19 January 2012

Obsession Times Voice

One of the members of my QA team recently said something about me that made me smile. It wasn't that the comment was some kind of over the top suck-up or a snarky jab, but something that was a subtle reminder, in the midst of a sentence on an only vaguely related topic, of why I get up and go to work every day.

He said I was the only person he knew who loved their job.

The sad part is, I don't think he's far from wrong. I do work with several people who I know do love their jobs and it is clear from my daily interaction with them that their passion for what they do comes through in every conversation, every email and every line of code.

Its people like this, those who think of what they do as craft, who inspire me. I'm lucky; in my current job, I'm fortunate to have many of them who work with me. In my career, I've worked with people who are all over the spectrum when it comes to intelligence, motivation, perception, knowledge, wisdom and taste, but rare has been the person who really has a passion for what they do.

Passion is fleeting, but when it is really intense, its something that has you and not the other way around. Its something that I don't think you can fake; its either present in what you're doing or its not. The quality and the responsiveness of your work is directly correlated to exactly how passionate you are about it.

Even though I crossed the line years ago from individual contributor to manager, I still make it a point to regularly go back and do some business analysis work just to keep my skills sharp. Strangely enough, every time I sit down to do a bit of light analysis on a project, I can't help but remembering why I love this kind of work so much, why it fits me so much. Simply put, I get to make a difference for someone (or as I am fortunate enough to do, for millions of someones).

Given that passion, it probably shouldn't be a surprise to any of you that I obsess about projects. There isn't a better way to illustrate this than to realize that for two years (minus the last 4 months), I've been regularly writing on this blog. That isn't easy, especially with a crazy workload, long commute, a 2 year old and a small bit of socializing. Obsession over this topic is something that drives me, not the other way around.

Obsession is a powerful thing that John Gruber and Merlin Mann nailed. Listen to the audio in the link on this page as these are two guys who really understand what it means to take obsession and give it voice. Their obsessions are different, albeit related, to mine and I strive to have a voice that is as strong as theirs. In particular, pay attention to Merlin's discussion of writing about Jawas. Brilliance.

One of the things writing on this blog has helped me with is to find my voice. The last couple years have helped me refine what I really feel is important in a project and the direction I think projects will take in the coming decades. Technology, especially in the mobile space, stands to make a radical shift in how we elicit, document and analyze requirements.

The biggest change, in my mind, will be using video in the requirements process, especially agile processes. We can already do this today, but mostly its done by making some kind of prototype or slide deck, narrating over top of it and letting your remote users get a feel for what it will be like to use some kind of application. Pulling all that together into a produced video takes lots of time and planning. I don't think this will be how we do it in 20 years.

I see our business users watching someone failing at a process, pulling out their pocket communication devices (we better not be calling them phones then!), snagging a video of the incident, tagging spots in the frame, adding some text or commentary on top of the video, emailing it to the project team and waiting a few hours (better yet, minutes!) for the adjustment to the system to be made.

Or how about the stakeholder using that pocket communication device to make the adjustment themselves! Instead of creating only the tool used by the person performing the process, why not create the next great app that is used to create the next next great app?!?

Its ideas like this that really get me excited. My obsession is going full speed and my voice is coming along. I hope you all can say the same.