Don’t Ask Permission, and Other Career Advice

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Wisdom from my son.

When our children were young, we occasionally gave them a little advice about life. The kids might say we gave them way too much advice, way too often, but they are too polite to describe it that way. Now that our kids are adults, we try to avoid giving advice at all, unless they specifically ask our opinions, or unless we just wanna.

One delight in having capable adults instead of children is that now I get to ask their advice. Recently I arrived at a decision point in my career path. It is not really a career path, more like a choice between hobbies. Nonetheless, I wanted their guidance. My avocation is Machine Learning, so I look for opportunities to use it and my mediocre skills at Python programming.

“Ryan,” I asked, “should I complete my certification as an AWS Machine Learning expert, or should I just continue with my project to trade options with Machine Learning?”

I had already completed most of the tests for AWS Machine Learning Expert, but I needed a practical application, a real project to complete the certification. That meant finding a team that does AWS Machine Learning, getting accepted on the team, joining lots of Zoom calls, maybe even showing up at an office occasionally.

My personal option trading project is quite different. I’m the boss, the product manager, the planner, the developer, the tester, and one of two alpha users. My daughter-in-law Gina, really one of our three kids now, is the other alpha user. Everyone on my team is a volunteer. The only company policy is work-from-home when you want, or WFH somewhere on a trip.

So the two paths are quite different. My wife, the power traveler, gave me her requirements. “If you take a job with an AWS company, let them know you will be traveling at least nine or ten months every year. Can you Zoom across eight or ten time zones? The technology will work anytime. How will you work at 11 PM, or 4 AM?”

I asked my son for a viewpoint from a professional technology guy.

“Don’t ask permission, Dad,” was his pithy response. It’s a little like a zen koan. Took me awhile to apply that advice to my career path question.

Gina and Vanessa were pretty skeptical about a j-o-b with an AWS company. “Dad, you know you don’t work well with bosses, or meetings, or schedules, or even other people.”

So, as you already guessed, I passed on the AWS career and continue to develop POWARRMax, the option trading program that gives me a reason to experiment with machine learning.

This project also allows me to work with Gina and Ryan on a real project, where I need lots of advice. As the two alpha users of POWARRMax, Gina and I occasionally trade together, sharing notes on companies, market sentiment, monthly inflation reports, and how to fix trades gone bad.

Ryan is my project advisor, informal advisory board, and the expert I call when I dig a coding hole too deep. When I am stuck, his advice is priceless. These three stand out.

After reviewing some especially cranky code I had written, Ryan thought for a minute or so, then said, “Just put a comma there.” I did, and then it worked.

Another time I needed real-time pricing for a long list of tickers, and thought I needed a websocket to get streaming real-time prices. I could not even read the instructions to set up websockets. Ryan has written many websocket apps, so he offered to do it.

“First, let’s look at the code and how you are using it,” he suggested. “How often will you run this program with the websocket?”

“Maybe once an hour during market trading hours,” I guessed. “Could be less.”

“OK. A websocket will save you maybe 30 seconds per run. How much time will it take in debug and maintenance? How do you get real-time prices now?” he asked.

“I ping the provider for each stock ticker. Takes two seconds or so.”

“Hmmm. So you might save a few minutes every day. Maybe you just skip websocket,” Ryan suggested.

Code prevention is sometimes the very best approach to good development.

The most recent example of his advice and guidance is my unfortunate encounter with Windows 11 using One Drive to hijack directory paths. I knew something was wrong, but thought it involved my use of notebooks and repositories in GitHub.

“Let’s look at the directory in your browser,” Ryan suggested.

I opened the directory and we both stared. I knew this page, and I also knew there was no help here.

“Aah, there it is,” Ryan smiled. “Click here on OneDrive.” I did, and it worked.

Ryan finds almost painless solutions to really troublsome problems. that I create. It is truly a gift.

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