Some days, you know how good you are at your job...

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I'm pretty insecure and depressed generally, but I had one of those days at work (as a senior systems analyst for a top university) that made me realise how valuable I am there. It included:

Offer consultation to publications section about best ways to store info to produce print and web versions of brochures. Advise on technicalities, but also, based on my extensive editorial experience, suggest improvements on that side of things, which go down very well.

Being told at length (like half an hour) about a programming problem that was stumping one of our senior developers, and how he didn't have time to track it down and solve it and could I help? Track and solve in five minutes.

Discuss the makeup of management reports for student fee matters. Make suggestions based on my extensive experience as an accountant.

Get asked to solve a problem for the Fire Safety Office to do with generating reports on the web, since we don't have anyone who knows as much about that as I do. Solve it quickly.

Discuss aspects of web content management with my boss's boss. He takes my recommendations, even letting me edit his letter to external senior management first.

Advise on structure of a major new system being coded - I was consulted because I devised and designed it.

Advise on version control and how to baseline projects - since I wrote the organisation's standards on these things.

There were a bunch more bits and pieces, but they're harder to easily state. It was just a day that seemed to hit a whole lot of my strengths, and give me no great problems. It's nice sometimes to realise you really are very good at what you do, and while I feel lucky to have kept my job, with all the sickness I have had, days like this make me see why they have kept me on despite it.

I guess I mostly wanted to say this because it makes a change for you from me whining about bad times, and maybe you've had days like this too - but also because writing it down might fix it for me, and there will be times when it'll help me if I remember this kind of thing.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Thursday, 19 May 2005 21:13 (9 years ago) Permalink

You sound much better at your job than I've been at most of mine.

Thermo Thinwall (Thermo Thinwall), Thursday, 19 May 2005 21:23 (9 years ago) Permalink

That's a good story. Thanks, Martin.

Ken L (Ken L), Thursday, 19 May 2005 21:24 (9 years ago) Permalink

My main function at work seems to be to walk near people so that their synapses work better. Seriously, people come to me with questions all the time, not because I can answer them, but because the questions I ask in order to get them to describe the problem lead them to the solution.

Also malfunctioning equipment/faulty algorithms start to work when I look at them. I'm not lying/exaggerating. It's kind of scary.

The Ghost of Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Thursday, 19 May 2005 21:29 (9 years ago) Permalink

I guess I should add that I enjoyed that because I think most people who are programmers types might go through similar ups and downs- sometimes when you're in the middle of development, you have nothing to show to the muckety-mucks, wherease the people who RUN the programs are generated page after page of reports, so these kind of big days are nice.

Ken L (Ken L), Thursday, 19 May 2005 21:37 (9 years ago) Permalink

cool. I love when i get asked to do things that I can do quickly and be sure that I am totally right.

isadora (isadora), Thursday, 19 May 2005 21:52 (9 years ago) Permalink

Being told at length (like half an hour) about a programming problem that was stumping one of our senior developers, and how he didn't have time to track it down and solve it and could I help? Track and solve in five minutes.

I love it when that sort of thing happens.

We're in a bit of turmoil at work at the moment - one department is being closed completely, and because of it there's a good chance I'm going to lose my nice private office. It's good to read posts like Martin's to remind me of the good aspects of IT-type jobs.

caitlin (caitlin), Friday, 20 May 2005 06:36 (9 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, one place I joined had a meeting first morning I was there.
One guy said "The client wanted xxxx but I told them it wasn't possible"
Me: "Umm, can I try that? I think I know how.."
guy: "um, well, OK we havent got anything urgen for you right now, so go ahead..."

(I had a few people ask me about it every couple months or so..)

I feel better today.

mark grout (mark grout), Friday, 20 May 2005 07:33 (9 years ago) Permalink

Yay Martin, I love days like this. Here's to many more for you.

PinXorchiXoR (Pinkpanther), Friday, 20 May 2005 07:43 (9 years ago) Permalink

Excellent stuff. It's very rewarding to get stuff done quickly and competently, because so many circumstances conspire against that happening most of the time. It's especially good that it's given you a kicky self-confidence boost, Martin. w0o+ l33+ sk3elz ah0y :)

Liz :x (Liz :x), Friday, 20 May 2005 07:48 (9 years ago) Permalink

This happens with me once in a yellow moon.

$V£N! (blueski), Friday, 20 May 2005 08:27 (9 years ago) Permalink

> My main function at work seems to be to walk near people so that their synapses work better. Seriously, people come to me with questions all the time, not because I can answer them, but because the questions I ask in order to get them to describe the problem lead them to the solution.

similar famous story about a programming help desk at a university that had a stuffed bear on the counter and a sign saying 'don't ask for help until you've explained your problem to the bear' - they found that having to think about how to describe your problem often helped you discover a solution. happens all the time here at work too, people will get halfway through explanations and then go 'ah, yes...'

koogs (koogs), Friday, 20 May 2005 08:58 (9 years ago) Permalink

That's bloody twee though. You'd expect maybe a robot...?

Liz :x (Liz :x), Friday, 20 May 2005 08:59 (9 years ago) Permalink

A robot pointing cannons at you! Doing a countdown! Like in Robocop!

