It might be difficult to believe, but sometimes I love my job. I enjoy puzzles, and I enjoy the procedure of rationally exploring alternatives and reaching a conclusion. My job is a series of puzzles, no matter how closely you look, which form a great spiralling sprawling fractal.

First there is the micro-puzzle, which is: the solving of very specific concrete problems. For instance, two variables from two different data sources are changing, you don’t know which is changing first, and you need to handle each case in an elegant, efficient, coordinated manner. Or: this system breaks in this specific way, so examine the forensics and run experiments and find out why.

Then there is the design micro-puzzle, which is: the organization of each micro-puzzle solution. In fact all coding involves organizing logic, in such a way that it can be re-used flexibly, without being too complicated to understand. Bad coders do not re-use logic, making it difficult to maintain and conceptualize code. Or they endlessly shuffle things around and build frameworks for problems they don’t understand, and accomplish nothing concrete.

After the design micro-puzzle is the strategic puzzle, which is: We have these different components or systems interacting currently, and we want to add this functionality. For example: we have 4 systems doing something quite similar, in a way that they compete with one another when they should work together. By merging all four, and splitting that into two well-defined systems, we can end up with a more understandable system that reduces inefficiencies.

Then there is the social engineering puzzle, which is: how do I convince these people to help solve the strategic puzzle, or the design micro-puzzle? How can I bypass the clueless people over there, and include the smart people over here? I am not so good at solving this puzzle, but I am learning.

And finally there is the where-do-I-fit-in puzzle, which is: I do certain things on a minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour basis. How do I frame these things in a way that gains me social capital? Or: I am currently working on these exciting puzzles, but there are even more exciting puzzles over there. How can I position myself to solve those puzzles? And although those puzzles are exciting, how can I maneuver to explore puzzles that are both exciting and important? This is the puzzle I am worst at. But when people see you enjoy, and are good at solving puzzles, then you reach the exciting, important puzzles eventually.

Each of these puzzles I can explore on my own, or I can solicit the opinions of smart people and see how they would find a solution. So yes, there are times when I love my job.

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