Intangibles and Common Roles

As you can see from the Skills page, I can do lots of things and that is all well and good.  However, what makes me special are certain roles that I find myself filling wherever I work. They are: Optimizer, Researcher, Technical Translator, Mentor,  Innovator, and Writer


This.  This I will do absolutely as much as possible within the limits of time, money, and organizational support.  Here's an example: I was tasked with executing the weekly build and deployment to the TEST environment. Initially, the deployment consisted of checking out the latest build artifacts one by one, manually uploading them then installing them by hand without scripting.  That degree of manual work lasted about a week before I had written several scripts to automate checkout and deployment of the build.  Deployment times dropped from hours to less than five minutes.  It would have been even quicker but the files wouldn't copy any faster and there were some required pauses to ensure proper shutdown and restart of services.  And it was very satisfying to know that the deployment was repeatable and if there were errors, they were easy to find.


I love researching problems and their possible solutions.  Our operations team was complaining about how annoying it was to deploy a custom-built file transfer client to Windows hosts.  No installer had been made.  Based only on hearing their complaint and without instruction to do so, I looked for products that would make Windows installers (either .msi or .exe) and settled on the NSIS Windows Installer builder as the best fit for our needs.  Deployment instructions for the customer went from a long list of "do this then do this then do this then do this" to, "Here's this installer.  Run it and hit 'Next' till it's finished."  There was still unavoidable manual work to be done by Ops in creating the installer for each customer but from the Ops team and customer's perspectives, it was a huge advance.

Technical Translator

People need things.  So often they have difficulty articulating what they need or want.  Even when they can describe a need, they use the terminology of their own domain to describe the problem which doesn't make sense to anyone else.  Getting this translation right is difficult and requires empathy, the ability to quickly learn the new domain coupled with a strong understanding of solutions I have offer.  My favorite example of this kind of translation, among the many other examples, comes from when I worked as a Foot Guru, a highly trained shoes salesman, at Eastern Mountain Sports. Customers would wander in with an adventure but no idea which shoe/boot would meet their needs or fit their feet.  Using my experience in the outdoors and knowledge of the shoes on the wall, I would ask them questions about what they planned to do then measured their feet.  Very often customer's  would only need to try on two or three shoes before finding a match instead of "trying on the whole wall".  I have no numbers about how many shoes I sold (EMS never gave me any) but I do know that I received more "We love this guy's service" emails to Corporate than anyone else in my store.


My team hired two new operations analysts to help with a sprawling and complicated product.  I trained the new hires in one or two hour training sessions spread over a two weeks using visual and  auditory descriptions of the system to ensure that they understood was was going on and why the system had been built that way.  After the large sessions were finished, I would individually return to the new hires periodically to check with them to fill in any knowledge gaps we missed in the trainings.


Using the term "innovator" kind of makes me cringe because it's such a buzzword these days but it's what I do.  I see a product, business process, deployment procedure, whatever, in its current state and instinctively see how it could be better/faster/stronger then advocate for that change.  I worked in sales for a few years and came to know the importance of selling someone on an idea instead of compelling them to take it.


Coworkers will often come to me with documentation, meeting minutes, or proposals that they would like me to edit for them. I make sure that the writing is concise, audience appropriate, and clear.