Posts Tagged ‘Career’

Time for a change

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Most of the people who know me and are reading this probably know me from my work with the Milwaukee JS meetup. Anyone that has had a conversation with me at the meetup has probably heard me talk about making Milwaukee and Wisconsin better. Specifically for tech but overall as well. This is a subject that I am passionate about and is one of the key reasons I continue to put effort into Milwaukee JS.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter who I am. The only thing that matters is that you read this and start to give a damn. It is time for the people here care. For the companies here to care. It is time for real change not just saying words but actually doing something that will better all of us.

Time for a story. Sally is a software developer that works for you or with you. She is a good developer, gets her work done and is currently contemplating moving out of the state to pursue better jobs. This seems crazy right? I mean Sally’s job pays decent. Her company is stable. Why would she risk everything to move 2,000 miles?

The answer? Many people and companies don’t want to hear the answer. Or they don’t want to believe the answer. The answer is because Sally’s job consists of writing code that is outdated, boring, and is the bare minimum the company needs. She spends her nights learning whatever she can to become a better developer but all attempts to use what she has learned at her company have failed. So she is willing to risk everything, move 2,000 miles just for a chance to use more of the skills she has accumulated.

Many of you are thinking this story is just that; A story. Well, I hate to break the news to you it isn’t. I have at least 8 friends and acquaintances that have moved for this very reason. And more that are considering a move and they probably work for you or with you right now. Most them could have been considered “community leaders”. They ran/run meetups and tried to make an impact at their respective places of employment only to have it not go anywhere.

Need more proof there is an issue? Go to a meetup. Any meetup. Talk to the developers that are there. They will tell you the struggles are real. They will tell you that it is hard to find places to work in the area that actually give a damn about development. They will tell you that it has crossed their mind at least once to move 2,000 miles to a place where more people give a damn.

Still need more? Fine. Walk down to your HR/talent acquisition people and ask them. Ask them how much work they have to do to find a hireable person. They will tell you, that in Milwaukee it is really hard to attract talent.

Ok so there is a problem. So What can I do about it?

As a company let your developers participate in the developer community of Milwaukee and Wisconsin. On company time. Developers have lives outside of work but many of us would love the chance to show off what they do at work. They should not be expected to do this on their time. They should be doing it on yours as it will benefit you. So let them. Not only will this net more engaged developers but it will allow your company to shine in the community which in turn will help attract more talent.

I bet the majority of our small community in Milwaukee don’t know the cool and interesting problems that are being solved in your four walls. Hell, I would bet some of the employees inside your four walls don’t know the extent of interesting problems that are being worked on within your four walls.

So I beg you. Let them speak. Let them blog. Let them be more open on the awesome you are doing and the problems you are solving.

As a developer in this community, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and push your employer to allow you to contribute to the community. This can be blogging, speaking, tweeting or whatever. I for one believe that we, as developers, are the best advocates for our employers to other developers.

At this point you maybe asking yourself why does this person care so much about a company he doesn’t work for. Why does he care about what I do?

The answer is simple. I am selfish. As the quality of developer jobs in Milwaukee improves, we will attract more talent. As more talent comes to Milwaukee, I (we) can all learn more from our peers. The more I (we) learn from our peers, the better I (we) become. To put it another way, I want smart people around me because it motivates me to be smarter, better, faster.


Full disclosure: I organize the speakers for the Milwaukee JavaScript Meetup. MKEJS has over 1100 members. It is very hard to find speakers. After a fear of public speaking, the next top excuses are “I am not doing anything interesting”, “I don’t do anything on the side to talk about” and “My company won’t ok me speaking” All of these point to a problem in our community. All of these are fixable.

So this post is just one step in my work to make an impact. I need more and different speakers to keep MKEJS going. To keep it interesting. I want speakers from every company, every background, race, and gender. I am asking for help in making this happen not only for MKEJS but for every meetup in Milwaukee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The responses of giving notice.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

This morning is the day. After 6 years with the company, Tom has decided it was time to move and is putting in his notice. He is nervous and excited. Tom meets with his direct manager and lets him know. Because of their one on ones Tom’s manager is not surprised and saw it coming.

