Do you want to do the job?

What does it take to love your job?

This has been on my mind lately. The reason why is not important. It reminded me of something that happened years ago. The story helps the advice I recieved make sense.

I had been at my new job about six months. It was my first job doing C code and embedded systems full time. In the past C was the side task and PCB boards and hardware was the job. I loved it. I was eating up the Steven’s Books on TCP/IP, learning about networks and sniffers (Wireshark was not yet usable, so we used a commercial product. But think Wireshark.)

Want to go to a Rockies Game?

The lead developer on the product had been there for about 2 years. He was a nice guy, but had been making noises that he would like to move on, and do a new startup with a buddy. Our manager was worried he would quit.

So, the lead engineering of the firmware would be passed on to Gerry. Gerry (pronounce the G like J, as in Jerry) was the nicest guy to work with. He was very senior to me in experience. Maybe 5’2, with white hair around a bald top. Gerry was older, but fit. He played in local soccer leagues and could probably run me into the ground.

Gerry did not want to become the engineering lead. He and out manager had worked together at a few small companies through their careers. He liked coding on the new stuff, R&D projects. The day to day meetings, management and stresses of a product was not for him. He had been there, done that, and was happier coding away.

One day, he invited me to go to a Rockies game. A Wednesday afternoon game! This was five or six years after Coors Field had opened. Rockies feaver was hot, and getting tickets could be difficult. He had tickets and thought I may like to go. Hell yes I wanted to go!

Take an engineer to a game

There was a system to this, Gerry was an engineer and optimizer, so no time could be wasted.

First we met at the Park-n-Ride where there were shuttle buses downtown. For $0.75 you did not have to drive in traffic or park. Sweet!

Once off the bus, you don’t go into the stadium. We walked two blocks on a sunny blue sky summer day to the Subway shop across Wynkoop St. There we grabbed $5 footlong sandwiches. The stadium prices were crazy high even then.

Into the stadium, to grab a beer at the stand under a pillar. Never a line there Gerry explained. On to our seats along the first base line, about 1.5 sections from the dugout. There are no bad seats at Coors Field, and these were especially good. I did not bring my glove, because I’m not 10, but there was a chance at a foul ball.

We settled in after the anthem to talk about work, engineering and the game.

Everyday is an interview

As a geek, and an engineer, I can be a little thick about social clues. Even through my thick head, I could tell Gerry had something more he wanted to ask.

A bit after the 7th inning stretch he came out with it.

He told me his philosophy to code, and the work we did. He does not want to manage the project, bug lists, and customer service, just code thanks. He had told the manager I could be the product lead, but being young and green they were not sure if I could handle it. The Rockies game was an extended interview.

I enthusiastically said “I can do the code”. Then Gerry dropped this piece of advice that has stuck with me for all these years. “It is easy to find people who can do the work. It is hard to find people who want to do the work.”

“It is easy to find people who can do the work. It is hard to find people who want to do the work.” – Gerry Colvin

Yes, I wanted to do the job. Over the years, I had to interview many engineers to work on that product and others.  Interviewees would not get to an in person interview if they could not write code. Anyone can learn to code. Always, the key thing I was looking for was do you want to do this.

Two things to take home

First, do your job interviews a major league baseball games. It is much more fun than a conference room. Serve beer as well.

Second, ask yourself, “do I want to do the work?”. Even if the job is a great fit on paper, if you don’t really want to do the day to day work, and make the project/product better, you won’t be happy.