equally important), such as ‘something interesting’, or ‘something useful’ are somehow unsatisfactory, even when coupled with a general idea of the area in which you want to do something useful and interesting.

This morning I read From “sit still” to “scratch your own itch” and it’s full of descriptions of expectations for programmers that resonate with me, such as the expectation that “a REAL programmer or a REAL open source contributor is supposed to be a self-starter who comes up with their own project ideas from the start”. The article has some techniques to stop these expectations from being overpowering or intimidating. The author suggests, for example, that writing Yet Another {Something Simple} is fine, just like sewing an item from a pattern (or in my case, knitting it). You learn from that, and expand your knowledge.

In my case, moving from project management back into more technical work, what helped was working through online tutorials until I was far enough along to be able to start writing my own useful stand-alone projects. Sometimes I’ve surprised myself by how much technical knowledge from 10 or more years ago comes back, like waking the technical brain up again that was dormant for a while. I guess, for me, that was the itch that needed to be scratched.

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