Later, Tom is in the teams weekly update meeting and breaks the news. It is a rough moment because he has spent the last 6 years with this team and now he was leaving. In that moment, everything is now different.

Jen has worked with Tom for many years. They have become friends and colleagues. She is understanding of why Tom has decided to leave and is supportive. She knows that they will stay in contact long after Tom has left the company.

Hugo is the VP of Development and has been with the company since forever. Hugo is extremely upset. He views Tom’s choice as an insult to him and the company. How could someone just leave? Hugo will make it known of his anger to Tom, typically by being passive aggressive. Making comments about loyalty and trust.

Adrian is the Project manager. She is scared. Tom was a big part of the team and with him gone, she is unsure on how they are going to fill in the gaps.

John, another developer on the team, is sad. Tom was a mentor to him and now that he leaving, it’s like a peice of John is now missing. John is visibly upset over the news and anytime the topic of Tom leaving comes up, the emotions return.

Taylor, a mid level developer, is excited. With Tom leaving, this means there is a chance to step up and get noticed. She is pretty much pushing Tom out the door so she can start taking on more responsibility and start showing her worth.

When a person puts in their notice, everyone affected has one or more of the above reactions to some degree. In my experience, the majority of people will be like Jen. They will be understanding and supportive, maybe a tiny bit sad. They understand that the action of the person leaving is not directed at them nor some insult. The unexpected outliers that have a more extreme reaction are the ones to look out for as these are the people that make leaving a company harder than it should.

The bright side of it all is that these feelings will pass. Adrian will see that people like Taylor step up and fill the gaps. John will realise that Tom was a great mentor and has prepared him well. Even Hugo will get over it as anger is sometimes just a defence mechanism.

When you put in your notice, be ready for the sudden and abrupt change in how your soon to be ex-co workers interact with you. As you tie up loose ends, you will slowly fade to the background. Don’t fret though, you are about to start something new.

 

My bout with Shyness

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

I am shy. I am very lucky that it is not crippling. But it is bad enough that it has and is keeping me from doing what I really want to be doing. For example It was keeping me from being active in the development community. I would like to be able to introduce my self to people I want to meet when I see them. Mainly I would like to stop being anxious when I meet new people.

It is weird because I have not been able to figure out if I am an introvert or extrovert. I have traits from both sides. I love talking in groups of people I know but also love the times I off doing things on my own. Communications is one of my top 5 strengths from Strengthsfinder. I don’t know if it is possible but I feel that I am both but on different days.

Now my shyness is really around people I don’t know or don’t know well. If I don’t know you, I am not comfortable around you. I can not just walk up and start a conversation. It causes me large amount anxiety. I would go to meetups and conferences and talk to no one while I was there. It bugged me a lot. That is until I decided enough was enough and that it was time to do something about it.

3 years ago, I attended the first That Conference. I love learning, it was inexpensive, and close by. I knew exactly 1 other person that was attending. I was excited. That was until morning of day 1.

Day 1 started with Clark Sell standing in front of the attendees and issuing a challenge. He stated that That Conference was designed to be a social conference. Yes the session are awesome but the organizers put ample time between sessions and had after hours events to foster socialization among the attendees. His challenge was to take these opportunities to meet new people.

Pretty much after that moment, I was freaked out. I was thinking I can’t do this. I am going to be that guy sitting in the corner by himself for 3 days. For the most part of day 1 that was true. Thankfully the 1 other person I knew is more outgoing than I am and found a group of people to hang out with on night 1. If it wasn’t for that 1 person, I would have been hiding in a corner for all 3 days.

To be clear, I love That Conference. I love, now, that it is setup to be social. And this challenge was exactly what I needed but I didn’t know it at the time.

