Bright Matrices

Writings & musings of Mike Zavarello (a.k.a. brightmatrix), a "red mage" web developer.

Tag: professional development

What a Difference a Year Makes

What a difference a year makes.

Next month will mark a full year since I succeeded my previous boss as leader of my work’s web team. If you had asked me two years ago whether I’d want to move ahead in my career as a manager/leader or stay in the trenches as a dyed-in-the-wool developer, I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you I had no desire to administrate. I liked being the specialist, where I could touch the raw code and pixels. I didn’t want to get involved in all the diplomatic back-and-forth that often accompanies a leading role. But, when my boss announced she was moving onward last November, duty called and I accepted the stripe on my sleeve. I’m really glad I did.

Turns out, I actually like management. It’s been gratifying to take the reins on projects and tasks now under my stewardship, building on relationships I had started in my developer years to carry them forward. I’ve also enjoyed taking on career development, making sure the developers on my team have all the tools, resources, and time they need to succeed in their projects and expand their professional expertise. The amount of time I actually touch code these days has decreased to less than 10% (and social media even less, but I’ll get to that in a moment), but that’s OK; my duties are elsewhere now. I’ve learned to rely upon and trust the expert opinions of my staff to carry out the objectives and strategies we craft together. Delegation, something I thought I would have a hard time getting used to, is now working smoothly.

Now comes the hard part. Yes, I’m enjoying management, but the amount of time I have on my hands to handle the “one true love” from my past life, social media, has dwindled dramatically. Whether or not you’ve noticed, this blog has also floundered. I always knew that social media was a time-consuming effort in order to get it done properly, but I’ve come to fully respect the sheer amount of dedication and regimented time management it often requires. I’ve had to peel back my level of involvement to a supervisory and technical support role while others, including some amazingly talented and level-headed junior staffers, have done the heavy lifting.

As with anything else in life, this transition has been a balancing act. Balancing projects, tasks, personnel, time, and making hard choices based on the “situation on the ground.” Have I given up social media altogether? Hardly, but I’m much quieter on Twitter, Facebook, et al. these days. I still have no Pinterest to speak of. I’ve found less to take away from new media these days, but, as an article I read today from Frank Strong aptly indicates, “you get out of social media what you put into it.” It is what it is.

As the saying goes, “change comes from within,” but it also came come from without, your environment shaping your evolution. This past year has been must that for me. An evolution.

Taking Aim at the Cloud of Doubt

It seems that ever since I dove into the realm of social media, specifically Twitter, I get this nagging, flagging feeling of doubt every six weeks or so. It’s like some miniature existential crisis, but on a recurring basis. I wonder: how can my works matter in the presence of other great thinkers? Why didn’t I think of that concept, that idea, that perspective?

When you’re part of a swift-moving current of constant thoughts, adamant opinions, and vibrant conversations, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sudden awareness that talent is all around you, and you’re the least of it all. It can be a crushing weight, that sensation of mediocrity. But really, if you think about it, the new challenger who’s arrived is that awareness. Never before have we been able to tap into so many creative minds at once. Industry leaders and luminaries have always been generating ideas, writing books, keynoting conferences, etc. It’s that level playing field tools like Twitter offer that make it seem like you’re in direct competition with the heavyweights.

So, what can both you and I do about all this?

Get over it, shake it off, and don’t get sucked into an imaginary popularity contest.

Did you make a mistake? Learn from it and grow. Do you admire another’s work? Absorb their teachings and add to your knowledge and skills. Are you questioning your own professional self-worth? Take both the good and bad from your colleagues and connections for a balanced viewpoint; learn not only what ideals you want to obtain, but which to avoid.

We’re each our own worst critics. I firmly believe a hallmark of the creative thinker is the constant criticism of our own works coupled with the incessant drive to simply do better. It’s the motive power that keeps us questing and questioning the world, ourselves, and our place within it. The key, I think, is to continuously remind ourselves of that, accept the times of uncertainty alongside the great works we do produce, and realize that this too shall pass. You’re not in a race to win with these folks; you’re out there to do the very best with your life and your talents.

I’m taking aim at the cloud of doubt, and I hope you are, too. Let’s wish ourselves great victory!

Related goodness: Here’s two outstanding posts related to my train of thought that I discovered in this morning’s blog reading:

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