A long time ago I hand-coded a content management system from scratch using PHP and MySQL for a cheese reviews website. It wasn't a very good CMS, and it was a rubbish website. But I did it - it was probably the high point of my life as a coder.
As I've developed my career, I've shifted towards content, engagement and management, and I've had less reason to look at lines of code. But although I've forgotten most of what I briefly knew about PHP syntax, I reckon I've retained enough to be at least an informed commissioner and client of development work. I know enough about what might be involved, what is and isn't possible, and sometimes I can even access some repressed memory to understand what a line of code does.
I like understanding how things work. I like the process involved in solving problems. But it's not my job any more to be looking at code. And I sometimes have to stop myself from getting sucked in to the detail when I know others are actually far better able to do it.
But I am a bit torn, because I do think I benefit from sometimes getting sucked in. And I want the people I work with to be practitioners too because it's such a practical medium that we work in. As a digital professional I do want to be participating personally in the detail because I think it actually might be essential to the job - I know for example, that any advice I provide about official blogging is much better for the fact that I write this official blog myself.
I've just started some professional coaching at work. I had my first session this week and I have high hopes for it. I think it will help me to think through and deconstruct my approach to work, in order to become more effective. I think I will learn a lot, and I hope I will become bit more productive as a result.
One of the many things that came up in my first session was this dilemma about how far to get stuck into the detail. I hope I can find the right balance because, while the cheese reviews CMS demonstrated conclusively that I didn't really have the aptitude to be doing that all day, I'm not sure I should resist the temptation to right click to check how things work.