After the conference was over, I was inspired to do awesome things. During the following months, I decided it was time to get over my shyness or at least deal with it. I didn’t really have a plan yet but I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be the person in the corner anymore. I started off by attending more meetups. At the very least I was getting more comfortable with being around people I didn’t know.

About a month before the 2nd That Conference, I got it in my head that was going to do an open spaces with the topic of developers with disabilities. I am dyslexic, this was my in. After the 3 days, I ended up chickening out. Fear sucks. The whole drive home, I regretted not doing it. The feeling sucked even more than the fear.

All was not lost, one amazing thing happened during the conference. During the time between the 1st and 2nd year, I became a bit more active on Twitter. While at That Conference, Clark Sell sort of called me out for not saying hi. I was hiding behind twitter and he basically said stop it. This sort of forced me into doing something I am not comfortable with. That was getting out of my chair and saying hi. I did it. It was a small victory. It was a step toward the realisation that getting over this is possible.

At this point it is August 2013 and it was time to get serious. I set 2 goal that I wanted to complete. Become active in development community and host an open spaces at That Conference 2014.

About this time, I learned that Milwaukee’s development community had an IRC channel (#devmke on freenode). I jumped in and idled. Even with just text between me and others I had anxiety about joining in the conversations. Over time, I learned who was who and started to join in. Slowly. Because of Twitter and IRC, I got to follow and interact a bit with people that organized some of the meetups in Milwaukee.

In early 2014, the organizers of MKEJS were talking in IRC about the need for a topic/speaker for that month. I suggested that they do a Node School workshop. I am not sure how but my suggestion turned into me facilitating the workshop. Node School workshops are a set of self guided lessons that use node to teach you node and other aspects of JavaScript. My job facilitator would be to get people started, show them how to use it, and help them if they get stuck. On top of this, this was looking to be the most popular MKEJS meetup yet.

Facilitating this workshop was an great step forward. They say facing your fears is a good way to get over them. Well public speaking to a group of people I don’t know. What could possibly go wrong? I faced them head on and everything went really well and gave me the confidence to do more. Shortly after, I was asked to help co-organize the MKEJS meetup which I accepted and at roughly the same time joined the Content Advisory Board for That Conference.

This August was the 3rd That Conference. So far I have reached one of my goals and have become more active in the development community. Now it was time to complete goal number 2 and do an open spaces. Before the conference, I told a few people my plan and asked them to help me make sure I do it. Since I didn’t went to let them or myself down I completed the goal. Here I am 3rd in line to tell my topic to roughly 1000 other developers, most I have never met. Yes I was nervous. Yes, stumbled a bit but I did it.

The conference went amazingly. I was able to meet many people I know from IRC and twitter in person for the first time. I was uneasy about approaching complete strangers but did so on a few occasions to recruit speakers for MKEJS.

Since That Conference this year, I had a new goal of giving a talk. This goal was completed in September when I gave a talk Titled “Rocking with Web Audio API” to MKEJS.  The next goal is to give a talk at That Conference next year.

I am still a bit shy and still have problems approaching people but I am going to continue to work at it. It has been a slow process and I think it had to be for me. I had to be ready for the change to happen and that takes time.

As I was writing this, I realised that a lot of my anxiety stemmed from not having confidence in myself. The reason this took time is that I needed to build up my confidence before I could do the next thing. Now to work on that talk for That Conference 2015.

 

Stop chasing carrots

Friday, September 19th, 2014

My first job out of college was working for a large printer of magazines.  There was a good number of developers and for the first few years things were good. The company had some interesting abilities outside of print that I thought were really interesting and I stayed longer than I should have because the potential to get bigger was there.

Then 2008 happened. We all felt the crunch. Print is not really a growing industry and the recession did not help. Yet, I stayed. I stayed even after new projects required over time from day one. I stayed even though perks and benefits of working for this company disappeared because they needed to make the bottom line look better. I stayed for another 3 years. Why? Because I was chasing the what could be. The metaphoric carrot  if you will. I believed the promises. I was a fool.

