Priorities and Next Steps

Ballooning Over Albuquerque
Credit: Flickr / Danae Hurst

The other day I was having lunch with some other interns, and they were discussing their GPA. It made me question what I was doing, surrounded by 20-22 year-olds who think that a GPA is a measure of achievement and/or a defining characteristic. I mean, to participate in the conversation should I calculate my GPA? I don’t even know how. Should I point out that nonsense courses to lift your GPA don’t actually make you a better programmer? Should I keep my mouth shut and edge away, because afterall I don’t fully understand the Canadian undergraduate system… except this focus I see on grades over substance makes me extremely grateful that I got my undergrad from Edinburgh.

Being at intern at 25 is… weird. Yes, it’s an amazing opportunity. Yes, we have great training. But I can’t shake the feeling that I should be doing more than being an intern at this stage in my life.

My friend Maggie (another intern) is planning her next steps at the moment. She’s incredibly together and only 20 – she makes me feel 1) old and 2) clueless. She was telling me recently, that she’s figured out that before she can work out what she wants to do and where she wants to go, she needs to figure out her priorities.

This made me realize – I’ve been picking themes by which I prioritize my choices. When I left Edinburgh to be a nomad, I prioritized an interesting life and being interesting myself (Penelope Trunk on an interesting vs a happy life). Arriving in Ottawa, I was lost, but my theme evolved to making change, or being the change I want to see – though taking a different approach to programming curricula and the talks I give, through WISE, and through the Awesome Foundation. Even working on defining influence – influence can be seen as the ability to make change.

So for my next step – what’s my theme going to be? I want it to be about how programmers can change the world; through better software, facilitating remote working, enabling connections across geographical barriers and – crucial in this age of information overload – helping people better manage the information they have available to them. What does this mean? A programming job. Finding an open source project to contribute to.

Where can I do this? IBM is a great place to work on all of this, as is the company where I’ll interview next week. And now I’ve identified my theme, I can look out for other places where I could chase this next dream.

How about you – what’s your priority for your next step?

4 thoughts on “Priorities and Next Steps

  1. I can't even bother with next-steps, anymore.
    I heard somewhere that most humans can extrapolate up to three years into the future, but no more. Ask them what advancements will be made, or where they'll be in life, and they can give you a reasonable answer for up to three years, but after that it's all jetpacks and nanomachines.

    Even year-to-year, I'm finding it impossible to plan for much. I just live for the moment and take what comes my way.

  2. I kinda wish I could live like that. I get all jittery without a plan – even if I accept the plan may not work (that just means I have multiple backups). I like to know where I want to go, even if I don't end up going there. +3 years is daft to plan for as a programmer, technology changes so fast – it's impossible to know. Can't just expect to code in Java for the rest of my natural life (and would I want to?). But I would like a jetpack. That would be awesome!

  3. I'd like to program for the rest of my life. The languages and platforms might change, but the ability to learn, adapt, play, experiment, and automate is simply too useful to give up, and I'm surrounded by role models who show me that it's possible. =)

    Life may be too random to have fixed plans, but it's useful to have a heading. Life is more pseudorandom than random, really… 😉

  4. Yes definitely – the way of thinking you develop as a programmer does not seem to go away.

    Can you elaborate on “Life is more pseudorandom than random, really… ;)”?

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