What Happened?

As I approach the half-century mark of existence, I’ve been reflecting on how I’ve ended up where I am…so excuse me while I ramble out loud.

Seriously, how did a music major end up as a high level software engineer at a company like Microsoft? I have interviewed hundreds of people for Microsoft, who, on paper, are technology rock stars, and I (yes, the music major) have had to say no-hire to most of them.

I won’t argue that a lot of it is luck – but sometimes being lucky is just saying yes at the right times and not being afraid of challenges. Yeah, but it’s mostly luck.

I think another part is my weird knack for learning quickly. When I was a musician (I like to consider that I’m still a musician, but I just don’t play that often anymore) – I was always the one volunteering to pick up doubles (second instruments) as needed, or volunteer to fill whatever hole needed filling in order for me to get into the top groups. Sometimes I would fudge my background if it would help – knowing that I could learn fast enough to not make myself look stupid.

In grad school (yeah, I have a masters in music too), I flat out told the percussion instructor – who had a packed studio – that I was a percussionist. To be fair, I played snare drum and melodic percussion in drum corps for several summers, but I didn’t have the years of experience of many of my peers. So, as  grad student, I was accepted into the studio, and I kicked ass. In my final performance of the year for the music staff, one of my undergrad professors blew my cover and asked about my clarinet and saxophone playing. I fessed up to my professor that I wasn’t a percussion major as an undergrad, and that I lied to get into his program. When he asked why, I told him that I though if I told him the truth, that he wouldn’t let me into the percussion program. He said, “You’re right”. And then nailed of a marimba piece I wrote and closed out another A on my masters transcript.

I have recently discovered Kathy Kolbe’s research and assessments on the conative part of the brain (which works with the cognitive and affective parts of the brain). According to Kolbe, the cognitive brain drives our preferences (like Meyers Briggs or Insights training measure), but conative assessments show how we prefer to actually do things. For grins, I took a Kolbe assessment, and sure enough, my “score” gives me some insights into how I’ve managed to be successful despite myself.

I’m not going to spout off a lot about it, because I take all of these assessments with a grain of salt – but so far, I give this one more credit than Meyers Briggs (which I think is ok), and Insights (which I find silly). I am curious if others have done this assessment before and what they think…

By the time my current product ships, I’ll be hovering around the 21 year mark at Microsoft. Then, like today, I’m sure I’ll still wonder how I got here. I can’t see myself stopping to think about this.

And then I’ll find something new to learn and see where the journey takes me…

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