Reflections upon my career

For the most part, I’ve never been a big believer in bucket lists. At least not the kind you wait until you’re dying to start checking off. In thinking recently, I’ve come to realize that the work I’ve done over the years probably checks those kinds of boxes on my career in software engineering.

Over the past 16½ years of programming: I’ve …
Followed as part of a larger group where the big picture issues were someone else’s problem, been the mythical programmer doing it all, led small groups where the big picture is my domain, and been the contact point for small groups.
Learned that I like design and architecture. Both creating them anew and studying existing projects.
Somehow ended up the guy everyone asks when they don’t know the answers.
Gotten to enjoy coffee machines that may have had more moving parts than my car.
Worked on traditional application and system level software, but also many other pieces that were off the beaten path. Kernel level drivers that needed porting, microcontrollers that drive hardware interfaces, developed libraries, tools, and frameworks.
Discovered those are all less magical than you think when you’re a young padawan. It’s less that it’s drastically different from normal software development and more that it’s important that you not screw up, explode, or paint yourself into a corner.
At times been both the smarted and the stupidest person in the room.
Made features people loved that were based off my ideas. Especially the curious ones when I wanted to know how something worked, and then found an imaginative use case for what was learned.
Made features people loved that we based off other people’s ideas. Especially the ones that made the product better for the customer.
Been one of the engineers that gets called when a customer goes down on a Sunday.
Been deemed the expert on some problem domain. Actually, I don’t want to know how many times that’s happened.
Seen code that I worked on make the magic happen and seen the results on a scope, even though I’ll never be able to spell oscilloscope from memory!
Been grateful for hardware engineers and technicians and their skill sets. As well as gladly working alongside them.
Had my hands in more than pieces of internal infrastructure than I can count. As a coworker recently pointed out, while “IT guy” has never been my job title at any of the places that I’ve worked, he noted that I could probably run an IT dept it I had to. The part of that bugs me, is he was serious, and others agreed.
Been a webmaster, not that I miss that job.
Gotten to work with equipment that I always thought was so expensive that I would never be allowed to touch it.
Seen more than one 8-inch floppy diskette.
Oh wow, satellites!
Been one of the guys who knows too much about what needs doing after the power comes back on.
Both saved the day like Mr. Scott and reminded people that I am not in fact Scotty.
Quoted Jurassic Park more times than I ever thought possible.
Had to wear both my red shirt and my brown pants.
Kept working on a problem everyone else gave up on, and actually found a solution.
Written code to handle parsing existing formats and data streams, including at least one parser of MPEG2 Transport Streams and various propriety things.
Written code, specifications, and documentation for formats and data streams I’ve created. Sadly, more often for propriety things.
Debugged more than a few weird problems.
Been the guy that gets to solve a problem because the team that should fix it in their project decided it’s too much work to do the right thing.
Solved problems at both ends so a system is tolerant if only upgraded one end.
Will probably forget more about the X Windows system as I get older than younger folk will ever learn.
Will never forget there was a character encoding named EBCDIC because test equipment was so much older than I was, defaulting to EBCDIC rather than ASCII made sense when it was manufactured.
Worked on existing and developed new products that actually get used and deployed.
Never got to go to tradeshows and conferences related to my fields but was the chief code monkey on a product that got an award at one.
There will probably be at least letter from a customer in my keepsake box.
Ahh. I’ve got to admit, it hasn’t been a dull career to date.