10.3.2016 | printed in the Summer 2016 issue of VITAL magazine
Austin Powers once requested, “Allow myself to introduce…myself.” With that in mind, my name is Scott Johnson and I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts in this and upcoming Vital issues. I’ve been blessed to be a POET employee since 2002. I have a lovely wife, 3 darling children, 2 dogs that could be mistaken for squirrels, 10,000 hobbies and 0 talents.
I’m not a Vice President of anything. I’m not the Senior Director of anyone. I’m a Data Systems Administrator. I have the kind of job title CIA operatives make up when asked what they do for a living. It’s the kind of job title when you tell it to people, there are no follow up questions because further explanation would likely be too confusing and boring to tolerate. (Stranger: “What do you do?” Me: “I’m a Data Systems Administrator.” Stranger: “Oh. That’s nice.”) Many job titles have a suffix at the end to indicate level of prestige (MD, DDS, CPA.) My job title could very well end with a zzz. Basically, my job is to write programs to collect data from our network of POET plants. Then write more programs to spit out the data in pretty ways for engineers and scientists. I don’t even necessarily know what the data means – I just give it to other people much smarter than me to dissect. I spend a lot of time in spreadsheets. I mean a LOT of time. I’m a curator of 1s and 0s. To many, my job sounds mind-numbingly boring. However...it’s not. Believe it or not, it’s downright fun!
What qualifies a Data Systems Administrator to write a column in this particular publication? I asked myself...and the VITAL staff the same question. Perhaps my legendary annual Christmas letter encouraged them to consider me for the role. After all, that readership is well into the 10s of people spreading far and wide across southeastern South Dakota. I also wrote a witty Facebook post back in 2013 that received 42 likes and 1 “share” (thanks, Mom).
Admittedly, I have no qualifications as a writer. What insights could I possibly offer?
Well, I’m really good at finding fun. I realize that may not sound like an actual skill, but I believe otherwise. Fun doesn’t always come to you – sometimes you have to go get it! Having fun requires active participation. In my own life, I’ve discovered it is more fun making eggs benedict in my kitchen than ordering an Egg McMuffin in the drive through. Shooting a 3-pointer is more fun than watching the NBA guys from my couch. And telling jokes into a mic at a sparsely-populated dive bar on a random Tuesday night is much more fun than heckling from the crowd. My hollandaise sauce is clumpy, I air-ball most my 3s and I’ve bombed as a stand-up comic (even by open-mic night standards.) Despite my failures, I’ve experienced life-changing fun attempting each.
I feel that same attitude of fun-seeking can, and should be applied to work. To be clear, I’m not talking about fun INSTEAD of work. I’m not advocating fun IN SPITE of work. I’m referring to fun AT work. Fun WHILE working. Fun DOING work. Fun and work do not have to be mutually exclusive. I’m not suggesting one should drop everything in the middle of a busy day to participate in a company-wide bean bag tournament (oh wait, we actually did that). Fun can be injected into our everyday, otherwise mundane tasks. If I can have fun being buried in virtual mountain of spreadsheets...well then I believe fun can be found anywhere. Don’t wait until after the work day to enjoy life.
Next time you’re shoveling wet cake, pretend you’re in a giant Cracker Jack box, searching for a temporary tattoo. When facing a marathon day of planting corn, break out those Captain America Underoos – secretly telling the world, “Darn it, I’m going to have fun today.” (Yes, they make those for adults). Greet your officemates with a different version of “Good Morning” every day until you run out of languages. Then create a new language. Then start over, but sing the greetings. Your coworkers might eventually ask for a different seating arrangement, but they will hopefully have learned an important lesson: fun is serious business.
Jeff Broin often talks about having a passion for your work. To have an enduring career in our industry, you need to have fire and a desire to change the world. If you have that kind of passion for your job, fun will undoubtedly follow. Find the passion. Find the fun. With any luck, it might be contagious.
Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. After all, I am a Data Systems Administrator... I mean, Sr. Vice President of Fun.
Other Stories in this collection:
Out of Left Field: Passion for Your Job
by Scott Johnson, Data Systems Administrator, POET