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Fatherly Advice

As a teenager, my father tried, repeatedly, to counsel me. He would advise me to find something I like doing and be the very best I can at it. I thought I heard him and took his advise to heart, as much as any teenage boy really listens to his father and the life lessons being offered, before life’s trials create the need for such lessons.

It occurs to me, now that I have two teenage sons of my own, that I have begun giving the same advice to my sons. It is amazing how much of the advice is handed down without much thought. You think you are giving the best, heart-felt, advice from your many years of experience only to hear your own father’s voice in your head echoing the very same advice.

My father had told me to find something I like doing. In his own way, he was echoing the sentiment that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. His addition of “and be the best you can,” really nailed it home – when I thought about it. My father was advising me to be a specialist.

Thinking I knew what I was doing, I chose “computers” as the thing I liked doing and thought I was on the right track. As opposed to my father’s advice, I had selected to be a generalist within the field of, what would become, Information Technology. In the early days of microcomputers (the old term for a PC), it was still possible to be a generalist – a sort of computer renaissance man – knowing hardware, software, security, networking, programming, and management while keeping current on all aspects of the computer industry.

By the time I was finishing college, however, this was already changing and I had refocused as a hardware and networking generalist, leaving the programming for those hardy souls content to sit in the computer labs and dorm rooms until the wee hours pouring over hexadecimal and archaic commands to get their tasks accomplished. I was very happy with a screwdriver in my back pocket working on computer hardware and wiring the computers together into the rudiments of a network.

As time progressed, I added various applications to my working toolkit and even expanded into a specialized form of development on the Lotus Notes platform. I stubbornly attempted to remain as general as I could, with the thought that with a broad base of experience and skills, I could get a job nearly anywhere.

The field of Information Technology has evolved, as many others have, into a field of specialists. Just like there are very few general Doctors or general Lawyers, most specializing in specific parts of the body or of the law, respectively, such it is in IT, with Security, Networking, Programming, Administration, Support, Project Management, Analysis, and Operations.

Here I am, in my midcareer as an old generalist with a few concentrations, Project Management, Analysis, Systems Administration, and Corporate Messaging, trying to decide on what specialization I would like to pursue. Here I am, with teenagers of my own, and I am still trying to take my father’s advice for success – find something I like doing and be the very best I can at it.

Thanks, Dad.

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