During those years, I was consistently underpaid when compared to market average. The work environment went from happy to hostal. Time lines went from reasonable to this needs to be done yesterday.

One day the carrot was removed. The CEO stood in front of the company and said they were going all in on print which mean the interesting abilities outside of print were being sidelined for projects that pushed print. I was done. I stopped working overtime. My work suffered. It didn’t take long before I left.  I couldn’t chase a carrot I didn’t believe in.

This experience taught me a major lesson:

Stop chasing carrots

This is not an original idea. This is an idea that is supported by science and research. When a task requires even the slightest cognitive processing, carrots no longer work. In fact they tend to be more harmful than helpful. Dan Pink’s TED talk The Puzzle of Motivation sums this up very well.

In Dan’s talk he suggest that people who work in creative fields require different motivators. Motivators that you have right now, not that you may get at some point in the feature. Dan suggests 3 different items:

  • Autonomy – Can you do the work in a manner that works for you?
  • Mastery – Do you have a chance to learn and grow?
  • Purpose – Does the work affect the world in even the slightest bit?

There are many other factors but these 3 are important. Looking back on my relatively short career, I have to agree. My biggest issues were doing things I did not believe in and doing them in a way that didn’t work for me. Going back to my story above, I left that job because I no longer had a purpose I believed it. It made me sad that the focus of the company switched because those areas outside of print had purpose and were awesome.

Whatever you are doing are doing for a job, make sure you are getting something from it. If you are working 80 hours a week because you may get a raise, you are doing it wrong. It is very likely that you will not get anything and soon this type of effort will become expected from you. If you are working 80 hours a week because you love what you are doing and you are making that choice then I am not going to tell you not too.

 

Why having an open door isn’t enough

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Recently Jason Fried wrote an article titled “Is Your door Really Always Open?” In it, he suggests that having an open door policy is great but also a cop-out. And I agree with him. So much so that I would like to go a little deeper as to why this is a problem.

I am an introvert and a bit shy. because of those traits, it is going to take a lot for me to go into my bosses office and talk. I am not going to do this unless I absolutely have to or I know it is likely that my point will be made. Recently I came across some videos called “The Power of Introverts” that suggests that this is a trait of introverts as a whole. They tend to be more calculated when they speak up and wont do so unless they know they will be heard.

What this means to a manager is that having an open door isn’t enough. It means that many of the employees a managers has are not just going randomly walk into your office and talk.

The other problem that I have seen with open door policies is that employees only use them to bring up problems or things they want to change.

If an employee is to honest to often they get labeled. Labels are bad. It is hard to remove labels. Labels keep employee opening up because they don’t want the label.

As an employee, these are the main two things that keep me from bursting into my bosses office and being honest. As an employee, the easiest way to fix these problems is to do what Jason Fried suggested in his article. That is, as a manager/boss, you need to be the one to open the communication. You need to go out and actively communicate with your employees. Once they get comfortable, they will be honest and more willing to come to you about anything. This has the added bonus of hearing more than just the negative things going on in the office.

Book Review: Rework and Remote

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I am reviewing two books: Rework and Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals fame. Both books are laid out in the same form. They have multiple sections and each section has multiple chapters. Chapters are short: 1-3 pages normally. These short chapters are great because they are packed full of info without being overly long and boring. The minor down side is some chapters left me wanting more on the subject. Each chapter has an illustration that goes with it. Some of these are hilarious.  I had no problems finishing these books and staying engaged while reading them.

Both books are not made up theory that sounds nice either. Both books are rooted in what makes 37Signals work. The ideas and concepts in the books come straight from day to day life at 37Signals.

Rework

Rework’s tagline is “Change the way you work forever”. The general idea is to challenge the status quo of what work should be and look like. It pushes the standard norms of running a business. For example the chapter “Why Grow?” discusses the idea of the right sized business. It suggests to the reader to find the right size for them and to stay there. This is different then the status quo of: If you are not growing you’re dying.

