Sunday, November 20, 2022

A Ramble (about work)

 I've been having a tough time finding a cohesive line of thought for putting in my blog. I tend to like some structure to what I write, at least a minimal amount of pre-planning. However, that's been tough lately. I think a part of it is the new job. It has me in a state of heightened anxiety as I learn my role. For me, this means results in a distracted level of focus. This is perhaps due to part of my brain waiting in anticipation for the next thing to do. There's also a continual mental inventory going on to make sure I'm not missing something. All the while, I'm not sure doing all the things I need to be successful in the new role or if I made the right choice in making such an abrupt career lane change. Ultimately, making the change was the only way I could find out.

All that said, I am enjoying the vast majority of the new job. I'm getting to explore a new technology space that has me opening textbooks to refresh on my knowledge of quantum mechanics. It's interesting that the review material makes more and more sense the third and fourth times over. New material, on the other hand, has my brain feeling rusty. It's like prying open an old box with rusty hinges where you're only able to fit little bits and pieces through at a time. 

There's part of me that wants to blame my getting older for the rust, but I also need to look at the context in which most work of this type was learned in the first place. It was in a classroom or advisory environment. Someone had gone through the effort of taking the material from a text and boiling and rendering it down into a form that could be consumed by me and my fellow classmates. I had classmates to work on problem sets and worry about exams with. I had professors/teachers with office hours who were usually very willing to help as long as I was willing to show up. Still, I probably struggled and still it took seeing things four, five or eleven times to finally grasp some concepts. Even then, some concepts (e.g. set and algebraic topology, perhaps) still remain just out of grasp. 

One thing that helps from a motivation standpoint is the ability to see the application in what I'm working on. Sometimes, I think I may have fared better as an engineering graduate student instead of physics as I find the concept of something being purely "fundamentally interesting" not as satisfying as "here's the problem we're trying to solve". However, I do see this as now being a viable path for education and how concepts that were once just "nice science" can evolve into useful and even critical technologies.

Ultimately, the path taken leveraged fundamental studies to merge with the technology development I did for most of my career. A level of mastery was found that I enjoyed being a part of. At some point though I became curious about both career advancement. Also, more fundamentally, how can I apply what I know from a more conceptual technology development and maturity standpoint to another technology paradigm. 

I chuckle a little as I write this as it sounds like my job change was very deliberate. In reality, this is just the benefit of hindsight. The change was more happenstance than I've just crafted. I was approached and something in my gut told me it was the right thing to do. It was at least worth checking out and throwing an "out there" salary request. I was actually shocked when they accepted my offer, but I took it as a sign that it was time to try something new, and here I am.

Will this be what I ride to retirement? Who knows?! There are a lot of different forces at work and in the private sector nothing is guaranteed. I do miss some of the technical/more research-y work, but I get to work more in terms of strategy and how to get things done. This is a new area of learning for me and may result in having to open another textbook or at least watch some YouTube videos.

I'm also finding in my coaching and even working with technical people that I enjoy coaching/teaching/mentoring. There is something satisfying on a deeper more purposeful level for me in helping people have those "a ha!" moments. I think being a teaching assistant in grad school played a big role in this. Such instances also help me to understand things on a deeper level. Perhaps carving out some time to be an adjunct may also be in the cards. I think the key here is to partake just enough so that I stay passionate and not drained.

I think that's enough rambling for now. I just wanted to get enough in to break the inertia and experience a moment of "flow" :)


  1. Anthony Popple11/20/22, 1:27 PM

    My initial impression of our post is that growth is painful. I have always stayed in positions longer than I should and it has cost me a lot in my career. When you are trying to balance your work with the rest of your life, a comfortable job is very valuable. Unfortunately, if you are not challenged by your job, you are not likely to be broadening your skill base. Just my two cents.

    1. Thanks, Tony! It's certainly pushing my comfort zone!