Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Autism and Information Technology: Back on the Job Hunt

I'll be pivoting slightly in this blog challenge series, as I now need to publicly address a turn in my career and how I'll be doing things a bit differently...in a style that neurotypical people may relate to anyway.

At this time last year I found myself looking for a new job after company cuts. Turns out that only one year later, I find myself back in that exact situation. This time, I essentially worked myself out of the job when it was revealed that one of the interface engineer positions was eliminated. My main project responsibilities were shifted to a different team after it was determined that support could just maintain what I helped to build. The other factor working against me was being the greener member of the whole team. People originally expected me to stay a long time (as did I, naturally), but when someone had to go, current experience trumped my potential. I've tried not to be bitter about that, as business is about the bottom line.

So I find myself, an autistic and an IT person, as a free agent again. I succeeded last year, but this time some aspects are a bit more difficult to navigate. In the last year since joining my company in June, my skill set has expanded. I'm still mostly within the Microsoft stack, but they also used some open stack technologies and other in house solutions. So I picked up some Hadoop and Python along the way for various reasons. I did not do as much on the reporting side versus the job I held from 2011-2014, but I still did work with SSIS and integration. There were even some simple DBA-style tasks in there, particularly involving login security and tuning for our production environments. However, it still wasn't quite enough work doing these new things for the health care industry. It's as if I can say "yeah, I started some of this, and even did a script, but that may be it." Or, as I was told, I can let others know how easy it is to train me; the hard part was getting used to the minutiae of the industry I had switched into.

Naturally, I go through the phase of asking: what the fuck have I actually accomplished anywhere? I think about how those of us on the spectrum have accomplished big things, but then I go through the wallow where my attention deficit tendencies may have cost me in the past. I compare it to other friends and notables that have not gone through the same thing, regardless of career title. However, this year it occurred to me that I can adapt to trends just like everyone in my profession. Which has allowed me to approach the job hunt differently.

Continue with what I started learning, while picking up skills in other languages.
Not just Python, Hadoop, or other data visualization tools. I'm actually going to dust off the Java and continue to enhance my Linux abilities during my off time when not searching for jobs. Not saying I'll learn everything at once, but I'll see what I get through. I found myself impulsively taking advantage of deals on StackSocial where I figured skills would be necessary. I bought a Linux bundle (where I can fool with it on my virtual box) and one with multiple languages, which should help me do cool things like create mobile applications and even help build better data. I know some of this may be an Aspie impulse, depending on who you are.

Go to every SQL Server training session I can.
Face it, I have to bring up MSSQL because of the origination of the blog challenge, and also that's where my greatest strength has always been since I got a big boy job seven years ago. My debate was always, after taking the 70-461 exam, whether I should take the last two for my SQL Server 2012 certification, or if I should wait for SQL Server 2014 instead. Regardless I am still eager to get the MCSA on my record sooner than later once I figure out the path I wish to take. The good thing is that with a lot of the Microsoft technologies starting to wane (though Azure seems to be the reinvention effort), I'm at least most proficient in the one that will always seem to live on. In the meantime, I'll be attending a few training sessions to pick up skills. I have to stick with the free stuff for now.

Freelancing again.
I did a project for someone in Houston last spring/summer while looking for more permanent work, and I'm looking at going that route again with those I find in my network. Now it's already been noted that it's not my strong suit, but some of the connects I made at fairs and conferences allowed me to thrive some more. I've mentioned many times that I'm a spectrum person who thrives off experience, and this is a perfect opportunity. I also will continue to work on my brother's website, allowing me some Wordpress opportunities if this goes well.

Autism volunteer efforts continued.
Yeah, this is also how I am keeping myself busy, in addition to all of the above, and even the occasional ride share effort. I'm now more motivated than ever to get that GRASP chapter started in the Triangle, especially now that I have someone who will help with the effort. I also might make a turn-and-burn trip out of state to talk with autism researchers (not giving details yet). It's like I'm moonlighting as an Asperger advocate, which will also come in handy with a new story to tell. On some of the Asperger forums, many of us realize that we have all lost jobs, or failed to make ourselves irreplaceable. So my hope is that I can give them yet another story on how I keep getting myself hired, especially for fellow IT people.

These steps are all over the place, and it's getting them settled and broken into those Will Freeman style segments that will count. Always tough for the Aspie to start, but easy for the Aspie to complete. Information technology is an area where it's easy to get hired and easy to get laid off, and the question is how someone on the spectrum handles it. Considering how recently I went through the same thing, I feel okay about this.

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