I went to the movies with a friend of mine to see “Inception” the other night. It is a great movie, if you are interested in sci-fi and like to keep your mind racing along with the writer and director, trying to figure out what on earth is happening in a good story. At dinner, before the movie, my friend asked me, “So what is it that you do again?” I ran out the usual things, related to “researching technology”, “advising users”, “consulting-like but not really”, and I didn’t get the feeling I was helping my cause.
At breakfast the next day I was reading, “After Tamerlane” (my reading book for July), which provides a sweeping, state level exploration of empire development from the 1400’s up to the 1800’s. I was reading the middle part of the book that was summarizing some of the huge differences and dynamics that provided alternative opportunities for European, African, Middle east and Asian states for growth, and eventually dominance or even hegemony, and like any school boy, I was excited at the sweeping story line and ideas of pioneering and exploration. As I munched on my cereal I paused for a moment, and a new answer to the question from the previous evening came into my head.
For the average “Joe” there is no “new world” to explore; there is no new colony to found; there is no new economy to exploit. There certainly are boundaries to breach, say in space, deep sea diving, frontiers of medicine and science, and so on, but for the bulk of us, this is not the case. I think that being an analyst is not unlike being one of the shipmates sailing into uncharted waters back in 1405 or 1730…
I get the chance to chart a new course, set off in a new direction, and explore something that hasn’t been explored before (that’s the theory, anyway). I get the chance to set off in a direction and explore what on earth is happening in a new situation or environment. I get to meet new natives and populations, each with their on languages and customs. I have to adopt their terminology in order to communicate with them. I get to understand (if I am good enough) what the heck is going on in a strange, new land. I get to interpret and read back. I get to influence.
I get to colonize a new nation with new ideas and potential answers. I get to think on my feet and apply old answers to new problems. I get to invent something for which others find significant value. I get to do this, all day long, every day. Man, this feels good.
Bottom line: When asked now, “what is it you do?” I will try the following: I do IT research, which means I explore the world around us and look for new problems to solve and opportunities to explore. I explore new (IP) territories, and find new places others have never gone to before. Best of all, I pioneer new ideas, new solutions, and colonize these places with brave new natives, who want to follow on.