Trayce (trayce), Friday, 20 May 2005 09:01 (9 years ago) Permalink

robot bear, like in AI

$V£N! (blueski), Friday, 20 May 2005 09:02 (9 years ago) Permalink

Advise on structure of a major new system being coded - I was consulted because I devised and designed it

nice...how do you stand up and say MEEEEEEEE when the bigwigs decide "i need to drive this"

my problem

mullygrubbr (bulbs), Friday, 20 May 2005 09:08 (9 years ago) Permalink

Well done Martin! And everyone else! :) It is a fantastic feeling when you do something you know shows your worth to your company. Ive only been in my job a month and today I saved them from a possibly embarrasing mistake in a new contract where they managed to list all of one state (ACT - ie Canberra) suburbs as being close to Sydney instead, which is like 200kms away, instead of 15 from Canberra. The guy who'd done it is a twit who has no idea where any towns are, so I waded in politely and fixed it up, to much thanks.

I might end up redundant anyway cos the company seems a bit flaky, but hey Ive done my bit already and Im happy :)

Trayce (trayce), Friday, 20 May 2005 09:11 (9 years ago) Permalink

great stuff Martin.

As my job wasn't something I was initially skilled at or knew much about I have had to learn as I go along (for the past 4 years). My favourite moments are when spurts of knowledge come out of my mouth and without realising it I've just solved a users problem that probably not many other people in my dept could.

Ste (Fuzzy), Friday, 20 May 2005 09:20 (9 years ago) Permalink

It's called a Socratic Dialogue when you ask people questions so that they find the solution themselves. It's something I've been doing for a long time, but people don't cotton on to the fact that I'm doing it and still seem to believe that I've solved their problem. I like the idea of the Teddy Bear on the help desk though.

But Martin's right ... good days do happen sometimes, which makes it all seem worthwhile.

andyjack (andyjack), Friday, 20 May 2005 10:36 (9 years ago) Permalink

Also malfunctioning equipment/faulty algorithms start to work when I look at them. I'm not lying/exaggerating. It's kind of scary.

Even the machines are in awe of Dan's powers! ;-)

nathalie's baby (stevie nixed), Friday, 20 May 2005 10:38 (9 years ago) Permalink

Certainly beats saying "So do you just want to see a bunch of code that doesn't work or do you want to see the actual useless error messages" * when you get asked to show the boss what progress you're making.

*Me, last week

Onimo (GerryNemo), Friday, 20 May 2005 11:17 (9 years ago) Permalink

I'm probably going to be promoted at the expense of a much more experienced (read: older) employee. I already was one of the youngest employees in my department. So I guess I'm good at this job, despite hating it.

polyphonic (polyphonic), Friday, 20 May 2005 14:54 (9 years ago) Permalink

This afternoon was another real winner. There's been something rumbling for a while - two senior developers couldn't solve a coding problem, and came to my boss and me with it. We spent some time on it, working different angles. I thought I'd got it last week (my boss was away for the last three days of the week) but when I went back to them they gave me lots of info they hadn't given me before, to my irritation, so I decided it could wait to see if my boss's approach would crack it. (I should add that I have the greatest respect and admiration for my boss, and he's the one person in the division who I'm sure is a significantly better programmer than I am.)

Today he was stumped, after spending many more hours, and we went through it together. We were really struggling, and it was getting more and more hideously complex. We took a break mid-afternoon, and I closed my eyes and started rethinking. Within two minutes I had an approach I was convinced was the right one, and within half an hour I had the code to prove it. It's a thousand times simpler to understand and maintain, took no time at all to write, and is, for all the nasty and awkward test cases we've been given, perfect. I'm 100% positive that it will work for all cases - I think I could prove it mathematically, if there were any point in doing so. It's the kind of success I've had several times by stepping way back from how things are being done to think of what we need to achieve, and then seeing better ways. As satisfying a programming achievement as I've had in months, maybe years.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Tuesday, 24 May 2005 16:32 (9 years ago) Permalink

:D nice stories like this make me want to go be a proper programmer!

teeny (teeny), Tuesday, 24 May 2005 16:46 (9 years ago) Permalink

Also malfunctioning equipment/faulty algorithms start to work when I look at them. I'm not lying/exaggerating. It's kind of scary.

This is exactly the OPPOSITE of my actual real life mutant ability! OMG UNBREAKABLE

TOMBOT, Tuesday, 24 May 2005 17:27 (9 years ago) Permalink

You guys are the ILX-Men.

Ken L (Ken L), Tuesday, 24 May 2005 17:28 (9 years ago) Permalink


I've had enough of scheming and messing around with jerks
My car is parked outside, I'm afraid it doesn't work
I'm looking for a partner, someone who gets things fixed
Ask yourself this question: Do you want to be rich?

TOMBOT, Tuesday, 24 May 2005 17:32 (9 years ago) Permalink

3 months pass...
I'm crap at my job, but nobody seems to care!

Adam In Real Life (nordicskilla), Wednesday, 24 August 2005 18:13 (9 years ago) Permalink

I felt useful because I explained the difference between a German and Indian swastika to someone who didn't understand what they were doing in writing a report on marketing to people in India.

nobody, Thursday, 25 August 2005 02:24 (9 years ago) Permalink

Is there a difference, or have you just fallen for that whole "good=clockwise, bad=anticlockwise" myth?

Forest Pines (ForestPines), Thursday, 25 August 2005 06:04 (9 years ago) Permalink


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