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Gus Van Horn blog

Reblogged:What Did You Learn?

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Some time ago, I ran across an intriguing thread at Hacker News that I promised myself I'd take a look at later on. It starts with the following question: "What has your work taught you that other people don't realize?"

I looked, but did not finish: There were 700-plus replies as of yesterday! Nevertheless, the short time I spent there was worth it. To show you what I mean, I'll throw out three samples:

Millions of employment novices well-served... (Image by Joshua Austin, via Unsplash, license.)
1. I worked at a McDonald's in high school that was adjacent to a major highway so we were always packed. Even now, getting in the flow of programming when everything is going right and I'm making huge progress, that feeling pales in comparison to being in the zone when working drive thru with 8 orders on the screen and each of them is in a different state as you build them as fast as possible as different components are coming in from different stations all at once.

When you tame that chaos, and it's Saturday afternoon when all the best people are there and everyone is on their game... I've never experienced anything like it. It's like when you see a really amazing play in your favorite sport, but that same amazing play goes on for a couple hours. I imagine it's like being an air traffic controller or maybe a stock broker on the trading floor where you can talk to everyone and it's productive chaos at its glorious peak.

2. When I was a young man, I was working at a children's museum, and one of our guests got sick by the front door. I was dispatched to clean it up. While cleaning, (no customers were around at the time), I flippantly said, "Where's the dignity in this?" An elderly woman who was working as a volunteer at the museum overheard me and said, "The only dignity a job has is the dignity you bring to it."

3. I fixed my mum's computer a few years back (cleaned up some adware and other stuff that was making it awful to use) and did a bunch of virus scans and cleanup etc. After a while she asked "Is this what you do for a job?"

The conception of what happens inside our industry just isn't present in the wider population, and I imagine we're not unique in that.
I saved money for a semester of college in Europe by working at McDonald's during college, and I really liked the description of the busy Saturday -- both for accuracy and the reminder of my youth.

The thread reminds me a little of a couple of times I prepared for behavioral-type job interviews. Done correctly, that is a valuable exercise, and I noticed it was a bit of an ego boost on top of serving as an inventory. But this question is a little different, and I think I might think about it some time. As with the interview preparation (and the plethora of examples in that thread), I imagine it could well lead to (or remind me again of) valuable insights.

-- CAV

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