This is a follow on to my last article. What makes us better at what we do (what our profession is) is to find ways to take experience from something completely different or seemingly unrelated and relate it into what we do.

For instance – I did not consider myself a musician at all, but, it runs in the family and my father is a great guitar player. In my wanting to imitate him, for a period of my life, I put everything I had into playing guitar and learning/playing with him and his friends. It didn’t come as natural to me as it does my father and his friends, but, I was lucky enough to be allowed to play with him and his friends for years in what we called “The Front Porch guys” or “The Thursday Night Crew”. 

This was an all acoustic group of my dad’s friends (some of whom are/were professionals) who came over to his house every Thursday night and played (mostly) acoustic guitar. We had a guy with a stand up acoustic bass and a couple with mandolins and sometimes harmonicas (and even a coupe of bongos). It was all about just playing/having a good time and we rotated around with each successive person in the circle picking and playing a song that they chose. Some of the guys would come with a chord chart of their chosen songs but that was not always the case. Sometimes, you just had to improvise along and figure out/learn what they were doing.

I learned so much more than I ever could have on my own by just playing and improvising with them. Playing with others and having to improvise really trained my ear and knowledge of music. Of course, I wanted to be better each week so I also studied and practiced a lot on my own to show up “better next week”. Everyone also played a solo in each song (also along a circular rotation) and that was the ultimate in pure improvisation. It was great! I learned so much and exercised parts of my brain and developed talents that I never knew that I had! 

That roughly 7 years of the “Thursday Night Crew” actually changed my opinion of myself. It made me realize that I actually could be a musician, I still play a bit to this day and it always comes right back, just like riding a bike. I found musical talent that I believed that I didn’t have when I was younger.

Now, to the point. Career wise, my true calling has always been as a computer guy. More particularly, the niche that I ended up in is in computer networks, inter-networking, Cisco type stuff, etc.. There are plenty of pure network engineers out there that are much more talented than I, in that focused field. What makes me unique, however, are the improvisation skills and right brain exercises of learning and trying to keep up with real musicians in the “Thursday Night Crew”. That experience gave me some almost un-explainable talents, not only in networking but in the holistic big picture of all of IT. I can improvise solutions almost at the drop of a hat. I can figure out solutions to others’ problems that are not even in my profession as a “network engineer”. Learning coding and automation became much easier. I can easily adapt to almost any situation.

Obviously, just as when I was playing with “The Crew”, I learn and study my profession (network engineering/IT) on my own to be “better next week”. This is necessary! However, the experience of keeping up with “The Crew” at a musical level expanded my brain in ways that are invaluable to my career as a “network engineer”. The key is – Never stop learning, always be curious about everything! You never know what will make you better at what you do, don’t limit yourselves….Just learn and experience life, and you will always be better at your actual profession in doing so!!