So I’m back in the States… That’s the good news. The next thing is deciding what to do now that I’m back in the States.
Initially when I came back, my first goal was to find a J-O-B. My first instinct was to go back to what I was doing what I had the most experience with: real estate. Like I said, that was my first instinct.
Upon closer examination, I realized that though my experience in Ghana does not easily fit into a box, that experience does fit into a box. In Ghana, I ran my whole company and also did some consulting on the side. Until I started talking to people, I didn’t realize that there are names for many of the aspects of my role as “boss” including: product manager, business development, operations manager. Similarly, my consulting work drew on B-school thinking. Thus, my adventure in Ghana was very rewarding on an experience level.
“Is this time for a complete re-boot?” asked a friend working in the start-up world. He’s aware that I did some programming while in Ghana. In other words, do you want to become a programmer? He was asking if I wanted to not just change my industry but also my function. I’m not sure if I’m willing to go that far. It makes me nervous.
Fight Them or Join Them
And yet, I cannot deny how computers and algorithms seem to have taken over every aspect of life. I’m not the first to recognize this. My concern is with how technology is crowding out the aspects of work that used to require people. For instance, depending on which source you use, high-frequency traders — computers — represent > 50 percent of daily stock volume. Obviously, you still need humans to program the computers. But the rise of algorithmic trading is compelling finance whizzes to decide if they want to join the computers or go against them. Many people who don’t have the skills to join them will all pile into the “against them” group. Sounds like that group is going to get crowded.
Having worked in finance, I’m not all that surprised by how algorithms have disrupted financial markets. I feel sorry for the people who think they are more or less insulated from the pernicious aspects of technology. Real estate agents immediately come to mind. They might have thought they had a monopoly on local sales data through their multiple listing service that’s usually controlled by the local realtor organization. They also might have thought they would be safe from outsourcing because their roles cannot be outsourced. Instead a couple of Internet companies became competitors to all realtors.
For the moment, I’ve decided to learn more about programming. I want to see how much I actually like programming. I figure more experience with programming will give me a better appreciation of what a tech company and its programmers can do.
I plan on continuing to talk to working people to see where I fit best.