Sunday, February 20, 2005

Reflections on My First Month in the Blogosphere

Well, it’s been a month since I have started this blog. I’ve got to admit, this has been a lot harder than I had imagined, and also a lot more fun! I didn’t know there was so much interaction in the blogosphere – it’s a community much like a forum, only of course with a lot more content and substance to it.

I also didn’t know that it would take up so much of my time, or that it would be so difficult to come up with a post that is of interest to anyone beside myself, or that everything that I had planned to say on this site, has been said by thousands of people already, so I’m going to have to think of something new.

I have a confession to make. While SC&A have repeatedly stated that we should blog for fun, and not for other, lowly motives, when I started this blog, it wasn’t to play or have fun. I started it to see if I could write; if I could say things that would be heard; and to find out what exactly these things would be, i.e., out of all the topics I can post on, what would be of most interest to a reader. The reason why I am trying to determine all these things is because, in a nutshell, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Let me explain.

When I was a kid, I did well in almost all subjects in school, but I liked the humanities more (not counting the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union – no one in their right mind would enjoy studying *that*!) By 7th grade, I had decided that I wanted to be a journalist; specifically, that I wanted to cover the events around the world, as opposed to inside the country. Unfortunately, reality interfered. Being a journalist stationed abroad was considered an ultimate cushy job in the USSR, and you had to have serious connections if you wanted to get into a school for a degree in that. My family, needless to say, had no connections at all. On top of it, we were ethnic Jews, and in the 70’s Soviet Union, it was impossible for an ethnic Jew to be accepted at any of the more prestigious schools, the reasoning behind it being that they would get a free education and then leave the country. (As a result, most of the ethnic Jews still managed to get some sort of education, and left the country). My only option was to become an engineer. That’s what everybody in our circles ended up doing. Engineering jobs didn’t pay well, but they still required a college degree, so there was some status attached.

When I was 16, my Dad asked me if I wanted to be a programmer. My response was along the lines of “Wuzzat all about?” It was 1983, we lived in a small town, and none of us had ever seen a computer. According to Dad, however, programming was a convenient mix of what I enjoyed doing (languages) and what it was possible for me to get an education in (math). So I went to school to be a programmer. It was considered a low-status job, I got into a good university with minimum effort, and went on to be a programmer at a manufacturing plant for a meager wage.

I was totally looking forward to a life of semi-interesting work and minimal pay, as was everybody else I had graduated with. How were we to know that we had struck oil? After four years of low-wage work, followed by four years of unemployment, I came to the US right at the beginning of the IT boom. I got an entry-level job right away. I loved what I was doing, and put in crazy hours to learn more. Three years and three jobs later, I ended up at my current place of work – stable company, good pay. I have been here five years. Time to sit back and enjoy life? I wish. All of a sudden, I’ve started making some unpleasant observations about my field of work in general. I shared my thoughts with a few fellow women programmers across the country and they told me they had come to the same conclusions as I did.

For instance, I suddenly realized that picking up an entirely new technology – something that I enjoyed doing in my younger days and something that you have to do every five to seven years if you want to remain in the field – is a lot harder when you are in your late 30’s than when you’re 25-30 years old. I realized that there are very few women over 40, let alone 50, still working in IT. I realized that, while right now I am still technically capable of putting in the extra time that working in my field requires, I’d rather spend that time with my family; and that, some ten-twelve years down the road, I may not be able to put in that extra time at all, due to my age. I realized that practically all coding jobs are going overseas, and that I don’t care because (another realization) I do not enjoy coding as much as I used to. The fun has gone out of it. On the bright side, I began to really enjoy the analytical and the people side of things. But bottom line is, right now I have no idea where I want to be or where I will be five years from now. I cannot even look for another job because I have no clue what position to interview for. And it seems like there are thousands of us out there – intelligent, educated women in their late 30’s – early 40’s, with 15-20 years of IT experience, who have no idea what to do with their lives, aside from the fact that they want to change something. I am saying “women”, because the guys I’ve talked to seem pretty happy where they are. Of course, all women that I have talked to are in agreement that we cannot very well drop everything, quit our jobs, go to school to learn something else, and start over. There are a lot of logistics involved – you know, family, mortgage, college savings… We bring in decent money, and our families are counting on us to continue doing that while we can.

That said, right now I am trying to figure out what to do and which direction to go. In what I can only call a wild flash of female logic, I decided to start my blog to help me find that out. Don’t ask me what my reasoning was behind this; I don’t remember. On some intuitive level, it still makes sense to me in a crazy sort of way. I mean, there are some things I post here that generate an insane (for me, anyway) number of hits – why? Then there are other things I post that nobody seems to care for – again, why? I have a feeling that one day, somehow all my experience with this blog will add up and help me find out what I’m good at.

Then again, maybe it won’t. And in the meantime, this blog has taken over my life. Never before have I spent so much time on my computer at nights and on weekends, unless it was required by my job. My husband is starting to act suspiciously grumpy and I’m worried. I don’t want him to divorce me over a blog, you know? So I guess I’m going to try to keep a low profile, maybe not post as frequently as I have during this first month, and essentially do it for fun rather than as some kind of research of my skills. I think I’ll take it slow and see what happens.

One thing I hadn’t expected to find here when I started this was the blogosphere community (yes, I know I’ve said this before, but it is worth saying again). It is an awesome phenomenon. As opposed to the “general discussion” forums, where there had always been a thought at the back of our minds that we were some kind of losers, chatting on the Internet when everybody else was out partying (maybe because we didn’t have enough bandwidth to really get our thoughts out, and maybe because half of us really were – oops! – losers), this is truly a forum in the ancient Greek sense of the word – a place where intelligent, educated people meet to share their thoughts and experiences. The quality of my reading has improved greatly since I got here. I am awed and humbled. I plan on sticking around, because there’s just too much good reading material to miss!

Well, now you know how I got here and what I found (and the fact that I don’t plan on going away). This time, I would really like to see some comments. Do you know anyone like myself, that wants to get into a different line of work but doesn’t know exactly what it should be? Or, are you such a person? What advice would you give to me and other women like myself? Is this all some kind of a midlife crisis normally cured by therapy, or are we really on to something? Why do you blog? Why you think should anybody blog? Please feel free to share your thoughts, and I thank you in advance.

The Goldie has spoken at 4:25 PM

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