Working for a big company changes how I learn and grow

I started at GE Healthcare after years of consulting. Prior to that I worked for a small company in Sheboygan WI called JJ Koepsell Company, a plumbing distributor. It was a small company by any standard – 15-20 employees.

One thing I loved about working there was the fact that because I was "the guy" I had an opportunity to delve into many facets of technology. I learned to function in and administer Novell, Windows, Exchange and AIX servers – and get them to talk to each other. I learned different file formats, how to script for different platforms and of course I was the one called on for every computer related (and some not computer related) task. I learned different kinds of networks and database platforms such as SQL and Oracle. And of course there was the .NET and vb6 work. I HAD to do all these things because we couldn’t afford to hire a consultant for every little thing I didn’t know. I grew by leaps and bounds there professionally and had it not been for working there I would not be where I am today.

Consulting was the same way. Because I had had experience in so many facets of technology, I was called on in many different capacities and situations. Again, my skills continued to grow. It also forced me to stay current in what new technologies were coming out.

Another nice thing about picking up that experience in other fields than coding it made me a better programmer. I understand why the network admin is reluctant to give me any rights at all. (More than you know…. :))

Working for GE, first let me say, I love my job. If you ever get the chance to work for this company DO IT. You have unparalleled freedom to think outside the box in what you code, and they treat you well in pay and benefits. I am not saying that just because I know someone from there may be reading this. I actually mean it :).

The only downside is that i do miss the varied things I used to be able to do. The bigger the company gets, the more specialized the jobs become. I code in .NET there – that is what I do. It is what I always wanted to do and of all work it is my favorite. I never thought I would say this but yes I actually miss those days when my Novell Server would not load its modules properly and I had to go in there and start them all manually one at a time. (AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE yes that was me you heard years ago screaming!) Here I am a cog in the machine. Prior to this I WAS the machine. So it is a bit of an adjustment for me.

One thing I can already tell. Because I don’t have the pressures I used to I am going to have to force myself to keep learning on my own. Working in a small company I was forced to learn by every day events so at home work wasn’t as important. I bought a server for home study a couple years ago and have been administering a web server, Windows Server 2003, Exchange and all that stuff. If I put my hands on it I will learn. I will have to stay motivated to keep learning the new technologies. Otherwise I fear my skills will become outdated. There is nothing sadder than to see a guy let go in an IT position that he has had for years because he didn’t keep pace with the times. I’ve seen it happen before. I must resist the urge to "get comfortable" with where I am at. It’s not what got me here and it certainly won’t keep me here. This is part of the reason this blog exists. Every day I post something new I am doing and if I don’t I get upset with myself. I see way too many developers relying on code they have written for the past number of years and then never doing anything new to push themselves.

Well thanks for listening to me ramble. I hope you have a great weekend! Me I got to ask the wife and find out what is going to happen in mine. She knows better than I do. 🙂


  1. #1 by John on July 25, 2008 - 5:45 pm

    Although I agree with your assesment, I am not so sure it is a company size issue.  I started in IT about 18 years ago.  Back then it didn\’t matter what size the company was.  When PCs became more plentiful and tasked with more work and then we started seeing Unix, DOS, Netware change how data was handled and accessed.  I remember managing servers, helping users with software, writing batch code, procom plus scripts to automate data entry, hubs and routers, T1s, X.25 the list goes on.  Then all of the sudden there was a big push to specialize, pick a discipline.  There are some advantages for sure but in general I personally believe there is something to be said when you have a deeper exposure to all of the technologies.  The problem resolution process, system design is all enhanced.  What is funny, now that I have to enter the job hunt rat race again it seems employers are going back to expecting prospects to have more diverse skill set.

  2. #2 by Edge on July 25, 2008 - 6:04 pm

      Wonderful insights! I am proud to be aquainted with a man with such strength of sharing as you have displayed. Wealth builds in a heart until it runneth over.
      I built a Microsft Network of my own in my home as well. I was tricked into it at first. You know, … set up a web server and make a family website??? Huh… it\’s nearly a decade old now.
      Now I have a Root Certification, a Subordinate Certification, a SQL cluster, an ISA array, multiple domains in a 2003 Forest, split DNS, multiple IIS servers not to mention POP3 and SMTP and no end in sight! It\’s always "One more server and it\’ll do what you want"! I\’m sandboxing a Streaming Media Server now. I had shut it down about seven years ago because I couldn\’t figure out what to do with it. With the new Silverlight Applications, I\’ve finally figured it out. It\’ll be great!
      One thing for sure… I\’ve only recently learned the beauty of denying myself permissions. I get a big smile on my face every time I\’m denied access. My security systems are in place and working. Least Priveledges is beautiful.
      I needed that code for the AD Objects… as you can imagine, thank you.

  3. #3 by Jon on July 27, 2008 - 12:54 am

    A good read. I am in my first IT job now for a rather small company, around 150 employees total with a 3 man IT department. It\’s a great job that allows me creative freedom and I learn a lot every single day. I would like to work in a larger scale development environment one day as well. I would hope to find well structured and planned development. I suppose it can be hit or miss depending on where you go after all.Have a good weekend. I look forward to your next post.

  4. #4 by MIG on July 28, 2008 - 8:06 am

    You can see the force behind you – can\’t you?

  5. #5 by Kelly on July 28, 2008 - 8:29 am

    Thanks for the comments guys. I was surprised when I checked out the comments section to see 4.
    John J. I hear you totally. But I think a lot of the people looking for experience in various areas are HR people who don\’t know a thing about what they are looking for.
    Edge thank you. Your words are most kind. I assure you I am not nearly as good as you think I am at heart. But I am working on it.
    Jonathan, enjoy the environment while you still can. Once it gets big, so much changes in teh way people work together and how things are done. As far as finding well structured and planned development……….it is in the eye of the beholder truly!
    MIG, I am not sure what you mean by the force. Can you elaborate?

  6. #6 by Jennifer on July 29, 2008 - 8:50 am

    Keep up the good work on this blog.  I definitely learn something new everyday and seeing how you\’ve evolved, gives hope to those of us currently in the Network Admin type role.
    Like the new look too.

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