Tuesday, July 15, 2014

considering: my office window

Readers of ack/nak will know by now that I have, for almost five years by cracky, been on staff here at your nation's natural history museum in historic (and might I say seasonally swampy) Washington DC.

It is a privilege to work here.  A transformational, wonderful, heart-stoppingly challenging yet still always wonderful privilege.  I invite all of you to visit.  We have world-class exhibits, staff and dare I say quite a lovely cafeteria and some enticing gift shoppes.  But I digress.

Last summer I "left" product management for the greenish pastures of operations and "general management", which, as is often the case, came with a few choice perks, one of which was freedom from having to write requirements (thank G_d) and another was a new office.

What this office has that my previous one did not is a window.  A rather large, long one, covered by blinds, that faces north towards Constitution Avenue, which I can definitely see past a stand of mature trees between me and the road.  Cars whiz by, pedestrians meander, life burbles on as is its wont.

Now before you start wheedling me with statements like "wow you must be some special kind of guy" (which we both know has always been true, so let's just not bring it up again, thanks), it's worth mentioning that I had inhabited a window-less bunker-like office for many months up to the time I moved, which, dear reader, makes the sudden arrival of sunlight in my daily work live all the sweeter.

"Shouldn't you have been, you know, out-and-about visiting customers as a product manager?  Weren't you the guy who said if you're spending time in your office you're failing?"

Enough, you.

When I moved into this office I did what all self-respecting new office inhabitants do - I cleaned it up, moved furniture around, put away my crap and settled in to work.

Then I started to experience what makes this window different from other office windows I've had in my long, long, very long career.

Through this window, I experience motorcades, tour busses, taxis, delivery trucks, and yesterday, storms of such force and violence that I expected to look up over the IRS building and see Noah himself waving at me, sad doomed sinner that I am, on his way to delivering a bolus of biodiversity to some mountain in Turkey.  It's a busy window.  The busiest of my career.

I don't face my window, but there it is, tempting me with life's rich and ever-changing tableau.  The light grows, and fades, throughout the day, and as I leave my fluorescent lights off, the changing-of-the-light is something I experience every day I am here in my office (which, Mr. Smarty Pants, is not every day, thank you).

The busy window is a quiet reminder of change directly over my left shoulder.  There it is now, hey, a tour bus, some lady pushing a big stroller, ok back to the post.

Too much of my time in product management and software development was spent trying to lock down requirements, lock down schedules, lock down releases.  Now, I spend the majority of my time adapting to change, balancing priorities, managing conflicts, encouraging, discouraging, negotiating, digging and generally plate-spinning.  I could not have handled having this much chaos this close to my workspace.

But today, well. . .today, it's perfect.  Because despite all the change and variety outside the window, everyone there is heading somewhere.  And that's exactly what I'm doing too.  Like the bus driver, my job is to bring a lot of people with me and make sure they all get to a destination happy and ready for what's next.

Here's to your windows.

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