Friday, January 25, 2008

My Ivory Tower

Do industry analyst like myself live an an Ivory Tower? I can't speak for others, but I feel that I do. Analysts are asked to know so much about so many things that the idea that we could also be implementing the technologies as well as researching every aspect of them is just unrealistic. I've seen analysts come from the trenches into our organization and thrive, but I've also seen them leave in order to "get their hands dirty again".

I know a heck of a lot more about RIA technologies, open source, and rich mobile application development than most developers. More precisely I know who the vendors are, what they offer, and how their products compare. What I don't know is how to use those tools myself. For example, every year I update a report on Ajax, but I'm not an Ajax programmer. I wouldn't do a very good job of developing an Ajax application even if my life depended on it. My knowledge is about the Ajax industry not how to develop Ajax solutions using a specific toolkit.

This has started to bother me a lot lately. I feel like a Jack of all trades but a master of none. As Bilbo Baggens said, "I feel stretched thin... like butter scraped over too much toast". The service I provide my clients is valuable - I help them see who is on top and who is going to have an impact in any particular market. I make our clients aware of new developments and software. I obtain this information through interviews and reading that people in the trenches and their managers just don't have time to do. And based on past experience I apply what I learn to the current state of things. Its a job that has its own rewards. However, I also miss the days when I would spend a week figuring out and implementing a piece of code in a single language without a care in the world about markets and vendors and so forth.

As a friend in this business said to me recently, "I still have weekly soul-searching "what the &%$#@! am I doing?" So do I, only its daily not once a week. For me it also includes thoughts about whether I'm making a real difference in the world or just continuing to turn the exercise wheel.

At age 43 I'm old compared to most developers. People my age move on to management and other things where the experience gained in earlier years can be shared with a younger generation of developers. The problem is, while I'm old in years I'm still a young developer at heart. I want to create stuff - I want to make cool applications. In many ways I live in an Ivory Tower, but I long to be down on the ground with other programmers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What do you actually know? Your problem is that your essentially like an NFL coach who never played professional football.

So you know about products that vendors tell you...to me it says you know what vendors spoonfeed you. And all of it will be sweet.

Unless you have the ability, experience, and knowledge of what happens under the covers a la programming, all you know is what someone tells you.