I'm having one of those "oh man I have so much to grow into" moments right now. The "grow into" is still undefined; I need to pick out small bits I can more concretely tackle (prioritizing, measuring, apologizing/ being reliable, killing perfectionism, and forming trackable daily habits are the current lineup).
You need those early experiences to learn the lessons that will help prepare you for challenges later in your career. Those who move up the ladder too quickly find themselves in a precarious place. They think they are heroes, but when real challenges and the realities of failure hit them, they're unprepared to deal with them. --Dan Schulman
Some folks have asked me why I don't start my own business or go the startup route. I would - if I had good mentors and good bosses at that startup. I'm still building my foundation. I'm getting tired of building things without a blueprint; I need more raw material. I want to work in good systems built and run by smart people before I have the audacity to jump in for another round of improvising up my own everything. I read Scott's post about his new job at litl with growing admiration of how much it takes to make a simple system that runs well and makes people effective. I've tried to do that, and I've failed repeatedly; it's hard because it's supposed to be invisible and look easy.
This isn't a desire to drop back and be lazy and let others do the thinking for me - far from it. I want my mind stretched, and I'm stagnating due to a lack of models to learn from. In terms of being a good community engineer, I've gotten to the point where I can't teach myself more by floundering around. I need a team, I need mentors, and I need resources, and I need to be constantly exposed to those people and projects every day; I don't have specific questions or problems I can call in one-off consultations for. I need to see how they operate in regular life. I need to watch the sort of problems I might face; right now I can't see them very clearly. I want to watch people I respect and admire make decisions, act, and just be people so that I have a sense of the space I can grow up into. You improvise with greater inspiration and facility after you listen to the greats take on a melody.
I think this probably means that I am going to have to get a job soon. I hear those are good ways to learn things.
One of the greatest gifts that Olin gave me was the privilege of watching the construction of a system from the ground up. I got to see the advantages and disadvantages of experience. I got to hear a lot of "at the school where I came from, we did things this way" stories from my professors, which was immensely valuable - they gave us knowledge to draw from when we were choosing what we wanted our school to be like at that moment. But Olin also gave me a working system. It gave me a complete image - one image - of what a school could be like. TOPP and OLPC taught me how important building good technical and community processes were - by showing me what things were like in their absence as they were being put together.
Fedora is an inspiring example of a working open-source project system that interacts with a commercial entity (Red Hat). I'd like to see how they work - Debian and Ubuntu, would make good compares-and-contrasts, too. I've heard great things about the Inkscape community's integration of coders and artists. And then there's GNOME, which I would love to learn more about the workings of, but just don't... know about. I need to find a way to get involved. Maybe I should show up at a bug day.
Okay. I'm out of raw material for this topic. Now comes the fun part: one of the things I'm trying to learn is how to be concise. Can I cut this down to something half the length?