Career development

I’m swimming in the wake of very recent staffing changes at my company, involving in the loss of one person’s job and a major shift in mine. The firm is small enough that any hiring or firing has a pretty significant impact, at least in the short term. People have been anxious. I’ve been anxious because I don’t like it when the people around me are unhappy, but mainly because I’m being given responsibility for an area that I know very little about.

My brief history with the company is this: I was hired for an administrative position, which left me with a lot of spare time and took minimal advantage of my capabilities. I started asking co-workers if I could help them out with minor technical tasks or proposal-writing assignments. Eventually it came to the executives’ attention that I was willing and able to handle more challenging work. As of last Friday, I’ve been transferred to a position that has me much more closely involved with our software products. Let me remind you that I have no background in software or computer science. Clearly that’s not a prerequisite for my particular job (otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten it), but I suspect it factors into the worried atmosphere that has pervaded the office this week.

I spent the initial part of the week feeling terrified and stressed. I wanted to hide in the back room, away from the whispered conversations that took place among shocked and nervous co-workers. It was hard not to speculate that parts of the discussion might have been about me. Like everyone else, too, I was still in a bit of shock from Friday’s announcements. My new supervisor has been a lifesaver as the only person around who’s able to express the amount of confidence in me that I should have in myself. I do have a good deal of faith in my abilities, but I also hold myself to extremely high standards. At this point, before I even know anything about the standards I’ll have to meet, that does more harm than good. Before I could even begin my new duties I was overwhelmed by the thought of how much I would have to learn and how many challenges lay ahead.

So I’m beginning to relax. There are certain unpleasant truths to be accepted, such as the fact that I won’t do everything perfectly, and the humbling reality that I will need to ask lots of stupid questions before I truly understand the projects I’m working on. Nobody can expect anything different. The important thing is to ignore my egotistical concerns and get down to business. Today I finished sloughing off my administrative duties, cleared some new space at my desk, and got as organized as I possibly could with only a few papers and emails to my name. Making a fresh start is always invigorating.

Thus begins my unexpected career in software.

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