A few weeks ago, I Tweeted the realisation that I left university 21 years ago, and since then I’ve been working in tech — sometimes a surprise both to me and to others, given that I started out armed with nothing more than a degree in Modern History, and a lot of self-taught coding skills, mostly from Acorn computers. C and BBC BASIC, baby!
Oh, and Final Fantasy VII came out in the same year I got my first job in tech — fantastic game!
Aside from those calling me a young whippersnapper (etc.), another one of my Twitter friends replied, and asked:
The classic question: what’s the one thing you know now you wish you’d known when you started?
(thanks for the prompt, Camilla!)
This got me thinking, and I reduced some of my key learnings into the following three Tweets:
Of course, a lot of these come with confidence, and it took me a long time to build that up in my career — everything is easier, in hindsight! With that confidence came the ability not to be afraid to ask for help, and to say “I don’t know” when I didn’t know.
The wheel of technology turns. Stacks build, become common infrastructure, and are reinvented. You’ll always be learning, but also always leaning on your background and experience.
Back in the late 1990s, I learned DCE (Distributed Computing Environment, a middleware of the time) at the UK Post Office, and functions and concepts like Remote Procedure Calls, Kerberos, and UUIDs remain useful mental hooks for me at a fundamental level, even though DCE itself is long gone as a working technology.
These things apply regardless of industry, as far as I’m concerned. Be kind to your colleagues, and recognise and be grateful for those who (in particular) make your life and work easier.
There are many, many more thoughts in my head about all of this, of course… the pros and cons, the best and worst parts of the industry, and the well-documented issues that it needs to deal with as it continues to mature. These are just a few of my personal learnings and “things I wish I’d understood” when I set out on this path.
In writing this post I started to think a lot more about other things I’ve learned during each “phase” — or at least at each company and in each role — I should probably think about writing some of those things down at some point!
[PS for Katie: maybe this is me finally making a start on the book]