On Becoming Technical & My Three Audiences
by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 06/09/2011
If I had all the time in the world, I would write for a bunch of audiences I have in mind, but time is short in life, so I have to limit myself to parents who want to teach their children programming, adults repositioning themselves to be highly technical, and digital marketing professionals. All these audiences are like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice being initiated into a magic realm of incantations and automation. Providing that initiation is my new purpose.
I became technical, because I get frustrated with what I’m told by those who are supposed to know these things and be helpful. However, like crooked auto mechanics, technical professionals can pull the wool over your eyes and you are powerless. I decided to elevate myself up to and beyond those folks, so I could perform tech work myself, and perchance make better systems. It has been one of the most satisfying processes in life, and has helped me reposition my career several times. I recommend it to everyone.
To becoming technical is to become powerful. Or more to the point, you have to become technical in order to not feel powerless. And even more to the point, you have to be technical to even be literate in the world we seem to be becoming. While it’s true that user interfaces are becoming better and you may never have to touch a keyboard again once voice recognition is perfected, this will still just make you a user, with no particular competitive advantage over every other user in the world. But very few will be able to make brand new systems.
Even today, every startup entrepreneur is looking for a technical partner, hoping to find the button-pressing Yin counterpart to their business acumen Yang. How much more satisfying it is to be your own implementor! When you have that critical insight that makes all the difference, imagine having the ability to actually act on it. But how unattainable! Not so—techs stand on the shoulders of giants, and only perform the final steps in ways that are slightly different, but in ways that make all the difference. It’s not like computer whizzes burn their computers from sand, so they’re really accomplishing a considerably less amazing tasks than it seems.
After forty years of life, I’m finally making a concerted effort to communicate my learnings along these three similar tracks to the three audiences that I think need it most. Firstly, the event prodding me, and the reason for parents as my first audience is that I had my first child seven months ago, and she is becoming remarkably aware. Now I have to figure out how I’m going to make her a powerful citizen of tomorrow’s world, and have become recently invigorated along these lines, as I have successfully moved myself off of Windows and onto Linux. I just have so much to say here, and I have to plan her curriculum anyway.
Secondly, I started out of college as a graphic designer, and quickly got frustrated with everything subjective. The problem with graphic design is that what’s brilliant to one person is stupid to another. As a result, I drifted towards objective and data-driven tasks. The Web provided the perfect opportunity, but the resident sysadmin fought tooth-and-nail against intrusion into his turf, so I steamrolled him, and dragged the company into profitability as a result. The process was both infuriating and delightful, and I came out strong. I now believe that many people who would make world-class techs have just been intimidated away, and are just waiting for that properly delivered initiation, which I am beginning to believe it is my mission to provide.
Thirdly, I work in digital marketing and need to develop a leadership voice in the industry, just to be doing my job. I’m great in front of clients, and was used that way a lot at first, but I am much more passionate about building stuff. I tweaked my job in that direction, and along comes my kid, and now I want to be sent out on travel even less. But that leaves me tapping away on my keyboard, doing tons of noteworthy things—but behind closed doors, and for all intents and purposes, secret. I need to do something of notoriety in my field, without tipping my hand tooooo much. So, writing for the digital marketing audience, making a portion of my work public, and slapping an ironman suit onto marketing geeks to instill super-powers and make a name for myself is my third goal here.
So, that’s my three audiences: children learning programming, adults repositioning themselves as technical, and clients and peers in the digital marketing space. All these audiences are closely interrelated, and I view them as simply needing the veil of mystery lifted that techs have draped over their kingdom. I’m taking it up as a sort of mission, because I believe people who feel they are on a mission are more passionate about and effective at what they do.