For the first few years, Energy Ogre was fewer than ten people, and I was the only technical resource. We had contractors that came in for specialized work, but on most days, I was everything from technical support to the programmer behind all our systems.
These were tumultuous times, not tracking when days ended and nights began, fitting in work before and after (and sometimes during) time with family. I was once in line at a roller coaster at Six Flags while spelling out a SQL query over the phone, one word at a time, to a coworker so they could type it in and hit run without understanding what it was doing. When it was our turn to get on, I told the group behind us to go on ahead because I needed another minute to finish the call. The look on my wife’s face made me hang up and get on the ride because I’m not a complete idiot, but I was back on the phone the second the ride ended. It was not one of my better moments, but the website was down, and, well, someone had to fix it.
We were building something amazing, and the only thing limiting us was how fast I could make it.
We got a little bigger and brought in another programmer, and things started moving. We grew a bit more, brought in some fantastic people, and as that happened, naturally programmed less and less, opting instead to focus on the bigger picture.
I have not been a software developer for over a decade, but when someone asks what I do for a living, I still say, “I’m a programmer.” It’s who I think I am, and it’s also something I am not likely to be again.
It’s a delicate dance between staying up to date with what’s new and not putting in so much time to learn it that you fall behind on your day job. And while I can only speak to my own experience, I have seen and heard similar sentiments echoed by people in leadership positions in many other fields: I wish I had the time to do it again.
You find something you like, and you learn everything about it. You start to get good at it and get a job doing it. You do it well; well enough to move up. Move up enough to where doing it is not a good use of your time anymore. Then you look at someone else doing what you used to do, and long for that old time, maybe even give it a shot again for a little while, because staying in your lane is hard.
And so it goes.
I don’t have any advice or some lesson learned here, just a poem:
Look at that happy idiot,
He doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were an idiot…
Well, damn, I think I am!