Continuous Improvement

Some people probably think I’m crazy.  I’m always reading at least two books.  I research new things on the web daily.  I love to challenge myself both mentally and physically.  I have an endless thirst for knowledge.

I still remember answering a series of questions offered by the professor in my Object Oriented Programming class while the rest of my peers sat with blank looks on their faces.  One of the other students asked me “So, do you go home and read C++ headers every night?”  I replied with a grin “Not every night.”

I was hired by the school district in the spring of 1999 as a PC Tech.  I went around fixing people’s problems and installing upgrades.  The summer after I was hired, the district starting wiring all of the classrooms and installing servers on each campus.  It seemed natural for me to move up and take over the network.

There was only one problem, I knew little about networking and nothing about servers.  So, I bought a stack of books about Windows NT and started reading.  I would work all morning, go home and read for an hour on my lunch break, then go back and work all afternoon.  I read every evening from the time I got home until I fell asleep.

I tried to stay a few steps ahead of what I was working on.  I still remember trying to set up DHCP for the first time.  I had to bring one of my books to work and follow the steps as I set it up.  This made me a little uncomfortable because I wanted everyone to think I knew everything.  I made sure no one else saw me looking at the book while I worked.

By the end of the summer I knew enough about networking to pass all six tests required to become a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer.  That really made me happy because my boss had recently tried one of the tests and failed it.  There was also a pretty significant pay raise to go along with my new title.

I was happy being the network manager for several years after that.  It seemed like there was always something new to learn about networking.  Once I felt like I had mastered Windows, I moved on to Linux.  I read everything I could get my hands on and even ran Linux on my home computer for over a year.

I was also looking forward to the day my boss would retire and I would be promoted again.  He was already grooming me to take his place.  I was learning about the budget and E-Rate applications, and felt like I had a part in many of the “big” decisions.  It wasn’t as interesting as networking, but it was something new to learn.

Finally, my boss retired and I was promoted to Director of Technology.  The day I had been looking forward to for years had finally arrived… and I was miserable.

Instead of constantly learning new things, I felt like I was in an infinite loop of meetings and paperwork.  I spent most days staring at the dull walls of my office, talking on the phone, and responding to e-mail.

I realized something else after my promotion — this was as far as I could go at the school district.  I would never be promoted above Director.  I didn’t have the qualifications for anything higher.   The thought of staying in the same place for the rest of my life scared me.

So, after working for almost 10 years to finally reach my “dream” position, I started casually looking for a new job.

6 thoughts on “Continuous Improvement”

  1. Your secret is out. I never knew that you spent so much time reading to learn how to handle the network. We all thought that you just knew that stuff. Wow. My respect for you just went up several notches.

  2. 1. That’s the problem with reaching those pesky goals – you just feel like you have to set new ones and

    2. Nothing like talking about reading to impress a librarian 🙂

  3. That image is now shattered into a million pieces. But wait…didn’t you write all of those articles on Wikipedia?

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