D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

2014–The Year of Being Personal

Friday, January 2, 2015 9:45 AM

Another year is in the books, and in keeping with last year’s “Applied Life Lessons…” theme, here’s the 2014 edition.

A guy with the same name as my dad, who had a similar career path too, passed away the other day and his obituary showed up in the paper. My dad started getting calls wondering if he had passed away and found it amusing that he had to correct so many people. “The guy was in his eighties, I’m not that old!” was his jovial response.

But none of us are “that old”. Any of us could be waking up to our final day of existence and not know it, regardless of what decade you’re currently living your life in.

On March 1st the Winnipeg tech community lost Dean Clarke, a co-founder of the consulting firm Apptius. It wasn’t a long, drawn out disease that claimed him but a sudden attack that gave no warning. At his funeral it wasn’t his technical or business achievements that were talked about; instead it was his love for family, his interactions and relationships he held with others, and his passions and interests.

Dean was committed to the Winnipeg tech community, and would always make himself and his company resources available to help out. Everything with Dean was personal – you saw him, you talked to him, you knew him.

This past Fall I attended the MVP Summit and also the legendary party at Ted Neward’s place. Rocky Lhotka was there and it struck me: this moment may not have happened.

First, if you don’t know who Rocky is – creator of CSLA framework, author of numerous books, speaker at user groups, code camps, and conferences (as well as organizer), CTO at Magenic, Microsoft MVP, Microsoft Software Legend…and I could go on. One of the things about Rocky though is he’s extremely approachable and open and has had a huge positive impact on the development community.

And in 2013 he could have died.

Visual Studio magazine did a great video-story on Rocky and what he went through – having not one but two aortic aneurisms over period of a few months. He talks about how when the first one happened, if not for a lab tech who pushed for a CT scan after seeing some anomalies in blood work, the stress test they had planned to run on him probably would have killed him. He was that close.

Towards the end of the interview, Rocky says this…

“I so much enjoy what I do that I’ll spend huge amounts of time learning new technologies. Those things are ephemeral – .NET, Visual Basic, they come and go over time. If there’s any one thing out of this, its a better appreciation or remembrance that these things come and go but your family doesn’t and your friends don’t. There are things that are much more permanent than the things we sometimes focus too much on in our careers.”

My blog was thin this last year, but my personal picture library is full of friends, family, and our shared experiences. If you asked me what my proudest moments were, it wouldn’t be the successful project work I completed but my oldest daughter getting a band award, my youngest passing her swimming lessons, and celebrating my 17th wedding anniversary with my wife…just to name a few. Was Prairie Dev Con a success? Yes – but for me what I remember most is being with my friends & colleagues, and creating this conference experience together.

I’ve found myself at a place in life where work accomplishments are intrinsic achievements that bring me personal gratification and satisfaction instead of outward fame and acknowledgement. The work I do, I do because its interesting, fulfilling, and brings me in contact with people that I want to do work with. That’s really become the key takeaway of 2014 for me – the importance of being personal in all facets of life and how important human interaction is to my own humanity. We’re built to be social creatures, with empathy and intelligence to use to further our shared experience.

I was talking with a friend who shared how a year ago their company had set marching orders to double in size in 5 years. This put strain on the sales teams and there was noticeable frustration. Now, executives have realized that was the wrong thing to measure – sales goals didn’t dictate how to achieve them, just what to achieve; and it was eroding the cultural values of the organization. They switched focus away from sales growth targets back to their DNA – be a great company, with great people, doing great work; sales achievements would be a side effect of being great.

It’s all about people.

Dean was a great person who put relationships first before personal accolades and achievements. Rocky is a great person with huge achievements and accolades, yet the respect he has from the developer community stem from his genuineness and openness with people. My friend’s company realized that real success came from being true to yourself and not to a ledger line item.

I’m committed more than ever to do things in 2015 that allow me to work and engage with people – building and experiencing things together, growing together, changing the status quo together. And not just in a work context – family, friends, people in my city and neighbourhood. It’s not about me, its about us.

None of us know how much time we have left here, so why not work together and make the most of our shared experience?


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