Information Technology Dark Side

Struggles of a Self-Taught Coder

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My Very Best Advice

July 31st, 2007 · 2 Comments

Dave Christiansen, Managing EditorDave Christiansen is the founder and managing editor of He manages projects for a Fortune 100 financial services company and writes and talks about project management. He can be reached at

I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of months now. On several occasions in my career I have given advice to others that turned out to be very good for them. The vast majority of the time, that advice was something like this: “Why are you working at Company X? You’re too talented for that place. You should move on to something more challenging.” As a general rule, I was merely echoing what they were already thinking but hadn’t gotten around to verbalizing. So far, no one who has taken that advice has come back to me with complaints, which should not be construed as proof that I was right but certainly reinforces the self-delusion that I helped them along.

But… what if I was to offer advice for EVERYONE, not advice tailored to the specific situation of just one individual person? What message would I send to the masses of IT workers who read The Dark Side (all forty of them) that would be universally helpful? What would my very best advice be?

As I’ve worked on Genesis 2.0, my science fiction novel that has an irritating habit of not finishing itself, for the past two months, I’ve thought about this topic as a sort of writing break, and, after two months of consideration I have selected the three items of advice I consider most helpful. Here they are…

#1. Keep deodorant in your desk or laptop bag.
It doesn’t feel good to head off to an important meeting with wet pits and heinous body odor. Everyone forgets at least once in their lives. Admit it – you know you have. If you haven’t, you will. Odds are good it will be on the worst possible day to smell like Pig Pen. I’ve done it several times. The first time I forgot two swipes in each pit was on such an important occasion that I had to sneak out of the office for some quality time with Right Guard, which I had to purchase at a nearby store. Ever since then, there’s been a spare stick in my desk.

#2. If you’re required to wear a security badge, leave it in your car after work.
We’ve all seen our colleagues walking around wearing big ugly visitor badges, in spite of the fact they’ve worked right next to us for years. It makes you look like a complete tool. Don’t be that guy. Just leave your badge in your car – take it off the moment you get out of the office. Stuff it somewhere out of sight, and then you’ll never have to worry about calling your boss and asking him to come down to the front desk and sign you in. Your kids won’t mess with it, your dog won’t eat it, and you won’t run it through the wash if you always leave it in your car.

#3. Do the math, know the net, then go for it.
As a general rule, go for it is always good advice when it comes to career changes, assuming you’ve done the math and have a solid understanding of the net impact the change will have. Don’t let other people do the math for you – not your boss, not your recruiter, not your mom. Think about the costs, benefits, and net result of any risk you consider. Then, if the math is good and you are happy about the net, go for it.

Well, that’s it. Not the most stunning bit of career counseling ever, but at least it comes from the heart.

Speaking of things that come from the heart, I’ve thought of one more piece of wisdom. If you like to have lunch at White Castle, La Bamba (Burritos as Big as Your Head), or any form of buffet, consider setting some space aside next to your deodorant for some GasX or Beano. Your cube mates will appreciate it.

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Tags: Job Advice

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 David // Aug 8, 2007 at 11:06 am

    Number 2 needs a little edit such as washer instead of was in the last sentence

    Good advice. Liked number three, but agree with both one and two

  • 2 David Christiansen // Aug 8, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks David for catching the typo.

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