A lot of the advice that comes out today is written by non-geeks and thus is made for non-geeks. Non-geeks seem to love long, drawn out lists. Geeks on the other hand would much prefer someone telling them the one thing that they need to know. Lucky for geeks, Paul Glen and Maria McManus come to the rescue in their book The Geek Leader’s Handbook.
The first section of part two is entitled “Advance Your Career In One Simple Step”. Within this section, the authors start by giving examples of bad advice that you can find around the web and in books for non-geeks. Doing a little bit of Googling, I discovered that they were right. A lot of the websites I found mentioned things like “following your passion” or going and looking for new skills to diversify yourself. They say that neither of these things will really help you in the end. Passion to a geek can be a little weird. A lot of us just like Programming or Technology in general and when it comes down to it, there are so many jobs available to people like that us so many different fields that we don’t really have to worry about what type of job we get. The entire field is what we are passionate in. Learning new skills is a hard one for me. Not because it’s hard for me to learn new skills but because I enjoy doing it so much that sometimes they can distract me from actually honing in on one. This can be a problem because you don’t get a job from knowing a little about a lot of not-really-connected things. You get a job from knowing a lot about one thing.
Our book gives a formula for the probability of a fulfilling career:
Probability (Fulfilling career) = 𝑓 (Number Of Opportunities, Ability to Select Wisely)
Number Of Opportunities = 𝑓 (Luck, Capabilities) + 𝑓 (Capabilities, Quality of Experience, Top of Mind Awareness)
This means that according to them, the probability of a fulfilling career has a lot to do with you but also outside factors. Luck and top of mind awareness is in there. Both of these you can’t really control. You can try but in the end it’s all a draw of the cards. The best advice I can give a person is to just believe in the heart of the cards.
The book on the other hand has more advice that can help you when Luck can’t. Remember that one simple step to advance your career? Well that step was to work on your social skills. Communication and social skills are very helpful in this line of work! Get to know your boss and your other coworkers, make connections, try to be someone that stands out. In tech fields that typically doesn’t happen. Our book says to try to be “the geek that everyone goes to”. They say you should be competent, trustworthy, good to work with, someone people are proud to refer, and someone who would come to find for a good fit for problems they may run into. A few of the best things you can do to help you along the way is things like helping people if you notice them having problems. Or actually doing things you say you will do. Taking responsibility for errors is something that I feel everyone really needs to work on. Even those who are good at it could likely get even better.
In the end, I do think that us geeks have a lot to do before we can get better at things like working with people. It’s a hard thing when that’s not your forte. We can all help each other out though and in the end maybe we will all have that job we’ve been dreaming about.