Jussi Pekonen

What I am good at?

Posted on Friday January 14, 2022

The title of this post is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately. “Why?”, you might ask. That’s a fair question. Actually, I’m not sure. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have been working as a software developer for 10 years,1 a role that I jumped from the academic world where I had only done some small scripts and analysis tools2 but no major software applications or tools. Even after all these years as a software professional I feel like I am still a total beginner. In other words, I am suffering from the impostor syndrome.

Here are some things I have done during these 10 years:

Reflecting on these things, no wonder my job title is nowadays “Software Architect”. Also, based on these remarks I should definitely not have an impostor syndrome. But still I do. The most probable cause to this is that I feel like I still have a ton of things to learn to be an expert. Also, I don’t seem to have any time to spend on learning those things apart from the working hours that are already filled with other stuff I need to take care of. You probably are getting it now why I feel like a fraud.

So, to the original question: What I am good at? Well, of course this is a totally biased opinion, but I would say that at least in the following things:

The last one is not a surprise. One can (and should) expect that from a person who has a post-graduate degree. Learning new things has never been a problem for me as I am inherently a curious person. If I want to learn something, I am willing to do a lot of work to learn the needed skill(s). This applies to, in practice, everything in I do in life, from reversing the car to a parking slot5 to learning a new programming language or a new musical instrument. Therefore, I can do whatever is needed, which makes me a pretty versatile employee in the IT business.

How about my previous career, academic research? Do I miss it? Yes and no. I do miss the idea of doing research, finding solutions to a problem, tweaking the solution and trying out what kind of changes it would produce. Also, I miss my research subject, audio signal processing, as I love music and musical instruments, and I am still very, very interested in how human hearing works. What I do not miss at all is the constant begging of funding. This lack of money was obviously reflected on the pay as well. It seemed that the researchers were required to work with a salary that is peanuts compared to what one can get from the private sector. Even though doing a work that one loves might be a good reason to accept a lower pay than otherwise, it is unacceptable how so highly talented people like researchers are paid.

Was I a good researcher? Yes, I think I was. One of my papers got awarded and my publications were considered to be really good by my peers. Was I among the absolutely best researchers? Obviously not, otherwise I would have gotten funding from everywhere. But as a rank and file researcher, I was pretty darn good. I came up with new ideas and I was able to expand existing knowledge with some new insight. I loved challenging problems and was not afraid of the complex mathematics that was needed to solve those issues. Based on these, I think I was a good researcher. Would I like to return to do research? It depends. With total academic freedom and a decent pay, why not. But with the scenario I described above, absolutely not. I might do some small research here and there, but that will happen on my own terms and, most likely, on this site.

How about my musicianship? Am I a great musician? Hell no! I am just an amateur who has played a variety of instruments. I have known some of them better than others, but I cannot say I am a great musician, a decent hobbyist at most. I have started practicing again but because there was a long break, I will be starting from the basics again. Luckily this time I do have some experience, which should translate to a faster re-learning process. What and how I will be practicing? That is a topic for another blog post…

  1. I joined LM Ericsson on January 2, 2012.  ↩︎

  2. As an academic one can work with a lot of (semi–)obscure languages and frameworks, but nowadays the “standard” tools are becoming more and more popular among the academics as well. “Back in the day” that was still not the case.  ↩︎

  3. On one day at Ericsson I counted that I worked with 6 different programming languages: C++, Java, Bash, Groovy, TTCN3, Ruby, Python. And that was not all languages I worked with while working there.  ↩︎

  4. The complexity can composed of the number of integrations to be done, the difficulty of the problem, etc.  ↩︎

  5. If the parking lot has slots in 90 degree angle relative to the “road”, I prefer to reverse to it. Why? Because it is easier to observe the other traffic when leaving. Reversing in is easier than reversing out because there is no crossing traffic, or at least should not be.  ↩︎

Tags: Impostor syndrome, Professionalism, Skills