March 16, 2012

Every morning at 5:00 am, I sit down with a cup of coffee, put my feet up, and write for an hour. I can’t remember when I began keeping a journal — I was very young. And I don’t know why the practice has persisted through all the (sometimes dramatic) changes I’ve experienced since. But unlike going to the gym, eating vegetables at every meal, and studying javascript, my commitment to the practice sticks.

One of my favorite writing prompts is creating lists. Lists can be literary or silly, but they are always enlightening. I can tell myself things in a list I can’t mentally access when looking directly at an issue, challenge, or situation. Lists keep my hand moving. They can even uncover the solution to a technical problem. (Really, try it!) Although my tech life and my introspective writing life don’t usually intersect, this morning they did. And as I pack for DrupalCon Denver, this list seemed worth sharing.

Ten things I love about my job:

  • Writing code, solving technical problems, and strategizing solutions. Thank goodness this is first, because it’s what I do all day.
  • The people. I confess, I mostly don’t like people. But the connections I experience through work are the second most satisfying aspect of my job. Coworkers, developers on other teams, project managers and product owners, stakeholders, previous and potential clients, Drupal community leaders and members… all kinds of people have become who I truly care about, enjoy, and value. It is honestly shocking to be such a natural hermit (I once considered becoming a Buddhist monk) and then, find so much value in relationships.
  • CMS work, specifically. I was drawn to these kinds of web applications. I like PHP, I like web technology, but I love working on technology that enables communication, collaboration, expression, and sharing content. As a writer, it is like building religious artifacts. Or tiny churches.
  • The organizational structure of our team. We are a community of professionals. Each of us manages our work life as both consultants and members of development teams. No one spends their day making sure other people do their jobs. Instead, we focus on empowering each other and the business to accomplish what we have set out to accomplish. I forget, on the tough days, that this is special and rare.
  • The four quiet hours I spend in my home office every morning. I work in my home office until about 9:30 am every morning. Unlike most developers, I am best in the morning and worst late at night. Although I love the time I spend in the office with the team, I wither and die after too much social contact. In solitude, I rejuvenate, focus, and come back to life. Even when I get nothing “productive” done, which sometimes happens.
  • My office work space. I decorated my office. Yes, yes, this sounds very girly. Trust me, if you came into my home, you would not think I cared about decorating. But I love that my work space feels like home. Purple presides. There are gifts from teammates, a sun-moon-mirror art thingy, Thich Nhat Hanh quote calendar (two months behind), a big Tom Brady poster, a small Tony Romo poster, a moon goddess image, and a fancy metal bookshelf with books, teas, snacks, and my collection of badges from events I’ve attended. There are also papers, notes, cups, and other messiness strewn about… just like home.
  • Speaking at events. When I was 18 years old, I was serious about theater. Although I’d given up writing performance pieces, acting, and teaching it before I became a programmer, I missed the work. The idea that public speaking is an extroverted skill is, I think, a misunderstanding of what speaking, training, and performing are — they are a developed skill requiring a lot of introspective practice. And the fear of public speaking is really the fear of fear. The benefit to starting young was — I didn’t know it was scary to be scared. (I made a radio commercial for Stop & Shop when I was seven and thought it was “super fun.”) I experienced the fear as a necessary part of the joy, like riding a roller coaster. Performing is not what I love though. What I love is adding value to people’s lives by sharing experience or creating a structure they can follow into a subject. I love being with the audience, whether I am watching a good presentation or giving one.
  • Doing work that, as a young woman, I was conditioned to think girls didn’t do. The counter culture aspect adds a little spice to my life. Though, frankly, I think what I do is “super cool” regardless of who is doing it. I adore this geek culture that mostly men have created (except the obsession with beer, I don’t like beer) and I would love to see more women follow this path. The gate is wide open.
  • Becoming “worldly” by traveling and working with people from other countries every day. I always found the USA-centric thinking too strong for my taste. Today, I will connect with people from the UK, Hungary, South Africa, Canada, Denmark, and New York (which is kind of another country.)
  • Setting an example of economic self sufficiency for my son. I went from watering the tree of feminism to eating the fruit. I thrive today on economically-empowering partnerships where once the prevailing model was shared, negotiated dependency. But the money and other benefits are not what matter most. The rewards of economic self determination came after I was dedicated to a career that really, truly mattered to me. Not a job. I don’t experience myself as having “a job.” I have a place to invest my best self, every day.

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