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Introspection: What I do all day

I was walking back from dim sum with an ex-colleague from my Scient days, and I started wondering how I describe myself to the world. As I'm not a visual person, I tend to think of things in terms of narrative descriptions.

Most folk will have heard me describe myself as a "Consulting Internet Systems Architect". But that's not enough, as what I really do is so much more and so much less than those words.

What architects do is design buildings, and I'm actually breaking the law in the UK by calling myself an architect. What I really do is look at people's business problems, and try to come up with a technological solution, based around a combination of off-the-shelf tools and new development. It's not really a speciality at all, I'm much more a generalist, a Jack of all Trades. And one that knows how to use Visio to boot...

But then there are the specific things I'm interested in. XML, systems integration, the mobile internet. And they can get quite detailed. There's an XML-mediated distributed component architecture in my head that really wants to get out and show a 3G operator what they really can do, instead of implementing yet another mobile portal.

Perhaps I should just say I write computer programs. But then I saw someone describe themselves today as "not a very good coder". And I realised: I'm not a coder, and I don't want to be a coder. It's been several years since I wrote a line of production code. Sure I can throw together a demo or assemble a proof of concept, perhaps even put together a prototype, but that's not the sort of thing I call coding. I'm pretty sure she actually meets my definition of a real coder. Maybe I write specifications, maybe I put together implausible project plans. Maybe I just write documents.

True, I get to play with fun toys. PDAs, servers, phones, software. I could go on and on for hours about how cool I think RSS is, and how it could revolutionise corporate knowledge management.

But really most of the time I just think about stuff. I look at diagrams, documents, articles, white papers. I let it all slosh around in my head for a while, occasionally scribbling on a whiteboard or a flipchart, and then at the last minute, as the deadline approaches I write down an answer. Perhaps I'll give a presentation or two. And then people go away and do something with my ideas.

In the end, I came to the realisation: people pay me to think about neat stuff, and then to teach other people about what I'm thinking.

I quite like that.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2002 03:08 pm (UTC)
I have to settle for "geek herder" :)
Jun. 18th, 2002 11:40 pm (UTC)
I settled for "Guru". Well, I sit around and think about things for a long time.

(Notices the music playing - Wasn't that a wonderful video)

Jun. 19th, 2002 01:52 am (UTC)
My work title is Professional Services Consultant, but evn after 6 years in the job I can't help thinking of Luncheon Vouchers in Streatham - computer pimp.

When asked what I do I usually say analysis, design and development of meta-data solutions. This again usually gets the blank stare and I end up saying I work with data about data or sometimes data about data about data and leave it at that.
Jun. 19th, 2002 09:55 am (UTC)
Artifice and the "AD&D Reality(tm) Expansion Set"
I quite like the Victorian, hand-crafted feel of "Chief Artificer".

Maybe we should appropriate the profession of Artificer (A skilled worker; a craftsperson. One that contrives, devises, or constructs something: “The labyrinth... was built by Daedalus, a most skillful artificer”). To me it evokes a feeling of being involved with the important (fun) bits of creation (which coding so often isn't) and has a twang of the edificial or chimerical about it: a nod to the fact that we know what we build may offer different perspectives on reality, but it's not 'real' in the physical sense.

From a different viewpoint, you could analogise what we do with the roleplay Bard or Monk character - "Get to level 8 as a coder, then switch classes to project manager, then spend another 5 levels on general managment stuff, 6 on the 'dark side (business stuff)', then you get access to the special skills of the artificer"

Is this the Artificer Class? Are we the Artificer Class?
Jun. 19th, 2002 10:11 am (UTC)
Re: Artifice and the "AD&D Reality(tm) Expansion Set"
Dunno, I always see "career" more as verb than noun...
Jun. 19th, 2002 04:54 pm (UTC)
Re: Artifice and the "AD&D Reality(tm) Expansion Set"
I heard that somewhere else recently... I can't remember where. That's going to bug me for the next five minutes after which I'll forget all about it.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )