It’s All Fun and Games…
Last week I did career day at my kids school. I can’t even manage to explain to my wife most days what I do for a living. What the heck was I thinking trying to explain my job to a room full of 8th graders? Do I talk about consulting and training? What about writing the book.. my blog… or all the social networking? What about all the meetings and travel and speaking at conferences? All of this is in some way related to how I make a living but really hard to explain to a room full of kids not old enough to get a part time job at McDonalds.
As I was thinking about it… the one thing that pretty much unifies everything I do is Software Project Management. That seemed like a pretty good angle so I went with it. Now that I had my hook… I found myself faced with a pretty substantial ethical dilemma. Do I really feel good about encouraging a room full of fresh-faced young people to go into the bone-crushing abyss that is Software Project Management? Do I really want to pave the way for my kid (who happened to be in one of my sessions) to consider Software Project Management as a viable career path?
Being a project manager… any kind of project manager… can be pretty life-sucking. You’ve got all this responsibility… no one usually works for you… you have to deliver a ‘fixed scope’ project where the scope is constantly changing. You only have so much money to spend and a team of people that are being pulled in a thousand different directions. You have to sometimes build fragile relationships with people you don’t really like… play a pretty brutal political game… and try not to piss anyone off so you still have a career the next time the business decides to do a major re-org.
It can suck being a Software Project Manager.
So I put together a few slides explaining all the cool stuff that I’ve done in my career. I talked about my book… my blog… and my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I talked a bit about traveling around helping other people learn how to do Project Management better. Since no one really knew what Project Management even was… I anchored it to things like science fair experiments and building tree forts. I talked about managing time, cost, scope, and risk. I talked about the thrill of delivery and the pressure that comes with trying to make everything work. I was candid too about the parts that aren’t so fun like being responsible for outcomes when people don’t actually work for you.
I mean… I am pretty realistic about what I might have been able to accomplish, but I think I was able to explain my job in a way that wasn’t totally boring. The biggest thing though I wanted to get across… the one thing that tied all the social networking and blogging and speaking back to Software Project Management… was that these kids are responsible for creating their own opportunities in life. They might not create their opportunities the same way I created my opportunities… but they are responsible for making things happen. They can be in charge and choose their own path. And for the record… I love being a Software Project Manager… it’s just that some days… I can’t quite figure out why ;-)
When my son got home later that afternoon, I asked him if he got any feedback from his friends and if they like the presentation. He told me that compared to the next person I was awesome. Then I made the mistake of asking what the next person did for a living… she sold Mary Kay cosmetics. Oh well!