It seems de rigueur right now for governments and businesses to come together to collectively form skills strategies, in order to co-ordinate the employment needs of business with the output of the education system. On the face of it, this sounds completely logical - kids will eventually grow up and need jobs, and businesses will need new employees to replace those moving on. But somehow, the concept of aligning education with the needs of existing businesses makes me rather uncomfortable.
I fired up my desktop Windows PC for the first time in a while recently, and the first thing I realised is that I absolutely hated the keyboard. This was nothing to do with the slight differences between the PC and Mac keyboard layouts, the latter of which I’ve become more accustomed over the last couple of years, nor was it about whether the keys were mechanical or scissor switched, or any such nuance.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that the reader is a relatively normal person, and not a raging egomaniac, or a nihilistic sociopath - investment bankers, you might want to stop reading now ;). Still with me? OK. So, I don’t know precisely what you do for a living; given my usual readership you’re quite likely to be a software developer, but I believe this applies pretty universally.
I’m an avid believer in the value of ‘playing the long game’ - that is, the concept that it’s worth foregoing short-term benefits, or indeed enduring short-term pain, in pursuit of a more significant long-term gain. This kind of thinking is a basic requirement of anyone who has chosen to run their own business at some point, because it’s always easier and more immediately financially beneficial to take a ‘safe’ job offer rather than to leap into the unknown, a place of short-term cash flow issues and uncertain future gains.
If you haven’t come across them already, I strongly recommend you take a few minutes with this HBR blog: In Defense of Polymaths, and also Adam Savage’s commencement address to Sarah Lawrence. Both are insightful pieces on the fallacy that is the tendency to believe that specialism in a narrow field is the answer to a fulfilling life experience, and ultimately to ‘success’, whatever that means - usually money, possessions and peer recognition.
If you limit your reading material to articles on TechCrunch and similar sites, you’d get the impression that to succeed in business requires that you plan to scale to a massive level. The received wisdom is that if you’re not targeting a user base of several million, and are not raising capital in Silicon Valley commensurate with that aim, then you’re not doing it right. This is nonsense, of course. It simply reflects one end of the spectrum of business ventures - that which is high-risk and high-reward.
As I promised, I’ve given this blog a bit of an overhaul in anticipation of posting more often again. For those who are interested, here’s a run-down of the updates: New responsive design Responsive design is all the rage these days; in summary, it’s all about making your site adapt fluidly to the reading environment so it looks good on a variety of devices, even resizing images so they always fit.
Apple kept everyone on tenterhooks this year by announcing WWDC 2012 very late - the second latest announcement ever in fact. Like many other people (11,000 of them I hear, which is alarming given that there are only 5,000 tickets to the event) I signed up to WWDC Alerts, which sent me an SMS message while I was having lunch, only a few minutes after the tickets went on sale. That I was lucky enough to bag myself a ticket has a lot to do with that - about 90 minutes later, they were all gone - so big thanks to fellow Brits Anthony Herron and Aaron Wardle for running that, completely free of charge too.
I’ve been shamed by Scott Hanselman into realising that I’ve been neglecting my blog recently, and using Twitter as a poor surrogate for more detailed commentary, something I plan to address in the next few months. Google+ acted as a sort of halfway house for a while too, but a combination of their lack of mobile updates, a terrible new desktop design, and the realisation that my blog does a better job of forming a permanent archive of my musings mean that I’m unlikely to use it very much beyond linking now.
How often do you stop and think about why it is you do what you do for a living? Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis thing, but of late I’m acutely aware of the finite nature of time, and that there are an infinite number of ways I could spend that time. I’m also aware that ‘software developers’ are a quite diverse bunch of people, despite the persistent stereotype of math geeks huddled around technical toys talking in obscure acronyms (OK, we do that too).