Alex Yates (b | t) is hosting this T-SQL Tuesday (the 119th edition) and has given us a broad and interesting topic to work with this month. Alex has asked us to write about something in our IT career about which we’ve changed our mind. Several topics, both technical and non-technical, ran through my mind but I landed on something that’s quite a bit more personal and open than I’m inclined to be.
My path to a career in IT began as a Computer Information Systems major at Clemson University (go Tigers!). While the CIS program provided me an excellent computer science education, nearly all of the work in the program was individual development projects. This was fine for me because I was, as nearly all 18-year-olds are, sure that I was going to be a rock star developer and that I didn’t need help or assistance from anyone. My early CS grades were a clear indication that I was not nearly as smart as I thought I was, of course!
Nevertheless, as I began my professional career as a general IT person I was working on a lot of solo projects and, despite my GPA, still believing that I was pretty darn smart and didn’t need help from anybody. It wasn’t until I got into application support for a company in Greenville, SC – and was part of a strong team – that I realized what I had been missing.
What I had been missing was two-fold: 1) you learn much more much faster when you’re surrounded by smart people and 2) at some point in your life you will need the support of a team/community for professional and personal challenges that you will face. I was not wired to understand this at first, but with the benefit of hindsight and experience I’ve realized the value of making connections outside of yourself.
I’m wired to be shy. I’m an introvert. I used to stutter (and still do once in a while). For a long time, making connections to other people in social settings ranked just above “playing in traffic” on the list of things I wanted to do. My educational career and early professional career kept me in my individual comfort zone. As I started to progress in my career and was forced to be part of a team, though, I realized how much more information I was gathering when working as part of a group. As my career led me to data platform consulting, I began to realize how important it was to have a group of friends and a network with diverse interests and pursuits within the data community. I’ve learned a tremendous amount connecting with people far smarter than I am and I’d like to think I’ve helped some folks along the way as well.
My journey and my advice above is probably not earth-shattering and probably not unique with the community. What has been earth-shattering and unexpected, at least from my point of view, is the help I’ve received from the community that I never expected to get. As a few of my readers know, I’ve definitely struggled with my mental health over the last couple of years. Left to my own devices, I likely would have crawled into a figurative hole, tried to grind out enough work to not get fired, and done my best to maintain that status quo, such as it is/was.
However, I’ve been fortunate enough to make some friends within the Microsoft data platform community that were there for me to listen, to relate, to empathize, and to encourage. I am 100% not built to accept that kind of help but I am grateful for it and, truthfully, it has been essential. Obviously, like any community, our community has its share of bad apples and I’m not minimizing the negative experiences I know some folks have had. I do want to share, though, the positive experiences that I’ve had breaking out of my comfort zone on a personal level and working to make those connections.
Simply put, I’ve gotten by with a little help from my friends. Involving myself, personally and professionally, in this community represents a complete 180 degree mindset change from younger me but I’m thankful for it. I’d encourage you to also involve yourself in community initiatives and events at a level where you are comfortable and I sincerely hope your experiences are as positive as mine. Click here to link back to Alex’s original post – thanks for reading mine!