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Who am I, really?

Written by Michael Earls
 michael  programming

Due to various circumstances, I recently found myself in the job market again. There was a particular job that emerged that I got very excited about. They cold contacted me through LinkedIn, not knowing that I was even looking for a job.

I had to drive two hours for the first interview, but the job was for working remotely with a little travel. Once in the interview, I noticed that they were asking questions based off of my LinkedIn profile, not off of the resume that I had so carefully crafted to be my own representation of myself.

Honestly, I'm was glad they were using LinkedIn and not my resume because I hate resumes. After working in this industry for over twenty years, the resume that I'm most comfortable with has grown to over six pages long. It's my understanding that it's not supposed to exceed two pages.

So, when I became aware that I was going to have to sell myself again, I created a new resume that was going to be my short version. I even named it "Michael Earls resume 2 page.docx". It's terrible. I still have not found the best way to squeeze over twenty years of knowledge, experience, and wisdom onto just two pages.

During the interview, they asked some good questions about my experience and asked about the projects I had worked on. Remember, this is a job that I really wanted to get as it had to do with industrial automation and that was a field I have been interested in for a very long time.

I finished the interview and felt pretty good about it. Days went by and I never heard anything back. So, I sent an email asking if they had any news. They told me that they were still making a decision.

After a few weeks, I finally just gave up all hope and continued with the other job prospects as normal. Then, out of the blue, I got a call from them asking me to drive up for another interview, this time with the president of the company and other executives. I agreed.

This time, however, I was asked to perform one of those in-depth personality profiles that companies pay for. They were serious and I knew it. I get nervous taking these personality profiles because they make me feel like I'm being analyzed (because I am).

When I got to the interview, it was intense. They were armed with 10 reports about my personality and asked me very pointed questions about who I was and how I would respond to certain scenarios.

During both interviews, I specifically remember telling them that I viewed the work that I do as a creative endeavor. I told them that I see programming as an art form and the act of writing code is like painting a picture.

When asked what my greatest gift was, I said "I make order out of chaos".

Utter bullshit.

I never heard back from them after the second interview, even when I sent an email asking if they had made a decision because I had received another job offer. Personally, I think it was unprofessional to not even tell me that I had not been selected, but each company handles things in their own way.

Going back through the interview, I can remember times when they kept trying to get me back on track. All I had to do was confirm to them that I was the same person from my LinkedIn profile. Nowhere in my career have I ever "painted a picture with code".

I am a software engineer, not an artist. But why did I say those things? What led me to spout off so much untruth?

After some self reflection, I finally realized why I had told them that and why I have had that view of myself since the beginning.

It started in 7th grade.

When I was growing up, I used to draw a lot. I even got in trouble in school for drawing during class to the point where most of my artwork ended up in the trash can (the evil teachers tore it up before placing it there).

I was a huge Iron Maiden fan in Junior High. I loved heavy metal music and I used to draw demons, skeletons, skulls, flames, you get the idea. Iron Maiden's "mascot" is a skeleton with rotting flesh falling from his bones.

I used to emulate that style in my drawings and I drew a lot of it. I also drew post-apocalyptic scenes (much like you see now in The Walking Dead TV show).

One day, there was an announcement that students were encouraged to join the art club. Just show up to the art room after school with some of your drawings to get in. When I knocked on the door, the teacher opened the door, looked at my drawings and said "this is Satanic, you can't be in the art club".

I was deflated. I don't think I've drawn another picture since that day. Yet, somehow, I never stopped thinking of myself as an artist. I originally wanted to go to art school and be a 3-D animator, but that was too expensive and very unrealistic coming from the financial demographic that I come from.

I've somehow been lying to myself all these years that I am an artist, yet nothing that I do is art. It's all engineering and science.

I can imagine that I must come across as a dishonest person when I discuss how I view myself because I have been so clueless for so long.

Now I know who I am, I'm a software engineer and I write code for a living. I don't "paint with code". I solve problems. I am a problem solver and I'm a damn good one.