So, what do you do?

February 25, 2008

nerd.JPGI’ve been reading The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce (Advances in Semiotics), edited by Umberto Eco and Thomas Sebeok as part of an inquiry class I’m taking. A tidbit on the title from the preface:

“There is the obvious referral (renvoi) to Doyle’s novel-length chronicle, “The Sign of the Four,” or “The Sign of Four,” which first appeared in Lippincott’s magazine, later in book form, in 1819. Then there was our driving compulsion to send our readers back to the funhouse of rampant triplicities, such as are discussed in Sebeok’s introductory three-card monte.”

“Funhouse of rampant trilicities.” It practically screams nerd doesn’t it? (The footnotes are nearly as long as the chapters). However, it is instructional in the context of the study of inquiry and I appreciate the passion with which it is written . And, reading about Sherlock Holmes and others in the context of the study of inquiry has been an interesting exercise. This class, I think, is getting me closer to understanding what I really “do” for a living although I still struggle to explain it to others.

For example, I was sitting at an indoor soccer facility waiting for my daughter’s practice to end and I was reading the book when another mother said, “hey, what are you reading?” Rather than trying to explain the subject of the book (because, let’s face it, I couldn’t do it justice) I took the easy way out and just told her I was doing homework. The “good for you!” conversation followed. When she asked what I was studying at school, I said instructional design. So that’s like architecture? Hmmm…no. Go ahead. Laugh. But now take it one step further…I research that stuff by observing, reading, following trends, asking questions, and reading- books, blogs, and research papers. Which means what exactly? I inquire. Maybe I should just say that – I seek understanding through inquiry. Doesn’t that sound all mysterious and nerdy? Might as well paint an “L” on my forehead.

Another example. I was helping my third grader do his math homework. We were discussing a particular word problem and he said…

“you don’t know. You just know Brandon Hall Research and reading and stuff. Dad’s an engineer. I’ll wait until he get’s home.”

So, I try to explain again what I do. He is not interested. “I read and stuff.” I do “Brandon Hall Research stuff.” For the love of…inquiry.

What do you do? Could you explain it to an eight year old? As for me, I read and stuff.

  • http://www.jarche.com/ Harold Jarche

    Do you really want to do work you can explain easily?

  • http://www.jarche.com Harold Jarche

    Do you really want to do work you can explain easily?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    I think easy explanations lead to conversation. So it’s less about me.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    I think easy explanations lead to conversation. So it’s less about me.

  • http://www.jarche.com/ Harold Jarche

    But an easy explanation can lead to pigeon-holes 😉

    How about – do you want the short explanation that doesn’t tell the whole story (I’m an information analyst) or the longer, and more interesting story …

  • http://www.jarche.com Harold Jarche

    But an easy explanation can lead to pigeon-holes 😉

    How about – do you want the short explanation that doesn’t tell the whole story (I’m an information analyst) or the longer, and more interesting story …

  • http://in-the-middle-of-the-curve.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    Shoot – whenever people ask me what I do (which, in DC, is almost daily), I tell them “I teach people stuff using technology.” Draws folks into conversation.

    Of course, we can then get into the whole philosophical argument over identity – do vs. be, and the whole shebang. Don’t think I want to go there today 🙂

  • http://in-the-middle-of-the-curve.blogspot.com/ Wendy

    Shoot – whenever people ask me what I do (which, in DC, is almost daily), I tell them “I teach people stuff using technology.” Draws folks into conversation.

    Of course, we can then get into the whole philosophical argument over identity – do vs. be, and the whole shebang. Don’t think I want to go there today 🙂

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    As soon as I read your post, I sent a message to my sons to ask them to tell me in 8 words or fewer what my husband and I do for a living. My older son (16) has not replied (probably out of credit). My younger son says:

    “You teach people how to learn and Dad fixes computers.”

    I’m fairly satisfied with his assessment of what I do, but I think we might have to have a discussion with the lad about what his Dad (a CIO) does all day.

    By the way, I trust you are going to find a way to wear pink tomorrow!

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    As soon as I read your post, I sent a message to my sons to ask them to tell me in 8 words or fewer what my husband and I do for a living. My older son (16) has not replied (probably out of credit). My younger son says:

    “You teach people how to learn and Dad fixes computers.”