Remote

Remote’s tagline is “Office not Required”. It could be considered a playbook for setting up and having remote employees. I would suggest this for both employees or employers that want or even are working remotely. The great part about this book is it makes it clear what the trade offs are between working remotely vs being in office. In many cases it suggests why these trade offs are invalid or how to deal with them. The chapter “The Lone Outpost” suggest that giving one employee the ability to work remote is setting up remote to fail. It states that remote will only work if multiple people feel change that is needed to make remote work.

Conclusion

I have seen my fair share of “old way” thinking while working traditional and nontraditional jobs. It pains me to see this “old way” still strong in management today. Both of these books push the idea that there is a better way. It is a new and different way, there are pitfalls, but in the end you will be happier, your employees will be happier, and your product will be better. I highly recommend these books to pretty much anyone, exceptionally if you are working in a creative job such as development or design.

Software Craftsmanship

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

On my way home from work the other day, I was listening to .NET Rocks Episode 934 with Uncle Bob on building software. Carl, Richard, and Uncle Bob had a discussion on HealthCare.gov and the issues with the site from a development stand point. At 28 mins 45 seconds in , Richard states “I am responsible to my industry first and my customers second” and this struck me as very profound.

I have never considered idea before that my actions, code, and software is a representation of my industry. That because of my actions as a developer could causes a person to view all programmers in a different way.

If we look at lawyers for example, we can see the stigma of the job. Society seems to have negative view of lawyers. That somehow you are a terrible person if you go into law. Why is this? There are terrific people that work in law. I have met them and worked with them. The negative view was probably built by the few that have acted unprofessional. The ambulance chasers and those who make frivolous lawsuit just to make a buck. My point, is that it won’t take much for our profession, software development, to get a similar stigma if projects keep failing.

I fear that the stigma of a software developer not being professional, not caring is already taking hold. The software the world uses every day is pretty terrible. Why is my password limited to 12 characters for my online credit card account. Why does the family doctor tell me all the issues he has with the EMR instead of telling me how awesome it is? Why does my cable box freeze so much? Why does Google Chrome’s spell check not fix the fucking word when I click on it? People should be excited about how software is making their lives easier not about how much it sucks. Our jobs as developers is to provide software that helps people not infuriates them.

Uncle Bob and many others created the Software Craftsmanship manifesto in 2009. The goal of this movement is to push craftsmanship and professionalism in the industry. The general idea is to promote doing what is right over getting it done. Good enough is no longer acceptable. 

Not only working software, but also well-crafted software
Not only responding to change, but also steadily adding value
Not only individuals and interactions, but also a community of professionals
Not only customer collaboration, but also productive partnerships

I have signed the manifesto as a reminder to push my industry forward. To not sit idly by. To make awesome!

Transparency in the Work Place

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Image a CEO walks in one morning and states loudly for everyone to hear “The release date has changed from 5 weeks to 2 weeks. Everything must be done.” and walks away.

The first questions from everyone is: What just happened? Why did the date move? How are we going to finish this 3 weeks early? Productivity will remain very low until answers arrive or the shock wears off. And the rumors will start. Maybe we have a client? Maybe we are being sold? Maybe we ran out of money? Maybe the CEO is a bitch?

Many of us of lived through this example or examples like it far too many times. Thinking back to the times this has happened to me, the majority of the problem wasn’t with the information I was receiving. It was with the number of questions it created. My must crippling one was Why. I, like many, will spend extremely too much time trying to understand  why changes was made or why something works

As developers, a large part of our day is understanding the whys of our software. Why does it work in this case but not that one? Why does this user click a button 5 times? Why did bob eat that? To many of us, not knowing why is like having an itch we can’t scratch. It will plague our minds until we have a suitable answer. This is also what makes us good programmers but that another post.

Transparency can solve this and so much more. Forbes agrees. There are many benefits to being transparent but the one I am most interested in is the one that bugs me the most. Answering the question of why.

