Howard Dierking

Stuck in a Rut

Warning: This is a completely downer of a post. If you don’t want to risk being pulled down with me, stop now.

I don’t know whether the place I’m at is particular to software folks or whether it’s something more general that everybody has to deal with at one point or another.

I feel stuck.

Stuck between holding onto the technical skills that I spent more than a decade developing and building up more abstract skills like management and business development.

Stuck between the technology that I work on day to day and the technology that is really exciting to me at the moment.

Stuck between having my job as a (if not the) core component of my identity and having it as something that I do in order to support my family.

Stuck in probably a thousand other ways that I can’t articulate at the moment.

The biggest problem with this “space in the middle” is that I feel like I’m not really adding any value to anyone. At work, I feel like a really highly paid admin: taking notes, scheduling meetings, just trying to keep things as organized as possible for my developers - you know, the people actually creating the value. When I’m working on my own research, I feel ineffective because I have such a small amount of time to actually commit to the activity (so naturally, how could I possibly go deep enough to contribute anything to anyone). On top of that, I end up carrying a bunch of guilt into my independent study time that I’m not spending that time with my family. This mental and emotional tension makes me feel like I’m not doing a really great job during family time either (e.g. that my mind is always somewhere in between - somewhere half-way engaged).

Because I end up feeling so stuck in between on all of these various dimensions, and as a result of the general feeling of ineffectiveness that goes along with that, I end up feeling like at any point, one thing can cause the entire house of cards that is my life to come come crashing down. I’ve heard this described by others as the “imposter syndrome” - at least, I think that’s what I’m describing.

At any point, I think that the solution is probably somewhere between better time management and priority setting and letting go of false identities. However, there’s always a difference between knowing the solutions and executing on the solutions.

So what about you? Ever found yourself in a similar place? Still there? If not, what helped you move forward?