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Salli Figler
Salli Figler

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Nature or Nurture?

I recently helped my husband move his business from rented office space, back into our home where it all started – a long time ago. His office was located on the second story – no elevators. His business has a great amount of audio equipment, desks, chairs, cabinets, computers, etc. that all needed to be moved out of the rented space.

He had been working on this for a few weeks, knowing the exact date that he had to be totally vacated from this space. I wasn’t really paying much attention and hadn’t even gone to his office to see how he was doing, knowing he was “working on it”.

The weekend before the big move, he and I cleared and readied the space in the house in anticipation of the business occupying the larger room of our lower level. We got rid of most of the furniture, doing a great deal of rearranging and getting rid of items that we really did not need. I felt like we were ready. He lined up his good friends to help on a Saturday, took care of renting a truck, bought a case of water for the “workers”.

I went to his office after my workday on the Wednesday before the Saturday move. When I walked in, I felt like nothing had been done. It looked like a complete mess. Papers and equipment everywhere. I saw very little organization and couldn’t tell the difference between what was going to the dumpster and what was coming home.

Being in this chaos made me uncomfortable. I looked around and talked with my husband about having a better plan. My concern was that his Saturday helpers would be standing around waiting for boxes to be packed. From here, I got much more involved with the move. We had to be ready by Saturday when the truck and friend helpers were coming.

I came to his office after work every evening that week and we worked late into the nights. Since there was empty office space next door, the first thing we did was get everything out of his office that was not being moved – it either belonged to someone else, could be donated, was paperwork that was being stored offsite, or was garbage. We organized these items into different areas of the empty space. This helped us see what was really left to deal with.

He had a massive amount of wires coming through holes in and out of walls and the furniture. He wasn’t sure what was what. I went underneath the furniture and pulled every wire individually, so he could follow it to its source. That took a few hours but at the end, he knew which wires he needed to keep attached to his equipment and which could be cut.

He needed to take apart some of his furniture so it would fit out the doors and down the stairs. When it came time to disassemble some of the furniture, he was ready to just start unscrewing everywhere. I instead studied each screw to see what its purpose was and then knew exactly which screws to take out and which to leave.

He had cabinets that had been placed under a counter, sitting on wooden boxes. He was ready to take a sledge hammer and knock out the boxes so the cabinets would come out. I took out the top drawer and saw how the cabinet was attached to the counter – two screws. Once those screws came out, the cabinets could be pulled away, leaving the cabinets and the wooden boxes intact.

On Saturday, the troops arrived, everything was organized and ready to go. It went better than I (and my husband) ever expected. The truck got loaded, the office got emptied, the trash got moved to the dumpster and the business was moved to our home. That evening my husband expressed his gratitude to me and said he never could have done this without me.

A few days after this, I was thinking about my approach (versus my husband) and comparing it to how I would approach writing a computer program. Think first about the end result you need to accomplish, plan it out before you write it, be meticulous with certain parts and breeze though others, if something doesn’t work right, look at it carefully to see the obvious before trying something else.

I then asked myself this question: Did I become a computer programmer because I had a natural instinct to do tasks in an orderly fashion or did being a computer programmer give me this characteristic that has carried over into everyday life activities? Do others with a technology background, approach everyday life activities the same way they approach coding a new application?

I would love to hear what others think about this question.

Discussion (1)

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Kevin McKenna

Interesting question.

Not sure that having that instinct is what made me a programmer, and I don't think being a programmer led to the instinct, but it definitely nurtures it. So perhaps a mix of the two - it was there, kinda.. but the constant practice has helped it grow.