Metamorphosis: Variety is the Spice of Life

This blog is now 13 years old, certainly a relic by Internet standards. It’s now 2023, and it’s been some time since I’ve last posted. Still, I regularly receive messages from those readers who have found value in my posts, whether they’re wrangling legacy software, or simply because some of the methodologies I’ve documented and shared haven’t fundamentally changed in their utility.

I’ve got a lot to share. I predict that some of what I will talk about will not be like previous posts about a command-line utility or how to get a piece of hardware to work the way you want. Instead, my words will emerge from challenging experiences and lessons I have learned around the oft-dreaded, rarely dealt-with manila-folder-drab-business-seminaresque domain of soft skills. These are topics like how to expand your scope of influence and impact, how to serve others as they grow and achieve great things, and how to all of this while maintaining a robust and healthy personal life.

Don’t worry, I’ll still nerd out (probably in my next post). There are still dozens of things I am considering sharing that won’t fall under the umbrella of “soft-skills” or “business”.

As I write this, the bad-news of the day is that the technology industry is undergoing economic contraction, with echoes of the dot-com bust increasing in volume in the minds of those who were there to live through it. I continue to write, because for those who are ready, the subsequent periods of expansion and growth will be as exciting as they’ve always been.

Good engineering results have become somewhat of a commodity thanks to:

  • the proliferation of good-enough development frameworks
  • cheap compute and storage and abstractions built atop these foundational technologies
  • a decade-spanning popular investment into S.T.E.M. education
  • a remote-first collaboration and communications mindset

However, the better things get, the more humans have a nasty habit of taking things for granted and taking increasingly dangerous business, political, and financial risks. One of my peers in a previous engineering role once unforgettably called this “hubris borne of success”. I predict the following:

  • Large organizations will reverse course on their investments into S.T.E.M. education as they’ll see an opportunity to cut costs/an unnecessary expense (read: short-term thinking).
  • In some pockets, a return to commuting to offices will be pushed hard by wealthy and powerful real-estate, tourism, and municipal interests who will lobby policymakers in an effort to recoup pandemic losses. As a result, many great engineers will leave once-secure roles and grow into reluctant business leaders, launching their own remote-first startups, embracing now-tested mechanisms like the 4-hour work week. A select few of these will grow into the big innovators of the 20s and 30s.
  • The pandemic-era global chip shortage combined with the “all eggs in one basket” risk presented by manufacturing chips in Taiwan will force the United States government to invest in domestic hardware production once again. We’ve spent a lot of the past 15 years focused on software developers and teaching kids web development. Those kids have grown up to become software developers split between web and mobile application development (with much overlap). The next generation of engineering students would be wise to focus on low-level hardware and FPGA development. You cannot run software without hardware. Even cloud providers ultimately use hardware. If Taiwan becomes politically contested and the world isn’t able to depend on it for chip design and production, the US will be ready to deliver.

Additionally, as has been the case for most of the past century, automation has continued on its march, diminishing the requirement that we all understand the obscure underpinnings of the technologies we use daily, and increasingly rewarding the individuals and businesses who make creative use of these technologies.

For over five years I have been working in the mythologized FAANG industry as a leader situated precisely at the meeting point of bleeding-edge technology and those it seeks to empower. In doing so, I have either learned, confirmed, or disproved a lot about how the business of technology works.

Professionally, I only accept jobs that I know will fill the following needs:

  1. Fair compensation.
  2. They aren’t laden with busy work that could be automated, and if they are, my job is to automate them.
  3. They don’t force me to lie or exaggerate the truth about the successes or failures of myself and my team.
  4. They provide some tangible value to one or many people, ideally many.
  5. They provide me with a challenge to overcome by learning and growing.

As you can see, I feel I have enough to share to put hands on my keyboard and let it flow. I will likely draw comparisons between systems engineering and organizational leadership. I will probably make really bad metaphors and analogies as I am apt to do.

These posts will not be gripes. Don’t come here looking for smack talk or bad blood or gossip. Do come here looking for objective ideas about growing yourself, your knowledge (maybe of things you otherwise wouldn’t care about), and uplifting those around you.

As always, the posts will likely be as infrequent as always because I am busier than I’ve ever been doing things I love.





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