I decided to take what I do right now and see how low I could take it. What does my career boil down to?
It came down to three simple words: Educate, Guide, and Solve.
Each of these describes a facet of my career that provides a profound sense of personal satisfaction. Each of these is unique in that they give me the chance to share what I know with others, while still gaining new experiences in the process.
These three things are simultaneously selfish and selfless. I believe that in order to have a successful, productive, and fulfilling career, these three things need to serve as the foundation of everything I do.
I work in a small community of Web performance analysts. I have spent years training myself to see the world through the eyes of a Web site and how it presents to the outside world. As I taught myself to see the world this way, I was asked to share what I knew with others.
At first I did this through technical support and a training course I helped develop. Then I moved into consulting. I began to blog and comment on Web performance.
I needed to share what I knew with others, because it is meaningless to hoard all of your knowledge. While I am paid well as a consultant, it is also important that as many people as possible learn from me; and that doesn't always need to sold to the highest bidder.
While some may say that there is no difference between Guide and Educate, I see a profound chasm between the two.
We have all been educated at some point. We have sat through classes and lectures and labs that convey information to us, and have provided the foundation for what we know.
But we have also encountered people who have shown us how to step beyond the information. They place the information that they are giving us in a larger context, allow us to see problems as a component of the whole.
That is what I strive to do. Not only do I want to give people the functional tools they need to interpret the data, I want them to then take that data and see the patterns in the data. I work closely with colleagues and customers, helping them see the patterns, understand how they tie to the things I say everyday, and then be able to solve this type of problem on their own the next time.
A guide is only useful when the path is not known. Once I have showed someone the path, I can return to my place, in the knowledge that they are as experienced on the path as I am.
Once you have shown someone what the data can do, how to see the patterns, it is critical that they have an understand how to take that pattern and change it for the better. Seeing a pattern and understanding its cause are only the beginning.
I can share my experiences, share how others have solved problems similar to this one, help them fix the problem.
And then be able to show that the problem is solved. An unmeasured, yet resolved problem, is meaningless.
This is the skeletal description of what I want to achieve in my career. I could expand these topics for a lot longer, but the question I propose is: What three concepts can you boil your career down to?