At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is self-actualization, the driving force inside all of us that makes us want to reach our full potential. There are two hurdles to achievement in this realm.

  • You have to clear the other levels of need before you can spend the time and energy focusing on self-actualization
  • It takes a tremendous amount of work and humans are, by nature, lazy.

I’ve found that I need clearly defined end states to aim for.

I have a particular long-term goal in mind that I know will take several years to attain and require tremendous effort on my part. However, I’m also one that always feels the tug of the latest shiny goal or that new technology that I have to sink weeks into learning, only to never touch it again. I decided that what I required was to begin treating my self-development as a project. How would I approach this if it were a software project, building the next great product that will change the world? Would does the end product look like? What are the features (attributes) that are required to consider the project a success? What is the gap between where I am today and where I want to be and what are the steps that need to be accomplished to get me there?

Yesterday, I started “Operation SelfDirected”, an experiment in treating my learning and growth objectives as if it were a project. I’m using a backlog with month-long sprints, as set up in a planning tool called HacknPlan. HacknPlan was developed for indie game studios, but honestly, it’s a great tool, with all the features I needed for my projects, none of which are game related. Think Jira, only cheaper and easier to use.

So what is my goal? Eventually, I want to be a CTO. I’ve worked my way through the ranks of IT, moving from technical support to analysis, development, to management. For the last year, I’ve been in an Engineering Manager position, focused entirely on supporting and enabling my teams to be successful. I love it. The mix of skills required for success in the role is as much technical as business, and I’ve been lucky enough in my career to have experienced enough different roles that I feel comfortable with technology as it applies to business, not just for technology sake. I know there is more I can give, but understand I still have so much to learn. As my previous post explained, I’ve signed up for classes at UC Berkeley. This begins to bolster one area of knowledge, but there are many I’ve identified as being required for this role.

  • Technical. Be able to read and write code.
  • Architecture. Understand systems and enterprise architecture. Be able to solution.
  • Devops and IT Operations. The world is different now. How can we apply business process to IT?
  • Leadership. This will be a skill I grow forever.
  • Business. Financial Analysis and Budgeting.
  • Project Management.
  • Security and Compliance.

I cannot tackle every subject at the same time, a lesson I have learned the hard way in the last year. For January I will be focusing on Leadership, refreshing some of my math skills, and Business. I’ll likely try to keep my pulse on the technical with a data science for business class, but it will not be my focus. I am also in the process of listening to “The Phoenix Project”, which gives me an introduction to IT operations outside of a Software or Services company. This might still be too much to take on at one time, but we’ll see how the month works out and re-evaluate going into February’s goal sprint. So with this post, I’ve created the SelfDirected category. Comments and suggestions are welcome; I’d love to have a dialog for those who are interested.

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