Today a nine-year-old asked me what I do. That question has been a tough one over the last seven years since I did hundreds of little jobs all rolled together. I could not even say that I was working toward a single purpose. About the best I could do is, “I try to increase sales and save the company money while trying to make all the people happy all the time.” But by the time I said all that, I had abstracted my job to the point where I was not really saying much. After all, isn’t that what the whole company does? What small piece of that big puzzle did I really do? I guess I just did all the pieces nobody else wanted to.
Well things have gotten to be a bit easier lately as a greater percentage of my work has involved application development. I have been programing for about 15 years but it has rarely been my primary function. Over the last several months I have started doing a lot of programming and plan do a lot more in the near future. Now I can just say that I am a programmer, or more accurately a Business Applications Developer.
But that still does not tell a nine-year-old what I do. Especially a nine-year-old that is not very familiar with computers. So I stood there talking to a blank stare for a few minutes until it finally hit me. “I am a teacher.” I teach computers how to analyze the past, predict the future, calculate costs and probabilities, plan and track projects, and do a bunch of other really cool things.
And now that I think about it that is what I have been doing for the last seven years. Almost every time I sent an email (and I have sent a bunch) I was teaching. When someone ask for information I went and got the answer then taught them how to get the answer on their own next time just in case I was not available. Of course some people never bothered to learn but I at least gave them the opportunity. Whenever someone wanted a report I made sure to give them more data than they could comprehend, but if they had time I was thrilled to show them how to find new and exciting trends. And part of building new applications was that I got to teach people how to use them and at the same time I got to teach them how to do a bunch other stuff with their computers.
So now when people ask what I do, I can tell them, “I teach computers how to work with people and people how to work with computers and with other people.”
What do you think?