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Thomas, the chief technology officer for a Fortune 500 company, was talking with Petra, a developer advocate for one of the big tech companies. They had happened to sit next to each other for the keynote at the leadership conference they were both attending. Something Petra had said had caught Thomas’ interest, and he had followed up after the speaker finished. Now, Petra and he were sitting in the sun outside the conference center.

“You said something about not having anything you want that you don’t have,” Thomas said. “I can’t imagine that. I have so much I want that I don’t have, and I don’t have any clue how to get any of it.”

“You can get everything you desire,” Petra said. “But, it isn’t instant. At least, it hasn’t always been this way for me. I put in a lot of work to understand who I am and what makes me happy.”

Whoever you are, the world is clamoring to have you in their lives

“I really want to hear all about that. But, first, can you explain what a developer advocate does? I’ve never heard about that type of role before.”

“Certainly. I help developers use all the technologies and programming interfaces my company creates.”

“So, you’re a trainer?”

“Kind of. I do a lot of blogging, and speaking at conferences. I also spend a lot of time on our developer forums. You might say I’m a translator. I take all of the great documentation our technical writers create about all this stuff and put it into context for my readers. For example, the people on your staff building tools to help run your business often require a different perspective than a group of engineers trying to build the next unicorn startup. While our docs go into great detail about how to use our different programming interfaces and things, they’re not always great at explaining why or when to use one or the other. I fill that gap.”

“I need someone like you, but focused on my role,” Thomas laughed. “My teams are always giving me presentations about new technologies and how they want to use them. I don’t always have the time to keep up with all that.”

“We do have people doing just that. I’ll send you links to a few blogs to get started.”

Whatever lights you up, people are clamoring for that

“Thanks. So, you said you haven’t always had a job that makes you happy. How did you make that shift?”

“I started my career writing code, like so many other people in tech. I did such a great job that I was made an engineering manager. I still wrote code at first, but the people and project management work quickly took over. That more than filled my days. Then, I’d go home and write blogs and speak at conferences and answer people’s forums posts about how to use the things I spent my days getting built and released out to them. I even spent most of my vacation time on this ‘night job.’”

“It sounds like you were doing a big service to the developers consuming your products. Why wouldn’t your work let you spend work time on it?”

Petra shrugged. “It wasn’t in my job description. And there were always so many other things that had to get done.”

“I know how that goes. I could clone myself five times over and not run out of work. I can’t imagine essentially having a whole second job on top of that. Did you ever feel overwhelmed?”

“Not really. Not because of the blogging and speaking, at least. That work carried me through the hard times in my day job, actually. It gave me the energy and creative release I wasn’t getting during the day.”

“I sure wish I had something like that giving me the energy to keep going,” Thomas said ruefully. “I don’t even know what that might be, though. You’re lucky that you knew.”

Whatever you love doing, businesses will happily pay you to do it

“Luck had nothing to do with it. I’ve always been a pretty introspective person. I take time every week to reflect on what I’m feeling and what’s driving that. So, I knew I loved writing. And, I quickly became clear how much helping people use our products better energized me. Putting those two together was a no-brainer for me.”

“I want to hear more about how you figured out what you love doing. First, though, I’m still curious how you switched from managing people to what you do now.”

“The most important piece there was discovering the existence of jobs that paid to do the things I did on my nights and weekends. Then, it was simply a matter of finding one of those jobs at the right company.”

“I imagine they jumped at you, with all the experience you brought.”

“It was a pretty easy sell,” Petra agreed. “But not a slam dunk. The team I joined is in a very different area than the rest of my experience. I had to show them I could make that transition successfully.”

“I’m glad for you that you succeeded at that. And for them. It seems like things have worked out well for them.”

“I like to think so,” Petra said with a laugh.

Your work can feel like play

Just then, Thomas’ phone buzzed. He took a quick look and then grimaced. “Yet another emergency that only I can handle, apparently.”

“You don’t sound like you enjoy your job so much.”

“I’m making a difference. But, no, I don’t look forward to it like you do. Can we meet during the break later on? I want my job to make me as happy as yours makes you.”

“It definitely can,” Petra confirmed. “All it takes is three questions.”

After setting up a meeting place, Petra wandered off and Thomas unlocked his phone. Before calling his office, Thomas whispered, “I want to be happy. I think I can be happy. I know I can be happy.”

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