Friday, December 01, 2006

I'm Free!! ...Now What Do I Do?

It is now official. Yesterday was my last day working for a particular corporate entity (think of the color blue). I have always been loathe to blog about my employer for many reasons, such as basic professionalism and concerns about job security. Even though they are no longer my employer, I have no intention to change my practice other than to offer a brief retrospective.

When I was hired in December 2000 (started work in June 2001), I had no idea that my career would follow the path that it did. I was going to work as a web developer creating dynamic pages using Java Server Pages. My experience creating PHP, Perl/CGI, and PHP applications in my undergrad years would dazzle my new employer and they would be falling over themselves to put me to work on a project. Or so I thought. Needless to say, the reality was quite different. In my first year, I got to put some PowerPoint slides together and do a little bit of testing. And I got to see exciting Iowa. I did eventually get to develop some JavaScript presentations and do some HTML development with a creative team.

I was not happy with my first year in the "real world." In fact, I hated it and had no idea what to do about it. Then, an opportunity fell into my lap. A co-worker pointed out a project in Vermont where the only required skill was Perl, my favorite language. It turns out that they did not even program in Perl, but that's another story. I eventually landed the position and worked in semiconductor engineering from June 2002 until yesterday. It was a rather odd position for me, as I had no experience with hardware, never took physics beyond high school, and never had an engineering class. But I got the position and did well.

Looking back, I'm certainly proud of some of the things that I accomplished as an engineer. I got to work on some interesting projects and learned more about computers than I could have hoped for. I also learned an extensive amount about myself, my capabilities, my interests, my passions, and my limits. I don't want to say that I am a completely different person than I was five years ago. Rather, I've found the person that I always was and should have been. That is my greatest accomplishment (well, besides snagging the most wonderful wife in existence) of the duration of my career. And now, it is time to move on.

It's rather odd that I am leaving my job at essentially the same time that I am leaving MSU. I did this intentionally so that I could have a clean break before starting Purdue. Certainly I have my trepidations. Am I making the right choices for my career and my life? Will I enjoy Purdue as much as I think I will? Can I succeed as a security researcher? I've spent much of my life believing that I am capable of more than what I have been doing. I remember my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Timms, told my mom that there's no reason I shouldn't get straight As, except that I hadn't put forth the effort. Part of the reason for that is that I relied on others to provide me with the necessary motivation. Give me a project to solve and I'll do it. Now, I want to sever the ties of motivational dependency. I have things I want to learn, new skills to try out, and new projects that I want to work on. It feels odd not having the obligations I previously clung to, but it is incredibly liberating. Thus, I am very excited about what the future holds.

So farewell, corporate behemoth. Thank you for the experience and for your support in my personal growth. As all employers do, you have your problems and you have the things in which you excel. After over five years of your ups and downs, I have learned that you are not where I belong, at least at this point in time. I wish you well, and hope to see more innovation from you in the future. I'm off to learn about security protocols and wireless mesh networks.