Consulting is enjoyable due to the variety, but it would be fun to help build a platform.
— Bill (@billdollins) May 2, 2016
Earlier this week, I posted the above tweet. To explain the variety I referred to, here is a partial list, in no particular order, of the tools I’ve worked with in the past week.
- TileMill (Yes, I still use it)
- ArcGIS Server
- SOAP (!)
- Windows Communication Foundation
- Microsoft SQL Server
- SQL (Spatial and non-spatial for the above platforms)
- X.509 certificates
My work has its own operational tempo and there are times when the tools I am working with are not as varied. Each situation has its advantages and disadvantages. In the current scenario, I am able to maintain my currency across a wide variety of technologies, but that can come at the risk of not necessarily diving deeply into a problem set. When I am more focused on a particular tool set, I am able to get reacquainted with advanced techniques that enable real productivity and result in fairly compelling capabilities, but it can come with the risk of getting locked into a particular tool set and allowing other skills to go stale. I have found, over the course of my consulting career, that the former case is slightly preferable to the latter. It keeps me in demand and leads to the ability to do the variety of work I am doing now. It also keeps the lights on.
As I indicated in my tweet, however, the concept of a deep dive into a platform is compelling. In the past, I worked much more deeply with geospatial tools in areas like modeling and simulation or network analysis. Those times yielded some really interesting tools, allowed me to work on effective teams, and exposed me to more advanced applications of geospatial tools and concepts. I am enjoying my current situation, however, because it brings me closer to geospatial again. A lot of my work over the past year hasn’t had as much of a geospatial use case, so it’s been really refreshing to get back to it. If there’s a drawback, it’s that it can cause me to be too concentrated on technology at the expense of my leadership and business skills, which I do enjoy exercising.
My primary federal customers have become more intensely focused on cybersecurity and seem intent on driving technical talent to beef up skills in that area. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s never been an area of the tech field that I’ve found particularly interesting. As a result, it’s gotten me doing more thinking about the kind of work I want to do and how much time I want to invest in acquiring skills and certifications that draw me farther away from the areas I enjoy and in which I’ve built a successful track record. This is the primary reason why this blog has been somewhat fallow over the past year. It’s always good to learn new things, as long as you keep an eye on the potential opportunity costs.
This is not the kind of introspection I have tended to do on my blog, but I think it’s important to to periodically assess where you are, especially in the rapidly-changing (geo)technology field.