Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Go forth and prosper, young man!

There are some things that are guaranteed to put a smile on my face. Seeing someone make progress (whether in their personal or professional life) is one of them; seeing that they recognise that they've made progress, for their own sake and by their own efforts, further increases my pleasure; and if I can justifiably feel that I have helped them (in some way) to make progress, then the glow that I feel is magical. I've often wondered why this has such an effect on me; and I think it's because I recognise that I've been lucky in many ways with the opportunities with which this life has presented me. Some I have taken; some I have royally screwed up; yet others I have *made* happen. They're the ones that felt most satisfying to me; and when other people make progress as I've described, then I believe that it it increases the chance that they can make their own opportunities. I was privileged to see one of my colleagues make such progress this week.

I'm not a particularly materialistic person, and am becoming less so as I get older. That said, since I have to work to make a living, I've tried to remain marketable and desirable (in an economic sense) by identifying skills I have (or developing skills I don't have) which are desirable, valuable but scarce in the market-place. Nothing particularly rocket science about that. That's one of the reasons why I've become so interested in Business Intelligence technologies over the years (databases, data warehousing, online analytical processing, data mining, data visualisation and the like); many organisations want it, few do it well. It's not a commodity technology, nor are the people who truly understand it commodity employees. A true craftsman uses the right tools for the right job at the right time and in the right way; an amateur (even a well-intentioned one) gets part of that combination wrong. We can't all be skilled at everything; but if we can recognise when our knowledge or skills are lacking in some area, resolve to correct that gap, and follow through, then opportunities abound.

So it was with my colleague (I'm not going to name him, primarily because he doesn't have an online presence, that I'm aware of, and would, I suspect, be horribly embarassed if I did so). He'd been handed a pretty stiff challenge at work, applied himself to it for a few weeks, and come up with a solution that used the skills he had; its creativity could not be denied (nor the doubtless hours he'd invested in crafting that solution) but it wasn't giving the performance required. I took a look over his work, and identified where the skills gap was, and we set about working together to give him the extra knowledge he needed, and the confidence to apply it. And he really applied himself to the process. I taught him a methodology in progressive stages; he applied that methodology, using increasingly creative structural design and language syntax; and by the end of last week he delivered the fruits of his labours for testing. The performance improvement between his work of a few weeks previously and that delivery was staggering; but was there more that could be achieved? I suspected so, sent him a quick email on Monday morning to suggest that we take a look the next day, and went off for non-work appointments. When I got in to the office Tuesday morning, he'd further improved the performance by a small factor of, oh, a few hundred times. :-) By his own efforts, and with the confidence to think creatively with the new skills at his disposal.

I can't tell you how proud I was (and am) of him.

When learning a new skill or body of knowledge, I think that there's a critical mass of knowledge you have to have before you can both learn new facets (in a self-driven way) *and* apply that knowledge, withour guidance from others. I've been privileged to watch that happen for my colleague over the last few weeks. I hope he recognises (and enjoys) what he's achieved; he should. In this particularly area of technology, he's lifted himself above the level of everyone else in the company, in my opinion (and we have some incredibly talented people working here).

My own ongoing memory and concentration problems have further hampered my abilities to get the satisfaction from training others that I used to get; but on this occasion, we were able to make it happen. For which my colleague receives double thanks; both for providing me with the opportunity to experience again the joy of being a part of someone else's progress... and for taking some more of the pressure off me.

And yesterday I managed to solve a technical problem that has hampered us for weeks; I'll have more weeks as satisfying as this one, please! ;-)

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