Time flies etc.

I have had a few people lately approach me to ask about what it’s like being a consultant. I’m always a little surprised by that because I think “why would they ask me? I haven’t been at it very long.”

I looked at the calendar recently. It’s already almost September. 2017. What the actual…anyway, that means that I’ve been a consultant for over a year now. And being the annoyingly introspective person that I am, that led me to hours and hours of thinking about that question and my answer.

I still don’t feel like I’m the right person to ask. There are still days where I haven’t quite gotten my feet underneath me. The treadmill is still just a tad too fast sometimes, and I stumble. Being human means that I focus a lot on those stumbles and less on the increasing number of successful steps.

Here’s how I’ve been answering that question.

Becoming a consultant is like any other major change in life. Day to day, nothing changes. I get emails from clients – sometimes I know the answer off-hand, and sometimes I have to do some research. I build things in Salesforce, and then I test those things and rebuild them. I provide insight into what the platform can and cannot do, what it can do natively vs. custom, what might be better left to a third party app, etc. I encourage admins to learn, and somewhere in all of that, I manage to occasionally put on a virtual meeting for the West Michigan WIT group.

But then I look back over the past 3 months, and I realize I have learned quite a bit. Over the past 6 months, 9 months…a year. I see things that I did early on that I would do differently now. Not that I was wrong then, but I’d be better prepared for them now.

There are little things, too. I speak more confidently about some things than I used to. I recognize patterns that I hadn’t noticed before. Gradually, I’m getting faster with some things.

Even I keep waiting for something to click. Some obvious and clear sign that says “You are now a Consultant.” But that’s not going to come. My business cards and job description say that. What I do on a daily basis says that.

That’s been the biggest lesson for me. I’ve learned in every job I’ve ever had – that’s what we do. This time it just feels more intangible. I can’t say “I now know how to complete an OSHA 300 and 300A form.” It’s more things like…”I now know that I can use Talend for data transfers and transformations.” But that encompasses so many things, not just a single task or ability.

As one of the least patient people I know, this kind of slow adaptation and realization of what I’ve learned has been both the most difficult and most rewarding part of the transition for me.

I don’t know if that’s the kind of answer people are looking for when they ask. Being a consultant varies depending on where you work, on what kind of team you’re working with. Just like being an admin at one place will be different than being an admin at another. But that’s the best answer I can give.

Regardless I’ve appreciated the questions because they forced me to take that long look and give myself some credit for how far I’ve come. And it’s made me really excited for whatever will come next. What will I know 3 months from now? 6 months, 9 months, a year?

If nothing else, I can safely say that being a consultant is never dull, and that’s probably the most important advice I can offer.

 

Obligatory apology and excuses blog post

That’s right, folks, it’s that time again, where I fish for flimsy excuses about why my (now paid) blog site has lain dormant as Moria for the past…can we say weeks? I’ll feel better if I say weeks.

Right, so let’s get it over with.

I’ve been working. Really, truly, I have. Statistically speaking, it takes about 12 months for someone to become (or at least feel) proficient in a new job. I’m about halfway there! In the meantime, I still forget details, sometimes – little things like checking a box or something. And then bigger things like balancing time or wrapping my head around how long it takes me to do Things. I still don’t always know if something is going to take me an hour or six days…

I’ve been meaning to write. As I was explaining to my Professional Writer father the other day, at any given time I have at least 3 draft posts, and then there are times that I have 7 or 8, all sitting there, wondering if I’ll ever get back to them. At least one of those drafts has been around longer than my new job…so….I’m sure I’ll finish it one of these days.

To be fair, I’ve had a lot going on. After Zoe left us so suddenly, I can safely say that the very last thing I wanted to do was…anything.

The first time you skip or forget something, it’s minor, right? It’s just a hiccup. The problem is that if you then skip a second time, or a third, it starts to snowball. And it snowballs fast. I guess that’s kind of the point of that metaphor, though, right?

Eventually going back seems that much more daunting. What do you mean I have to roll this 2 ton snowball back up the hill? It was so much smaller when it started falling! I’ll just wait for it to thaw a bit.

It doesn’t thaw. Winter has officially arrived.

My point is just that after a while writing a post seemed like an insurmountable challenge. It had been too long. I put in work to provide regular content, and then I let it fall to the side, in order to take on some more pressing things, and coming back to it means facing that gaping chasm in between last post and this post.

I don’t even want to THINK about how many of these posts I’ve made. But whatever. I’m only human. I disappear sometimes. The weight of things gets just a little too heavy, and my response is to tuck myself away.

So maybe this can be my blanket post moving forward? For the next time I need to limp away to lick my wounds and can’t work up the energy to put this kind of stuff into words.

I have some ideas in the works, though…all of the “well at least I’ll think it’s hilarious” variety. But it’s something, at least.

Disappointment

In the immortal words of The Rolling Stones, “you can’t always get what you want.”

There are some days I feel the statement should be amended to “you seldom get what you want” (and apparently, so did they. Looking at you, “Satisfaction”…), but then that’s not really the point of the song.

In every day use, we just stop there.

“I had hoped to do X, but it didn’t work out.”

“Well, you can’t always get what you want.”

“Gee, thanks for that insight.”

We forget about the second part of it. “If you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” And frankly what we need isn’t always what we want. I want to smother my face in melted chocolate and eat pizza all day, every day. But my body needs “vitamins” and “nutrients,” so I eat sensibly. Most of the time.

Of course the reason we don’t complete the sentiment is because disappointment sucks. It’s a shallow victory to hear “well, this didn’t go the way you wanted, but it’ll work out in the end.”

Yeah, the end was supposed to be successfully obtaining X. Now it’s…what? Unknown. Unknowable. Until you’re some days, weeks, or months beyond, and you look back to see the worn path behind you, and that light clicks on. Ohhhhh.

Sure that part is satisfying. I like to retrace my steps, counting them and watching the twisting way that they got me to where I am standing now.

But right now now it sucks. It just does. There is no sugar coating it. There is no “well, everything happens for a reason.” No. It just sucks.

Still, you know, in the scheme of things. I get it. My disappointment, on the world’s scale of sheer craptastic things, this is like….in the thousands. High thousands. I know that. I really get it. There are people out there who can’t even rely on the second part of that lyric because they’re not very likely to get what they need either.

I keep telling myself that, when I take a breath, and for whatever reason, the air I’ve breathed in seems to just carry all of the things that I’m even slightly bitter about. I keep telling myself that, when the little, nagging things that don’t usually bother me suddenly snowball, and I’m just running frantically from the avalanche. That’s right, running. I’m not about to face a giant snowball of little nagging things. Frankly, if I wasn’t dealing with them when they were tiny, why would I deal with them when they’ve become so big? No, thank you.

And I guess by now, you’re wondering where I’m going with this.

I’m not really sure. Haven’t gotten there, yet.

Sorry to disappoint.

 

Resolve

If I haven’t mentioned it thousands of times before, I went to college to study writing. Both of my parents are writers, and I had big dreams of becoming the next Maxwell Perkins. Things worked out a little differently.

I haven’t lost my love for writing (she types in her blog), and I haven’t lost my love for language – all of it. Morphemes, phrases, clauses, tropes, schemes, diction. Nothing that I learned in college has proven to be useless; as a Salesforce consultant, I communicate a lot. Even were that not the case, I still enjoy it all.

For my senior seminar, we had to read The Professor and the Madman, which is a compelling tale about the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. Worth the read, even if you’re not big into that kind of thing. What set the OED apart from other dictionaries at the time was that it provided the spelling of words, the meaning, and the background of those words – when did it come into being? When did its meaning change, if ever? All fascinating things.

Taking that a step further, Bill Bryson wrote about the history of the English language in his book The Mother Tongue – another very good read, if you have the time (obviously you do, right?)

Words change over time, frequently because of changes in society. People start to use a word ironically or sarcastically, and the word changes. That’s the beauty and frustration of the English language.

It’s January now, and that means the time for resolutions. I read this blog post about New Years being a time to drop old commitments, rather than take on new ones, and it got me thinking about words. I thought about the word resolution, how it’s used to describe a way to solve a problem. Which made me consider the word resolve.

