I am currently reading Seth Godin’s book ‘free prize inside’, I can highly recommend it. The book is not about little plastic soldiers that come free with rice crispies, but actually about how the best personal/business opportunities come from small changes by people who are not afraid to make a difference.
Some people are afraid to take on the difficult task, as Godin states, but they are quite willing to take on hard tasks. There is a big difference, working hard usually means working long hours, crunching a lot of numbers, making a lot of phone calls. In fact Godin’s blog yesterday posted about a young guy taking on a summer job but not really thinking about what he would be doing before taking it on. This guy worked hard but did not really make a difference.
Making a difference is what I care about, but i’ll be honest, I did not know that until recently. I left a wellpaid job in the Petrochemical industry which gave me a real nice lifestyle and a big salary. I was a techie, but an important one because I got on well with non-techie project managers and chemical engineers. I just knew something wasn’t right, I was bored and so with my savings jumped ship to a masters degree in Human Computer Interaction and Ergonomics, which being honest again I did not know a lot about. Somewhere along the line though I started to care about changing things, probably due to Harold Thimbleby. He probably has no idea but his passion for making a difference influenced me a lot, read one of his articles about the problems of using a calculator, he has such passion about simple objects that you cannot often fail but see his point. Amazing guy.
All that change really unsettled me, I lost my career prospects as an IT guy as a couple of years out of IT means a long road back. Read my article on getting a job combining IT and usability/HCI skills from the time on usabilitynews.com. A real wake up call for me about the lack of generalist jobs in big organisations.
But if you are thinking about making a change, let me say that it is a risk, but a risk worth taking. I now run a team of twelve for a non-profit, building products that are being referenced by UK government as successes and exemplars, when you hear that, everything makes sense. When at a dinner party you tell people what you do and they are really excited and want to know more it is a great feeling, the risk you took will feel worth it. I never had that during my time in Petrochemical simulation!