Looking back to the example, if the CEO was completely transparent, good or bad, it would have allow the staff to cut through the crap and get to the point. The deadline was moved because there is a huge opportunity for the company if we can hit it. Or the deadline was moved because if we are not done in 2 weeks, we are going to run out of money and everyone is laid off. In either case, why was answered and the staff can move on to dealing with other questions like how.

I have been more loyal and understanding to a boss that was transparent even when the information was bad. I knew that they were telling me all they knew and I understood their choices more completely, and was willing to follow their direction more often.

With a boss that was less than transparent, I have been more questioning of their motives and if they really had the teams best interest in mind.

I am not alone with this way of thinking. Many of the my co-workers over the years exhibited the same tendencies.

Statements like “Something bad is happening. Why would we do that know? It doesn’t make sense.” are common place when transparency is limited. My suggests to the management of the world is to treat us like adults. We can handle bad news. If an employee can’t, you probably didn’t want them as an employee anyways.

Geek Motivation

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Physcology is something I have always been interested. If I couldn’t work in software development, I would probably be in physcology. To more specific, I am interested in geek physcology. What makes us act they way we act? What motivates us to be engaged? How are we the most productive?

Recently there seems to be shift in how people are being managed at work. More specifically how people in creative positions are being managed. Traditional styles of management seem to be less productive than newer styles of management. The reason seems to be that the newer styles of management help make a geek’s work life better by giving them freedom to complete their tasks in a way that works for them.

Michael Lopp, who blogs under the name Rands, talks a lot about soft skills. He has a posts entitled “The Nerd handbook” and “Managing Nerds”. These posts outline many of the characteristics that generally define geeks. One of the main themes throughout each post is something dubbed the high. The high is the euphoria that is felt when one understands or complete a task. Much likes drugs, this euphoria is what geeks are chasing. Todays new management trends are trying to create environments where geeks can reach this high quicker because this is when geeks create awesome.

This high is important. Without the high, geeks get frustrated, bored, and quit. Ever wonder why some geeks seem to switch jobs every few years? It is because they have an understanding of all the interesting problems and have dominated those problems. There is nothing else for them to do to reach the next high. So they move on.

Having solved all the interesting problems is not the only reason geek quit. Sometimes it is because of the environment they work in. Did you know a business can have a mindset? Humans, groups, teams all have a distinct mindset that drives the actions and culture of that collective. There are two main types of mindsets: fixed and agile. Geeks do not liking being in a group that is a fixed mindset.

A person with an agile mindset craves knowledge and is ok with failure as long they are learning. These are the people that try 10 different algorithms to sort a list to find out which one is best. These are the people that suggest cutting edge technologies because they want to learn it. They know it will be painful to implement but they don’t care. These are the people that want to be the least skilled person in a room because they know the other people in the room have knowledge they can learn.

A fixed mindset person is one that believes they are naturally smart. The people in this mindset have been typically told they are really smart. These people tend rely on their natural ability than trying to get better and learn. They are easily frustrated with failure. If possible they would prefer to be the smartest person in the room as it somehow validates what they believe is true.

Linda Rising gave a talk on subject a few years back. She explores this topic in more detail. During her talk, she suggests that a businesses can also have a mindset. I believe this to be true. Businesses show the same charistics as people do but with the side effect of this will affect their employees. A fixed mindset business will tend to not tolerate failure. They will assume the talent of all the employes will carry that business forward. An agile mindset business will allow employees to fail as long as they move forward.

Geeks prefer to not work for fixed mindset businesses. Geeks love to try new things and push themselves to be better and learn. In a fixed mindset business where failure is not an option, trying new things is also not an option. Which leads to geeks getting frustrated and leaving.

On the flipside, geeks prefer working for a business with an agile mindset. Companies like Github and Netflix are embracing this mindset and attracting highly skilled geeks. Github believes in giving their geeks almost unlimited freedom for when and how they work. For them this has worked very well. Their employees are highly motivated and engaged.

If you are a geek and want to make awesome stuff and to have an impact on the world in some small way, I would highly suggest seeking out a company that understands how geeks work and function the best. Your utopia exists but it is up to you to find it.

