Home > Miscellaneous > [REPOST] – I am a Professional Geek

[REPOST] – I am a Professional Geek

June 6, 2008

I was just reading Payton Byrd’s recent post about the two types of programmers, which references another post about the same topic by Jeff Atwood, and I felt encouraged to respond.

Growing Up ABM

I honestly couldn’t care less about the open-source vs. Microsoft wars. My background is probably atypical, but I as a young programmer I was raised on IBM technologies. As a result, I spent many years as an ABM-er (Anyone But Microsoft). While thinly-veiled by necessity, IBM has embraced this philosophy since the OS/2 debacle. So much so, in fact, that they have donated billions of dollars to Linux, Java, Rational, and Eclipse. To this day there are a great many IBM oriented developers who will do anything to avoid Microsoft solutions, no matter how painful or inconvenient. I know because until 2003 I was one of them.

Being anti-Microsoft meant that I had the opportunity to learn a great many things that I otherwise may not have been motivated to learn: PHP, Linux, Apache, Java, OpenOffice, etc. all fall into that category. I even used a Linux Desktop for almost 2 years just to be as anti-Microsoft as I could. It was during this period that a friend of mine, a TRUE Linux geek from v1, introduced me to VB6. I watched as he created a GUI prototype in minutes that would have taken me days in Swing. When .NET came out, I started seriously paying attention, and by the time VS2003 came out I was hooked.

Technology Agnostic

Today, while I spend most of my time in .NET, it is not unusual for me to spend time in SEU coding RPG on the iSeries or VI coding PHP on a Linux Server. My projects span several different databases with DB2, MySQL, and SqlServer being the most common. I write and maintain Green Screen programs, Windows applications, and Web sites.

The point of all this is to show that I have gone from an ABM Religious Zealot to a true Technology Agnostic. I think that all these people who have “taken sides” got it all wrong. My zealotry is now limited to using the right tool for the right job. I will admit, that these days this usually means Microsoft, but at the same time it could be open source. It could be Linux, it could be IBM, it could be just about anything.
In other words, I just don’t care: I want to get the job done, effectively and with a pleasing result (even if only to me.)

So what am I? I am a Professional Geek

So what struck me about these articles and this general discussion was the question: what am I? In reading about the 20% Alpha Geeks and the 80% Vocational Programmers, I realized that I am really neither. Payton essentially draws the same conclusion, but does so from a much different personal (professional?) viewpoint than I do.

I will definitely say that I am NOT a 20% Alpha Geek. I don’t contribute to Open Source projects or spend my evenings bit twiddling. In fact, I don’t even own a computer. I have often said to people that “I am a professional Geek: I only Geek at work.” After spending most of my working time staring at 2 computer monitors, sitting on my butt in my desk chair, with my fingers glued to the keyboard, the last thing I want to with my free time is spend it on a computer.

But to lump me in with the 80%-ers (by their definition, not mine) would be unfair. I stay ahead of my peers. I read about programming and development incessantly (and occasionally I will read at home). I spend a lot of time learning new technologies and new techniques. I go to trade shows. I participate in User Groups. I write, I teach, and I give presentations. I even give software away. In other words, I am not just “vocational”: I learn, grow, and contribute to our community at large. And I am content with my position, meaning that I recognize I will never be on the level of many of the other developers out there whom I admire, but I still have something to offer so I choose to do so.

50%-ers of the world unite… or don’t…

And so I find myself in neither category, so I’ll just split the middle and say I am a “50%-er”, and I’ll bet most of you are as well. Chime in and rate yourself below – or don’t… it does not matter to me.

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