When I started working at GitHub back in 2010, I moved away from a 12 year career in programming. I was going into technical support. I was the second support person at GitHub, and the first outside of the US.
It wasn’t your typical support position. I was helping programmers and other GitHub users with Git related struggles, among other things. Often, I had to assess their workflow and suggest improvements. Other times, suggest completely new workflows. In most cases, their platform or language of choice played a role on the kind of advice I had to give.
You may say the position didn’t appear far away from the realm I used to be in. Yet, I wasn’t a full time programmer any more. Thus, I couldn’t keep up with the technology advancements for the past 10 years. At least not in the same way a full time programmer could.
Even more so because I never spent the 10000 hours on web development specifically. In 2010, I left a 12 year experience of desktop application development using Delphi and Oracle and later moving to C# .NET. I did some Ruby on Rails as a freelancer between that, but that was it. The world had started to move towards web technologies more and more, since I stopped programming as a full time job.
After 4 years of technical support, I changed career paths and became a people manager. Still at GitHub, still in Support. I was good at it, and that kept me going. Because it’s not easy, believe me. And I would personally not continue down that path if I had received negative feedback. I even reached a director level. Life is an adventure, though. It can be unpredictable. Recently, I had to make a big decision and move from a director role to a principal engineer one. A role where I can write more code, and lead projects targeted on making Support lives’ easier.
As a principal engineer, I can catch up and close the gap. It’s not that I have ever forgotten how thrilled one can be building and fixing things. So, it can be fun.
It can be fun, but it’s hard. I remember my Delphi days. Everything was so easy. I knew every little standard library function. I knew the language by heart. I didn’t even need to open the docs to do something. I had reached that level of expertise building on that platform. Likewise with Oracle and PL/SQL.
I wasn’t sure if this is because I never kept up with the technology and platform shift (Desktop to Web). This must not be because I am old. Right? It must be because I haven’t kept up. Right?
Reading You got this. | Zeldman on Web & Interaction Design helped me get close to an answer.
Before turning this into a rant though, I want to wrap things up.
Going back into being (mostly) a programmer again is not easy. It feels harder than I remember myself doing it 20 years ago. But Jeffrey nailed it in his blog post. One has to keep on trying until they make it.
I still insist there are things I can avoid. In the end, I want to use technology to make a living. Not use technology for the sake of using the latest buzz. I also want to have fun.
Wish me luck.