It does, you know. You just have to get it hot enough.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Once More Unto the Breach

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.”

Ok, so the analogy kinda breaks down in the second line.

In a couple of days I go back to school for a second degree, this time in Industrial Design. I got my first degree (BA Journalism / Minor CS) over the space of 6 years while working part and full time at a variety of gigs.

Since then I’ve bounced around IT, software development and project management, all with an eye towards security. I left NASA in the early 90s to play startup lottery and I lost. I lost big. I passed chances to go to Mosaic (make money giving away a browser?) and eBay (sat next to Pierre when he was building it in his spare time — but I didn’t feel like learning NT and thought there’d be a zillion auction web sites) and a couple of other companies that were all about the exit strategy. Instead I worked at major players like General Magic, Liquid Audio, and some other companies you’ve never heard of. The dot-com boom left me $40K in the red after two years of unemployment, and that’s a hole not easy to climb out of, even (or especially) in the bay area.

I somehow managed to get a gig at a consumer electronics firm (what shall remain nameless for now) where I’m moderately useful and have survived a couple of layoffs. There was a big gaping void in security, I was hired to fill it, and I ended up being the person always pushing for more security. If the emergency stop cord gets pulled on a project, odds are I’m the one who pulled it.

But I’m not happy. I haven’t been happy in ages. I’m not sure I have what it takes to compete against people who want to be in the product security business. I’m not the best software engineer the world has seen, I’m not a cryptography genius, and while my project management skills are up there with managers and directors, I’d rather not play the political games needed to advance my career at that level. Looking around, I see people getting promoted after getting offers from other companies, not because they’re doing great work. I’m not only the sort of person who doesn’t play “job offer extortion”, I’m the sort of manager that would say, “Fine, go take the job. Oh, you don’t want it now? Well, you’re fired. Now do you want that other job?”

So what is it I want to do? I thought it was “make lots of money”, but it turns out I don’t want to be the sort of person I’d have to be to make lots of money doing what I’ve been doing.

If I don’t care about making money, what is it I want to do?

Make things.

I’ve always liked making things and taking things apart to see how they were made. I started with scale models as a kid, built a working car out of two dead ones as a teenager, have always made tools, and recently started learning to weld and work with metal. In the past I’ve designed and made everything from specialized tools for whatever hobby I was into to modified geodesic domes and dangerous art for burning man.

I was going to go back to school in Mech E, but I’d have to do all the math over again — and math is not my strong suit. Then, somewhere, I discovered this thing called “industrial design”.

Holy fucking shit, I can get a degree in making stuff? And people will pay me? I can help design new game controllers, new interfaces for teleoperated vehicles, new tools, new skateboard and motorcycle doodads?

So that’s where I’m headed — Industrial Design. I’m starting a BA program at a local college, but I suspect I’ll be moving in a year or two. When that happens, I’ll try and leverage myself into a masters level program in ID based on what I’ve done in my first year or two of school.

But for now?

Drawing I – because I can’t draw for shit. If I could draw as well as ankoku-jin, I could probably skip straight into a Master’s program.

History of Asian Art – fulfills a degree requirement, fits into my schedule, and most importantly, I can probably sandbag it. “May I write my paper on “Availability of Natural Resources and the Development of Japanese Architectural Forms”?”

Introduction to the Discipline – required class, fits into my schedule. Will either be great fun (“you’ve picked the best major in the world! go team!”) or depressing (“here’s how little you will make in the 10 years after you get your degree. expect to live in your mom’s basement.”).

posted by jet at 22:47  

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