    I’m fairly satisfied with his assessment of what I do, but I think we might have to have a discussion with the lad about what his Dad (a CIO) does all day.

    By the way, I trust you are going to find a way to wear pink tomorrow!

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Karyn,

    Yes, I’ll be finding a way to wear pink tomorrow ; )

    Cool that your son can describe what you do. And, yes, I agree ‘fixing computers’ as a CIO job description needs a bit of improvement…perhaps you have a ‘take your child to work day’ like we do in the States?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Karyn,

    Yes, I’ll be finding a way to wear pink tomorrow ; )

    Cool that your son can describe what you do. And, yes, I agree ‘fixing computers’ as a CIO job description needs a bit of improvement…perhaps you have a ‘take your child to work day’ like we do in the States?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    OMG Wendy – let’s not get philosophical!
    I haven’t even had coffee yet….
    I like that Karyn and you use ‘teach’ vs. ‘train.’

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    OMG Wendy – let’s not get philosophical!
    I haven’t even had coffee yet….
    I like that Karyn and you use ‘teach’ vs. ‘train.’

  • Maria Hlas

    Being out of work, I have had to explain this a lot and I don’t have a good line. I even made up a 30-second “elevator speech” like everyone said to do and most people just give me a blank stare when I use it. I find I have to use the word training because most people understand it, but I don’t want to use it, because everyone assumes I stand in front of a classroom and instruct people (which often leads people to helpfully suggest that I should make some extra cash by teaching at a local technical school at night). So sometimes I say I am an instructional designer, which I haven’t done for quite a while, but then I have to explain that I do project management for training projects and have also been a manager, I don’t really write anymore. So, unless they want to employ me or can connect me with someone who wants to employ me, I usually just say I write instructional materials. And then they tell me how they tried to put together an entertainment center they just bought and the instructions stunk – so I tell them it is because I didn’t write them. So ultimately I try to remain a mystery, an enigma, wrapped in a … what is that again?!

  • Maria Hlas

    Being out of work, I have had to explain this a lot and I don’t have a good line. I even made up a 30-second “elevator speech” like everyone said to do and most people just give me a blank stare when I use it. I find I have to use the word training because most people understand it, but I don’t want to use it, because everyone assumes I stand in front of a classroom and instruct people (which often leads people to helpfully suggest that I should make some extra cash by teaching at a local technical school at night). So sometimes I say I am an instructional designer, which I haven’t done for quite a while, but then I have to explain that I do project management for training projects and have also been a manager, I don’t really write anymore. So, unless they want to employ me or can connect me with someone who wants to employ me, I usually just say I write instructional materials. And then they tell me how they tried to put together an entertainment center they just bought and the instructions stunk – so I tell them it is because I didn’t write them. So ultimately I try to remain a mystery, an enigma, wrapped in a … what is that again?!

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    Sadly, we have no such thing as “take your child to work day”. Nevertheless, for one reason or another, my husband has taken the boys to work nwo and then, but they can’t be bothered to spend their day watching their Dad!

    My husband’s company is in the business of high end designer clothing, so the boys tend to take up residence with the tailor who adores them and whose job is far more interesting to watch.

    I can’t say I blame them – when I go there, the rooms and rooms of clothes and (FAR more importantly) an entire room full of SHOES are far more interesting to me than anything my husband might be involved in!

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    Sadly, we have no such thing as “take your child to work day”. Nevertheless, for one reason or another, my husband has taken the boys to work nwo and then, but they can’t be bothered to spend their day watching their Dad!

    My husband’s company is in the business of high end designer clothing, so the boys tend to take up residence with the tailor who adores them and whose job is far more interesting to watch.

    I can’t say I blame them – when I go there, the rooms and rooms of clothes and (FAR more importantly) an entire room full of SHOES are far more interesting to me than anything my husband might be involved in!

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    And then Maria said, “I am a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” And the other person said, so is that like a psychiatrist?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Karyn – A room full of shoes? Oh. My. God.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    And then Maria said, “I am a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” And the other person said, so is that like a psychiatrist?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Karyn – A room full of shoes? Oh. My. God.

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