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Bartender Skills

I’ve been a desk-jockey for most of my adult life, the vast majority of that doing software. I used to say I was a software engineer, but I was only that about half the time. I’ve also been a plain-old coder, Tester, Quality engineer (that’s where you design the tests — sometimes writing code to do the tests — that the Testers run), project manager, engineering manager, engineering director, and probably a few other things (I’ve certainly been called a few other things! 😉 ). So now-a-days, I just say “I did software”. Folks who want details can ask.

Early on, I became a fan of “Management by Wandering Around” and, in my roles as a non-manager, “Problem Solving by Wandering Around”, since Problem Solving is just another kind of management, to my way of thinking. Also to my way of thinking, a big part of the Wandering Around is not just walking and looking, but also interacting with people and asking wildly open-ended questions (ex:, “How’s it going?”) then listening carefully not only to the reply but also to what is not said.

Point being (well, this is not actually the point, YET, but the pre-point or, perhaps, the pre-pre-point…) that I tended to be one of those chatty developers / engineers / engineering managers, a trait that, while embraced by some, tended to annoy the stereotypical software nerd who wants nothing more than some peaceful time to interact with their screen and some code. ANYway…

Oh wait. But first… While I love to chat and swap stories, a key part of all of this was the listening part; listening to other people tell their stories. Working in the often-stressful world of software for all those decades, I would usually become known in my various circles as The Guy You Could Talk To. Sometimes about project related things, but sometimes just about “life-stuff”. And then one needs to work out the delicate balance of how much to try to help and how much to just nod and say “oh wow!” at the appropraite times. One of my favorite observations along the way has been that life can throw all kinds of crazy stresses at us and people are generally expected to keep it to themselves and stick to work-related things while at work. But if work adds the stressor that pushes them over the edge, that thing is not necessarily the biggest thing they’re dealing with. And, as alluded to earlier, it is the nature of software projects to throw plenty of chaos and stress our way, so I never saw the point in intentionally adding more chaos or stress when it could be avoided.

…But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post, probably for a different blog.

All I was really getting at with all of those words is that it’s important to listen to what people have to say and, a lot of times, what they have to say at this particular moment isn’t really related to the thing you might have thought they were being focused on, but that’s ok.

Which leads me to the titular theme of this post, which is that, as I embark on my new career as dishwasher and floor mopper, I will also be spending a fair bit of time as bartender, which involves a fair bit of listening to other people’s stresses and, I suspect, a whole lot less of trying to help with problems than one gets in the software world and a whole lot more nodding and saying “oh wow!” or “I know, right?!” or similar. As I sit in the space several days a week working on paperwork, dealing with email, etc., I tend to leave the door open so that passers-by can poke their noses in and say hello. Sometimes, they want to chat; sometimes about nothing in particular, or in some other way where I’m not expected to help out or fix things much, but just to listen.

I refer to these times as “practicing my bartender skills”. Ok, now I can tell you the thing that I started off wanting to talk about! 😀

It turns out that wanting to start a brewery — or a bar or restaurant or similar hospitality business but, in particular, a brewery — is a fairly common fantasy in which people engage. And, while many people might claim that it’s not a particular fantasy of theirs, A LOT of them have clearly spent oodles and oodles of time thinking about The Best Way To Run A Brewery and it is not an uncommon experience for me — if I mention that I’m starting a brewery (or if they stop in while I’m there and I let on that I’m the owner) — for the other person to dive right in and tell me all of their ideas about better locations, key styles of beer, monetary policies, critical snacks to have available, beer pricing, styles of beer and snacks to absolutely avoid, which floor tiles would be better for me, what shirt I should be wearing when I’m working, better names for my beers, a better name for the company, better ideas for the logo, etc., etc., etc.

I don’t really mind — they don’t know me; I don’t know them; it’s quite clear that none of it is personal; they’re just sharing their thoughts and ideas — sometimes I even pick up a useful pointer or two. Plus, I get to “practice my bartender skills”! 😀

…And that’s a thing I greatly enjoy. So I think I’m going to like my new job, especially once things get underway!

Stay friendly, my thirsts!


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