Friday, January 11, 2008

What Kind of Geek Have You Been?

Today I'm wearing a shirt that says "Geek" on it.  It dawned on me that it's not in the center of the shirt, like a t-shirt would be.  It's actually a patch, like a nametag.  Like, "Hi, I'm Geek."

This got me thinking about how long I've been identifying myself with that word.  In the late 80's and early 90's, when I was leaving college and getting into my first job, I typically referred to myself as "Resident Geek."  The meaning was simple, I was the guy in charge of all the technology from installing Windows (when it came out :)) to unjamming the fax machine, to writing the product. There was only one of me, and I did what needed to be done.

As the late 90's rolled around, it was more often "Alpha Geek."  This, too, had a pretty clear connotation, that being to "alpha male."  My field was now a more competitive one, and I fancied myself at the top of the heap.  The decision maker.  The one who had proven himself worthy of that title because no one had taken it from him.  The analogy is stretched a bit, but looking at it now I can see that it's more accurate than not.

Early 2000's, as the boom turned sour and all of our best efforts went "enterprisey", it was Chief Geek.  This was more formal, like an actual title.  An attempt to sidle up to the existing management structure and identify oneself with such terms as Chief Executive or Chief Technical Officer.  What are you?  I'm Chief Geek.  Whether the new seniority that came with the new title was all in my head or not, I'll never know. :)

These days we've gone in the other direction, and it's back to being about the technology.  You may be the "Rails Geek" in your shop, while the "Java Geeks" are down the hall.  There's lots of us.  There's not so much of a hierarchy anymore, nor is the competition quite so cutthroat.  You show your value by demonstrating your expertise.

What sort of geek will I be 5 years from now, I wonder?

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