Resolve means to close an issue or come to conclusion, but it also means strength of will. Do you have resolve? How will we resolve this problem? I wondered how we, English speakers, came to the meaning.

Resolve entered the English language in the 14th century from the old French resolver or the Latin resolvere. The original meaning was to loosen or unyolk; it described freeing something or oneself, not shackling to something new. Through the typical indirect, winding way that this language tends to use, it came to be what it is now.

I haven’t made a real New Year’s resolution in years. It has always felt empty to me, like a silently understood and agreed upon thing in society – we all are meant to make resolutions, recognizing them as void contracts with ourselves. No one expects others to keep to their resolutions. I imagine the whole thing started with someone drunkenly proclaiming that this would be the year they changed things for themselves. Did that first resolution maker follow through?

So this idea of giving up something, rather than taking on more, led me to the etymology of the word resolve, and I find myself thinking that maybe all of this comes back full circle. What was old is now new again, right? It’s a common trope in literature, trying to recapture the glories of yesteryear.

This is where I make some grand statement amount refusing to make a resolution because of its emptiness, the void contract, instead proclaiming myself free of the burden. Eh. Why bother?

I have goals this year. 2016, while not my favorite year, was good to me professionally. I worked hard, and I reaped the benefits. I’m ready to do more. More certifications, more engagement, more…Salesforce, more Ohana.

But words can change. 100, 200…500 years from now, the words I use today might sound different, mean something else. But actions will always be the same. Helping someone, offering a hand, lending an ear – these things will never change the rewards, the sacrifice, the connection. So rather than shout to the rooftops or the servers about what I aim for this year, I will continue trying to do. To be.

Happy New Year

 

 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question.

I have nightmares about this question.

Not because I think the world will end in that time frame (although, ask me again after the election, maybe). And it’s not because I don’t imagine what I can do or that I don’t have ambition.

People change, though. Sometimes slowly, over time. Sometimes surprisingly fast.

When I make a plan, I need to stick to that plan. I don’t like deviation. I like routine, and if I know I have to break that routine, I have to know what I have to do. I break things down: get to point A, do X, then get to point B and do Y. Why do you think I like video games so much? That’s exactly what they do. NPC hands you quest, you follow the steps of the quest, experience points and reward!

Real life doesn’t respect the laws of video games.

Planning too far ahead invites too many unknown variables. You go from a linear equation to a matrix in no time at all. It invites error and failure – not the iterative kind, either, where you fail fast. Like the…I spent four years getting this degree, and it turns out I don’t want to be a book editor kind.

But it’s not just that.

5 years. That’s a lot of time to learn, to grow, to become. So you say “man, what do you think you’ll be doing in 5 years?”, and I start thinking of all of the things I could do in 5 years. Certifications earned, books written, games played, conferences attended, experiences. 5 years can hold a whole lot.

I become paralyzed by possibility.

The last time I was asked this question, it was framed with “what is the endgame of being a polymath?” That just seemed so contradictory to me.

What makes me a polymath is curiosity. If something interests me, then I dive in, and I will retain some of the knowledge I gain for longer than is strictly necessary. It’s why I’ll spout out random facts and find every tangent possible. (Did you know that cats most likely domesticated themselves? In Egypt, they learned to mimic the frequency of an infant crying in order to be fed. They don’t generally meow to communicate with one another. So cool!)

Most things don’t hold my interest for very long; I’m not wired to become fixated on one thing forever. I become fixated for a short time, absorb a ton of stuff, and then I move on. It’s not because I don’t WANT to be summarily consumed by a single passion.

My dad used to tell me that I go from 0 to 100 too fast, that people have a hard time keeping up with that. He’s right. And I’ve tried to tone it down. At least, you know, the manifestation of it. I don’t *fangirl* the way I used to. Externally. Inside, I might be screaming, jumping, and pointing, but on the outside, I am sarcastic and super chill.

So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about the question and where I see myself in 5 years, what it means to be a polymath, how the word endgame kind of freaks me out, what I want to be when I grow up, and stuff like that.

And I decided…I’m going to go have a tattoo consultation on Sunday. I haven’t gotten any ink in over 2 years, and I have a few ideas. So that’s pretty cool.