Fish out of water (but don’t worry, I can fix that)

Picture the scene. You were born an engineer. You grew up quickly understanding how things work and more importantly, how to fix things. You spend your childhood taking stuff apart, understanding how to put it back together.

As you grew older you began engineering. You began creating things. Not just nuts and bolts but electronic components, software, scripts. You realised you could be a computer engineer. So you become one (it’s me, by the way).

So you followed a career path, engineering things. Making things, creating solutions, fixing problems. You got good.

Almost thirty years on, you have other engineers working for you, you’re in a suit, sat in a FTSE100 company director’s office and they’re not happy. This is most confusing. There was a really big problem, you fixed it, why are people cross? Oh, hang on, the director is talking again. Ahah! They’re describing a problem. Brilliant, another problem. You may wear a suit nowadays (sometimes) and you may spend more time ordering people about than pissing about with computers but this is another problem and fixing problems is what you’re good at. Problem understood, it relates to the process not followed when the previous problem was being fixed, you understand the problem and already understand what the solution needs to be, lets get going.

Woooaaaahhh…. This is what we talked about. You don’t just get up and leave when you’ve heard the problem details, yesss, it’s all coming back to you now, about the time you had to start wearing proper shoes. The protocol is to listen to what the important person has to say, pretend you don’t know how to fix it really quickly, pretend to listen while you watch all the other people in the room talk about stuff and finally get to the same place you are at. Then, if you’re really good, you pretend to see the problem and solution now they’ve described it.

Don’t forget, the important person in the room quite often doesn’t want to hear about the solution detail unless they specifically ask you, all they want to know is that you can fix it.

Understand what i’m talking about? Then you too are an engineer in a suit, welcome.

I’m sure there are people reading this who understand what I’m talking about. You’ve had a good career as an engineer and then at one point, you sort of ended up (usually by accident), stopping doing actual engineering stuff and starting ordering other engineers about stuff. You are actually quite a good choice for doing this kind of thing to be honest. You understand problems, you understand how to create solutions, you understand engineers. Brilliant. You know, if you didn’t have to meet people and talk to them, listen to their requirements and then pretend you understand them.

Like in this case. Apparently you should have anticipated that someone who would not be able to solve the problem, would need to know about it before you even understood it fully. What’s that craziness about? Still, the gaffer says that’s what’s required, that will be the process from now on. Why are we still talking about it?…. Ah yea, there’s non-engineers in the room.

You see, gifted as some non-engineers may be at ….stuff, they’re sometimes a bit slow at coming the obvious conclusion.

And if there’s one thing you’ve learned as you transitioned from sandle wearing geek to leather shoe wearing…geek, it’s you’ll always be, a bit weird. Most of the people in the room got there by learning how to well at business, learning how to do business, learning that back stabbing thing and that arse kissing thing. No really, i’m sure they’re lovely people.

We’ve started to get where I’m going now anyway, so that’s good. The thing is, if you’ve followed the same career path as me, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself confused as the people in the room come up with their bizarre business requirements and stunned as you watch them struggle to get their heads round the most obvious solutions. It’s not that they’re not intelligent, they’re just clever at different stuff and you make them as uncomfortable as they make you. They may be good at talking to people (shudder), hanging out in large groups (sweet jesus), managing budgets (BORING) and make ‘business’ decisions. Meanwhile they’ll always be suspicious of you as you understand computers, talk about things that sound made up, know what ‘cpu cycles’ or ‘electrodynamics’ are and generally get involved in geeky behaviour.

And you’re going to be unusual. Chances are there’s not many people who have followed the same path. Namely because you’re a god-damn freak with a selection of social anxieties as long as your arm, a propensity for associating with fictional fantasy characters and and of course, an ability to decipher hex….and binary.

Yep, you scare the fuck out of them and they don’t know that they scare the fuck out of you and you have