Dealing with intimidating projects

I’m working on my first big IBM project, something that goes beyond Perl scripts and Drupal websites. My manager thinks it will be a good assignment for me. The component diagram looks like alphabet soup, and I haven’t worked with any of the pieces before. It’s intimidating.

Open source projects like Drupal or Rails don’t scare me as much, even though they require a lot of figuring out and hacking as well. I think it’s because I’m confident that I can figure things out from the source or from the Internet, and because I can hold more of it in my head. This project will involve quite a few IBM components, and I can’t work with, understand, or even remember everything. It’s big.

But I know this feeling of incipient panic, and I’ve dealt with worse before. It’s the same feeling I got as a teaching assistant at the University of Toronto, doubting myself because I was helping people learn something I was just learning about myself. I remember feeling uncertain. I remember feeling like an impostor. I felt like giving up. Then my department chair set me straight, and I made it through.

I can deal with this. My manager thinks I can handle it. IBM has a great support network and I’ve got plenty of mentors. I’m learning a lot from the other people on the team. It’s going to be okay. And at the end of the day, I’ll learn how to work with a pretty decent-sized IBM software stack, integrate with lots of middleware, work with complex web services, and maybe even turn things that scare me into things that I enjoy.

Here’s what I’m planning to do:

  • [X] Install Rational Software Architect and learn how to use it to view project designs.
  • [X] Learn how to use Rational Software Architect for web services.
  • [X] Figure out what I need to learn for Websphere Application Server or Websphere Portal to make the web services happen.
  • [X] Stay sane throughout the process. =)

2011-03-01 Tue 16:26

  • Wow. Just in time post. =)
    Now that I know you get intimidated with big projects too, I get a feeling that maybe I can survive being a Senior SE at Accenture. It’s really a little scary for me because it is my first time to be in a big SW company. But I’m excited to take on the challenge. Yey!

    Getting started is the hardest part, and once we get the hang of it, I guess everything will go on smoothly. It also helps that Accenture encourages mentoring and I’m pretty sure they won’t hire me if they don’t think I will be able to be of value to the team.

    Congrats on your new big project Sacha!

  • You forgot that you need to don your SuperGirl outfit… then it’s less intimidating..

    I am reminded of this scene from the movie “Capricorn One”. One of the supporting actors goes: “Piece of Cake”… alas you’ll need to watch the movie to figure out the inside joke.