Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Reprise: (My) Essential Skill

I’m out-of-town at the moment attending a tech conference for work (what actually helps pay the bills and feeds the voracious beings in my home that are my children, btw). On these grounds, I’ll reprise what I think is an appropriate post from the distant past since I don’t have much time presently to write anything original (a server also decided to turn itself into an electrified brick right before coming to San Francisco). Perhaps, it’ll explain why I do what I do for a living…


Some years ago, a good friend, and the same guy I’ve known and played golf with for over two decades now, asked me a question related to the information technology field. While he specializes in a different segment, IT Security, he posed a question he thought was still valid for my former niche — managing fruit-flavored workstations and servers in the enterprise:

“What do you think was the key skill or training you received early that proved to be the most important in your IT career?”

He had already been asked this very same question in a survey (probably at another tech seminar or conference) and answered it. Still, he was curious about how I would respond to that particular question. He’s also well aware that we come from different backgrounds and wanted to see how dissimilar it’d be. He’s right. We’re nothing alike. My friend is Sansei (third-gen Japanese ancestry), born in Utah and migrated years later to Los Angeles with his parents. As well, he always got good grades in school and majored in business computer systems at our local state university.

And moi? I was social butterfly growing up, cared little for school, and was way too concerned about what it was to be cool to care about any of that. Ahh… youth. Coincidentally, it didn’t take long for me to come up with an answer. The reason behind this post. So, what was the answer?

Some context before getting to that, though. Were we (my friend and I) the nerdy kids in high school who signed up for the computer or chess club? No — well, maybe he did (hehe). Did we learn to love math or puzzles at a young age? Nope. Studied programming or music as kids? Not hardly. Yet, we both answered with the exact same response, and it occurred during a similar timeframe in our lives. We both learned to type in junior high.

That’s it… his and my answer to the question. We were some of the few males who went this route (it was an option for students at that time within the Los Angeles Unified School System) to take that class.Why were we the few? Most guys our age took shop class, instead, back then. Remember, in the mid-to-late 60s junior high-aged girls in the United States were still steered toward taking typing and home ec in preparation for their supposed later lives as secretaries and housewives

Ironically, I wouldn’t marry one of those — she-who-must-be-obeyed being a Health Physicist. Why did I take such an atypical class in that day and age? I don’t know the rationale my golf bud had, but for me it was just to meet and talk to the opposite sex. Yes, my life in tech, all these years later, came down to just biology and raging hormones. And it was that sole familiarity with a keyboard that spawned my entry into the computer field… fielding calls when something breaks. Go figure.

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15 Responses to “Reprise: (My) Essential Skill”

  1. Paragraph Film Reviews

    Nice read there, and interesting. I guess typing wasn’t all that common until ~20 years ago when computers really started booming in the workplace and home. I would say that these days (I’m mid-20s and work in I.T. also) the most important skill that helps me with my job is a customer service background – from working in a supermarket for years.

    Don’t know how many techies I’ve seen crumble at simple requests, or in meetings, because they’re not used – and prefer not – to deal with people face to face.

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    • le0pard13

      Excellent point. Customer service has become an essential skill in IT. As ubiquitous as computer services have become, everyone comes into contact with tech support at various points in daily life. Learning to work with the public, or your own co-workers, can’t be minimized. Thanks for contributing to this.

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  2. Ronan

    Fascinating Michael… you play golf? 😉 There goes all my stereotypes about influential bloggers called Michael from L.A. being IT majors… oops. Well at least we have one other thing (aside from blogging, and our inoffensive but concerning love of lists), I was a social butterfly too! Though I went from butterfly to caterpillar, so I’m not sure that counts 🙂 Let me know how the tech conference goes. Looking forward to your guest when you get back 🙂 Cheers.

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    • le0pard13

      Yeah, I got hooked on golf by my I.T. co-workers long time back. Not that I’m any good at it, still.

      I knew we had a lot in common, even if we’re separated by a continent… ocean… age… music… Well, we still have movies and lists ;-). Finally back in town (and that cranky server appears to have gotten itself back together — whacking it some helped). I should be able to get that guest post to you sometime this week. Many thanks for the comment and patience, Ronan.

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      • Ronan

        Haha, no worries Michael, I actually have a membership to a Golf Club (that my Dad kindly pays for) but to my shame I rarely play.

        No rush on the guest postm just whenever you can thanks 🙂

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  3. Castor

    Nice trip down memory lane. It’s kind of mind blowing to think that computers really only became widespread less than two decades ago. Now, they are omnipresent and few people can live without them.

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    • le0pard13

      So true, Castor. Plus, the ability to be online with that computer can’t be minimized either. I know my wife gets really cranky if she can’t be on the internet or do email. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on the post, my friend.

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  4. Rachel

    It is so interesting that you would both have the same answer. It is odd to me how often what you assume would be the skills that lead to certain careers are not. (I’m not sure even PCN can parse out the grammar of that statement. :/) Anyway, you know what I mean. 😉

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    • le0pard13

      Perhaps, it was somehow generational? I mean the answer we share. It’s still a head scratcher for me how I got into this work. I get what you mean, Rachel :-). Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Novroz

    I like this post, I got to know you better 😉
    Talking about typing, I believed I learn to type in highschool when windows finally introduced.

    I heard that word so often, Social Butterfy, what does it refer to exactly?

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  6. The Soundtrack of My Life – The 00s | It Rains... You Get Wet

    […] My long-time friend and work colleague suggested we getaway after a round of golf to see a movie together, one our wives had no interest whatsoever in watching. This implementation of a “…guys gone golf & movie-going” included cinema fare our spouses, in unison, customarily respond to when invited, “No, you go.” Collateral released this year, and Audioslave’s Shadow on the Sun got plenty of play once I returned. […]

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