S10E02: Thinking about sticking around

I wear the chain I forged in life! I made it link by link and yard by yard! I gartered it on of my own free will and by my own free will, I wore it!

Jacob Marley

This quote’s on my mind this week, for three reasons.

The first is work. I’m putting together a pitch to do an MSc, inspired in part by my colleague Terence. The approach I’m taking means binding myself to my department for four years minimum: two to do the qualification, and another two because that’s how long the policy says I have to stick around. This isn’t a small amount of time for me. For my parents, who have each spent more than two decades in the same job, it is very much a small amount of time. Nevertheless, it’s a long time for me, and more than that I’m going to be making a conscious choice to commit that much time. I’m going to forge a chain that links me, not just to my current department but to this profession I’ve chosen, and I’ll wear it by my own free will.

Which brings me to forks.


No? Alright, let me convince you.

The cutlery you ate your dinner, lunch, or breakfast – or perhaps all three, if you’re working from home – are probably the tools you use the most often, after perhaps your keyboard and mouse. But you’re not the only person who’ll use them! Your partner(s) will use them, and your family, and your friends, and your lovely neighbours who have nut allergies. Your cutlery has been present at tiny moments of love and shouting matches and late night ice cream binges and every mundane moment in between.

Do you know what mundane means? It means of the world. People use it to mean boring, but all of my best experiences have so far been in and of this world, so I think mundane is just brilliant.

So picking a new set of cutlery is a commitment, I think. Or rather – to pick a new set of cutlery with your current partner is one of those small romantic moments. Words are air and float away; flowers bloom and die; but this spoon will be as comfortable in your hand in five years as it is today. Love is flowers and words – as a budding poet I insist on it – but it is also a fork that is chosen together.

I wonder if I should start writing a weeknote at work. It feels like a very me thing to do.

Let’s unpack that pals.

“A very me thing to do” is not the same as “a thing I should do”. This is because the things I am paid to do are only like…50%? Maybe? Of the things that I like to do in a job. But they are fully 90% of the things I am paid to do, and promotion can be a tricky thing to argue when people ask whether I’ve been doing my job.

See, even if the answer is “No, but check out these other things I’ve been doing that have moved a bunch of needles in a bunch of different and better ways,” the business does not care. If the business wanted those needles moved, it reasons, it would pay someone to move them. As it is, now they have to hire someone to move the needles back, which is just further expense.

More to the point, it’s pretty hard to promote someone if they’re only doing half their job. It sucks, but that’s not what I’m arguing right now. I know it sucks. It would be delightful if we could be paid to move the needles we think need to be moved, in the ways we know how. But anyone working in a reasonably hierarchical organisation knows that’s not the case, so here we are: the things I like to do, such as puns about flowers and words, are fundamentally not the things I’m paid to do. And I need to make sure that I’m doing enough of the day job to secure promotion, and that I get enough time to do the other stuff outside work in the meantime.

This bit’s technical: protocols (interfaces) in Python.

My mentee was asking me recently about the factory pattern. Most explanations of the factory pattern talk about interfaces separate to classes, because most programming languages do separate the interface from the class definition. I said, distinctly and clearly, not to worry about this, because Python does not have interfaces: it’s just AbstractClass all the way down.

I am calling myself out here to say I was quite wrong. In actual fact, Python does have a way of defining an interface, and it’s called a Protocol. I’m still not completely clear about where one would use an interface and where an abstract class, but I think that’s going to come in time and after some practice. If you have thoughts on this – gosh, I wonder if programmers have strong feelings on this niche element of computer science – find me in the usual places and tell me.

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