NS News & Views

By Clive Norman
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Good enough? Don’t answer that!

| Tags: Blog Website Rambling

One of my favourite blog posts is “I’m a phony. Are you?” by Scott Hanselman.  I was on holiday in France when I read this post, and it gave me a wonderful sense of relief - I highly encourage you to read it.

Monsieur Hanselman has in many ways, been like an unofficial virtual mentor for myself; I regularly listen to the Hanselminutes podcast, and again, highly recommend it.

The fact is, that despite having been “fiddling” with computer programming since I was 12 years old (starting on a Sharp MZ-80K - which my father still owns!) - I never really fitted the conventional stereotype of a maths driven computer geek - in the late 80’s and 90’s this didn’t really encourage “one” to embrace IT with real confidence!

In truth, I fit the classic “Jack of all trades” rather than a “Master of one”.

I have a serious thirst for knowledge - true, not necessarily an ability to master it, but definitely to acquire it.  Over time, I have realised that this benefits me on several levels; whether I am just being the “family Google” (for school homework assistance), or engaging in conversation with someone, be it about Equal Temperament, Thomas Hardy, Einstein, The Jam, Spiritual Meditation, the Battle of Hastings or the Offside Rule (ok…maybe not the offside rule - that’s pushing it), but you get the idea, a variety of knowledge comes with benefits.

The “Jack of all” also applies to my musical abilities; whilst I can play the piano, guitar, bass, vocals and enjoy song-writing to a reasonable level, I am definitely no Mozart or Dylan.

However, a side benefit of being “Jack” is that it has enabled me to experience a vast array of different musical experiences, ranging from performances at the world famous Marquee Club through to working as a semi-professional touring musician, knocking up several hundred gigs over the past 25 years.

Living the dream man! - well sort of….

At this point - the obligatory home music video!

Ok – you didn’t feel like a computer genius, your point being?

My point, is that because I never felt I was a “real” computer genius, I initially shied away from taking any huge jump of confidence into the IT industry, for fear of ritual humiliation.  To be fair, I made further headway into the music industry, before eventually realising that I needed to eat – financial success in music is hard!

With hindsight, I realised that by gaining experience working in several “other” industries (legal, retail etc), enjoying the opposite side of the IT fence for a few years - in short, being a “real” end user - provided me with a surprising empathy and ability to assist customers, especially in my early days of IT support; I understood where they were coming from - something that I do occasionally see lacking in a lot of technicians, who have never worked outside of IT.

The times, they are a-changin!

With the benefit of age (oh yes, there are some, trust me!), being a father, having an amazingly inspiring and encouraging wife, combined with a sheer “what the heck” attitude, I now embrace the knowledge and experience that I know I have.  I feel confident to help others, develop products and to engage in technical debate (on differing levels), where required; but crucially, I am also very happy to acknowledge when I don’t know something - that’s a lot harder and indeed rarer, than you think!

So, to summarise; I eventually re-joined the IT world many moons ago, when it was still to some extent, a rather arrogant industry (pre dot com bubble) - where a technical employee with very little true knowledge and experience, could secure a lucrative position, just by knowing a little more than the person who employed them.  A time where “arrogance” and “hostility” were almost required credentials!

Luckily, an industry that I love, is becoming much more responsible, respectable, accepting and less patronising.  It does have a long way to go (I still meet those “con-men” who love to try and “blind with science” -  and it’s always nice to challenge them). It also needs to embrace and encourage both genders equally (there are still far too few women working in IT) - but it has made serious progress IMHO.

So, to the title of the post - yes, possibly at times, you may indeed not feel good enough, and possibly, at times, you don’t want to hear that - but be under no illusion - this is a great industry that encourages more than ever, your input, your opinion and your knowledge, as well as continuing to offer you, it’s output, opinion and knowledge (it never stops turning, and you never stop learning – whatever your age).

Simply put - I would probably not be working in, and enjoying the industry I love, if it were the same “beast” that it was in the 80’s and 90’s – so bring on 2014!

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