If you are a business that is looking for motivated geeks, I suggest that you make sure to take care of your geeks. Give them the space and opportunity to fail and learn. Given the right environment, your geeks will create awesome.

Short overview of living with Dyslexia.

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I have 3 learning Disabilities: Dyslexia, Dysnomia, and Dysgraphia. What follows is what it has been like for me over the course of my life.

During the first years of my schooling, I mirror wrote perfectly. My teachers claimed this was a phase and I would grow out of it. To some extent this is true but it is also a sign of a learning disability. At this time, I was not reading at a the level I should have been. My teachers told my parents they needed to read with me more. So they did. For 1st and 2nd grade, things followed the same path. My parents and I were frustrated.

Then I got lucky. My 3rd grade teacher, at the risk of her job, told my parents that I should be tested for Dyslexia. Her husband has it and I showed many of the signs. My parents had me tested by independent testing center and I was diagnosed with severe Dyslexia. I was lucky because I was on the path of falling through the cracks. To this day, after meetings and being tested many times, the school district I attended does not admit to me having any learning disability. I don’t know why but point is I was lucky. Many others are not as fortunate.

Since then, I was tutored outside of school. Since the district has never acknowledged my Dyslexia they did not help. Yes we tried. At a very early age, I knew what college I was going to. UW-Oshkosh. Why? Because they have one of the best programs for learning disabled students. I graduated with honors, a fair amount of student loan dept, and a Job. Fast forward to present day, I am working as a Software Engineer doing product development for a small IT shop.

During the years before college, there was a distinct difference between how teachers acted and how administration staff acted. To this day, I don’t know why the school district worked so hard to keep me from being labeled as LD. Even with that, all the teachers I had were more than willing to accommodate my disability. It was refreshing. It was the little things that made a big difference. Like most of them let me type papers instead of hand write them. Remember this was the days before computers were in every house.

In college, things got even better. Attending a school with a high percentage of learning disabled students was great. There was already a process in place set by the school to help LD students and the entire staff knew about it. On top of that, for the first time I was among other students who were like me. Since I was never in any special ed classes until college, I rarely met people like me. This was awesome. I had peers. I was not alone.

I have always been comfortable with telling people of my disabilities and have never tried to hide it. This continued as I entered my professional life. I don’t hide and in fact I am upfront with any potential employers. I explain to them what I have, how it affects me, and how it likely be show up in my day to day activities. Again, I have found that being up front is a lot less stressful than worrying about being “caught”.

Generally speaking, I have found that that being open and honest about being Dyslexic is the best course of action. People will generally do the right thing. It also helps that I don’t use my disabilities to take advantage of people kindness. Just because I have Dyslexia doesn’t mean I want to be treated differently. What I want is to do tasks I am good at and can do well.

Not everything is unicorns and rainbows. I still read and write at a very low grade level. It has been a while since I have been tested but I would guess I am still below a High School level. Not being able to speak a simple word in front of a customer is always fun. Then there is the issue of when people try to sympathise.

I know people mean well when they say things like “I read slow too” or “My spelling sucks too” but they have no idea what it is like. Worse than that is when people try to marginalize what it is like. For example: I dislike doing software documentation, well any documentation. I know it needs to get done and it is part of my job. It gets done but I hate it. Really hate. When I explain this to people, some will tell me they hate it too or everyone hates it. What they don’t understand is I don’t hate because it is documentation, I hate it because writing for me is terribly difficult for me. I would much rather being doing stuff I am good at. Unfortunately trying to explain this to people comes off as whining or excuses. Someday I will figure it out.

All in all, these are small gripes in the grand scheme of life.

This was very brief and could easily go in great detail. I know. This is the start of a topic I hope to cover as I write more. Comments or questions always welcome.

For more infomation on the learning disabilities that I and many others live with check out the followng links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyslexia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysnomia_(disorder)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysgraphia

http://www.interdys.org/