When you come to a fork in the road, take it. - Yogi Berra, PhilosopherFunny, isn't it, how life-changing events often begin with the smallest thing. In this case, it was a casual remark by my wife about the difficulty her employer was having finding qualified people to fill some job vacancies. Those vacancies were in areas that required some technical skills, but not an engineering or geology degree.
I didn't think too much about it at the time, but that remark kept resurfacing over the next couple of days, and I mentioned at dinner that I had been wondering if it was time to make a change in my line of work, and whether I might be qualified for one of the vacancies. Her response was along the lines of, "Are you serious? Because if you are, they'd probably hire you in a heartbeat."
Well, sometimes hearts beat pretty slowly, with the same cadence as the turning of the wheels of corporate bureaucracy, but we can skip all of that and cut to the chase: more than a month after that initial conversation, I've now accepted a full time position with SM Energy Company, thus returning to the industry that I toiled in for 25 years until leaving in 2000 to pursue this internet fad thing.
The Trouble With Freelancing
I've consistently loved my work as a website designer/developer. I've learned new skills, met some interesting people, and gotten involved in some fascinating projects. I was constantly challenged, often puzzled, never bored. I think I helped some good folks, too.
But I never felt comfortable. I always had this nagging feeling that whatever I did could have been done a little better, if I only had more experience/education/training/ability. The technology in this business is changing rapidly, and the individual freelancing generalist is trying to drink from a fire hose in terms of trying to master everything that being a one-man shop entails. I had to continually assess new technology and techniques and decide what was worth trying to learn and what had to be discarded. And that eventually just wears you out.
There was also that whole overworked/underpaid thing, but some (a lot?) of that was due to my choice of market niche - websites for small organizations with small budgets. I still wanted to provide them with Lexus services even though they had only a Kia budget, and that's a business model that's hard to sustain.
The Good, The Bad, and more of The Good
My new job is in the exploration group, working as an information systems specialist, providing support services to the geoscientists whose job it is to find the oil and gas that serves as the company's reason for existence. The good news is that I don't have to supervise or manage anyone. The bad news is that I don't have any experience with the specific systems used by the company, and so I'll be in Learner Mode once more. The good news is that they know that. Plus, I'm accustomed to feeling lost and figuring out what to do about it.
Channeling My Inner Shark
So, I'm telling myself that I'm like a shark: I have to keep moving forward, or I'll die. Sure, it's a little theatrical, but a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to take a risk by trying something new has rewards. If nothing else, I've learned that lesson over the past ten years.
It's going to be an interesting ride. Stay tuned; I'll try to pull off the freeway from time-to-time and give you a traffic report.