Monthly Archive for March, 2014

Knowledge

I get told once a week at least, by strangers, friends, family members, etc., that I should have been a teacher.

The thing is, I could never do that. Not as my job.

For one, I don’t really like kids. But that’s a whole other thing.

For two, I’m only good at teaching people that want to learn, or have more than a passing interest in what I’m talking about. I remember being a teenage kid in a class that I felt was beneath my consideration or attention. But hey, newsflash: teenagers are assholes (See “For one,” above.)

But whatever, people have been saying this to me at least since I started at Maritz in 2004, 10 years ago.

I never realized or felt like I was “teaching” anyone anything. Most of the time, I was just explaining. Something that I knew and they didn’t, and they needed to know: how do I format this chart? Is there a way to make all of the cells in this column have the same formula? How did you do that without using your mouse? etc.

I never saw it the way they did. Something I’ve always thought about myself, is that I’m fairly normal. In the range of normalcy, when you plot all 7 billion humans living on planet earth into a continuum, I’m most definitely somewhere near the middle. Sure, maybe above average, but far closer to normal than the folks all the way at one end or the other.

So, I would reason, if I’m fairly normal, and *I* figured all this stuff out on my own, why can’t everyone else? Why can’t they spend 2 minutes clicking around on stuff until it makes sense? Why can’t they just google it, the way I do when I get stumped?

Surely if I can teach myself how to view source on a webpage and then learn from that source code and then write my own… can’t any other normal person?

I used to be good at drawing stuff. When I was in school, the other kids would sometimes say, “wow, you’re really good at that.” Even as a kid, I was bad at taking compliments. “I guess,” I would say.

The thing is, I wasn’t being modest. If anything, I was inadvertently being insulting to the other kids. My reply of “I guess,” somehow always sounded like, “Sure, maybe, but why can’t YOU do it?”

(Not that I’m particularly bad at drawing stuff now, I just haven’t practiced in a really, really long time.)

But back to knowledge: I think the realization at which I arrived while at Maritz is that knowing how to do something isn’t the important part. Knowing that it’s POSSIBLE is the most important part, and the HOW will come naturally. The rest will figure itself out.

A Lesson About My Job, Through a ST:TNG Metaphor

OK, so this one time, Picard is staring across space at a Romulan warbird, eyes flinty. The Enterprise has just been hit! The inertial dampeners temporarily go offline (screen shakes) and power to the bridge is interrupted (lights flicker)…

The atmosphere is tense, everyone is on edge. Picard spits out one single word.

Or like maybe this other time, the Enterprise is cruising through space at warp 5 (the mandated warp “speed limit”) and suddenly one nacelle begins to fail and the Enterprise is thrown into an uncontrolled spin at warp speed. The saucer separates from the star drive section and there are several hull breaches. Intact, the bridge is alive with activity; conn trying to regain helm control, engineering trying to reconnect failing power, and Worf is wondering if he’ll have time to grab his bat’leth on the way to Sto-vo-kor.

And still, amidst this chaos, Picard utters a single word.

Or, I don’t know, that time some other thing happened. Like a ship sized alien sending the Enterprise away in a defensive shockwave. Or when Q made that energy wall appear in empty space on the way to Farpoint station.

All those weird things, and Picard still said that one single word:

“Report.”

A command, inherent in which a subordinate is being tasked with providing an accurate, succinct and actionable assessment of the situation. Elegant in it’s simplicity and brevity; powerful, in that it is a demand.

He’s saying, in that one word, “Your lives depend on this, so give me the fucking info I need, so I can be your captain and deal with this [threat of the week],”

I never really thought about it before, while watching it, but the whole ship was set up for reporting. All the displays were information rich. LCARS was a great idea for information display. Worf or Data could rattle off ship stats in seconds. Reports would come in from “all over the ship” – but within seconds. The apparatus needed to be in place, such that Picard could depend on information in order to proceed with a plan. Operating totally blind is almost never part of the plot, unless they’re specifically calling attention to the fact they they ARE operating blind.

It might surprise you to know, that for years, I’ve lived in that role of looking at processes and making that into information. I try to be a human LCARS.

I got a new job about three years ago. Shortly after I posted this. I’ll probably make a post someday about my new job, but suffice to say one of my major tasks has carried over from my old job: reporting. I get to make all kinds of reports.

And it helps make a company operate and grow by a significant amount each year. I do my part and defend our ship against all manner of foes, simply by being able to capture, store and report meaningful information.

Romulans be damned, captain, because here’s the information you need.