Job Descriptions

I watched a hockey game last night, where one of the players was hit in the face point-blank by a hockey puck. They literally picked his teeth up off the ice afterwards.

He returned to the game with a mouth full of packing and a frozen face, and proceeded to play another regular period followed by two 20-minute overtime periods, and a bit of a third. And he played superlatively.

What is it that inspires that kind of dedication? He’s already a star. Whether he came back for more punishment or not, he already gets the girls, he already has ‘achieved’. Nobody would have begrudged him some time to mourn his smashed jaw.

Of course, I can’t answer that question for him. Could be that he’s just the stubbornest mule of a man on the planet. But I do think that if he didn’t have passion for what he did, if he wasn’t into that game body and soul, he couldn’t have come back and been able to put aside his pain, the distraction of the swelling, the despair at impending dental surgery. I’ve been injured playing sports before, and getting your mind back into focus after even a minor injury is unbelievably tough.

My job is pretty different from Oilers #94. Still, I see some parallels (and as a result, you have to come along for the ride, sorry ’bout that).

Is there an identity equivalent to taking a puck in the face? I rather hope not :) Still, there are times where delays and unexpected issues force you to cool your heels. Identity projects have a terrible nasty tendency for scope creep. Why that is, is an interesting study in and of itself, but I think the truth is that identity is so holistic and so fundamentally interconnected that it leads to cascading sets of revelations about internal business processes that even the business process owners themselves do not discover until somebody tries to map those business processes to technology.

Somehow, the technology and philosophy surrounding Identity inspires passion – it is a field that is full of characters that are larger than life, and full of communities that thrive. The problems are intriguing to solve, but the people are far more intriguing. It isn’t a 9-5, leave-it-at-the-door kind of place, and it isn’t about merely putting in the time. What inspires these people’s dedication? I would guess it is a love for the game, no different in caliber or origin than that of the hockey player I admire so much.

11 thoughts on “Job Descriptions

  1. the question (in my mind), is not whether or not he came back to the game because of his passion, but, without it would have have been able to start? and you?

    Pam says: I don’t know. I think that passion can be viral – but some people are natural carriers. That being said, lots of spectators are passionate too, but that doesn’t make them star players. There has to be ability there too, and that ability must be respectable in its own right. The people I get all gooey over have both qualities, in spades :)

  2. Pam,
    I saw this entry and thought I should comment – I think you may have missed a couple of important aspects of this incident and I have some insight about you. I am course speaking as someone who does not play contact or team sports of any kind and my opinions should be viewed with more than a little skepticism. In fact I am laying down as I type this…..

    A major aspect of why *men* get up and keep doing something that is unhealthy to them, especially in an environment such as this is that permanent bodily harm is a better outcome than “letting the team down”. This particular aspect of the male psyche has been exploited in military training since the dawn of time (See Gwynne Dyer, WAR ISBN: 0679313125 – I’ll loan you my copy if you want). You can convince men of a certain age – typically in their late teens or early 20s to give their lives in defense of their comrades or to keep fighting in situations when they have been injured. The concept of an Army fighting for idea’s or defending honor has pretty much shown to be crap. Considering the likely age that 94 was “indoctrinated” into the “Hockey Army” – I suspect a similar calculation went through Mr. 94’s “head” when he decided to get back up into the game – letting the team down would have been worse than leaving the game and getting medical attention. I also think that he may have just been plain or stubborn and frankly none too bright. He should have had a full-face helmet. I’m not suggesting that you could not get a woman to get up after a serious injury like this and keep playing – I am suggesting that woman’s motivation may be different. Perhaps you could comment on that…

    The other issue I think you need to think about in this case the coach or trainer here – here is a situation where you have a *person* who is seriously injured. Should you patch them up and send them back into a situation where the harm may be permanent or get them proper attention. We assume that Mr 94 wanted to keep playing, however, someone in authority had to make a decision to keep him in the game or not. On the surface it would seem that who ever made that decision did not view Mr. 94 as a person but merely as a means to an end; which I have serious ethical problems with ( Do you really think that the Oilers had no one else who could play that position? I’m not suggesting which decision is correct or not – I do not know all the facts – but I think you need to think about how to keep this player in the game was made. Your “heroic” Mr. 94 did not make it in isolation. He may not have even been involved in the decision at all.

    Ok so on to you now. I sincerely hope that you never suffer anything like what happened in this incident – metaphorically or not. If you do, drop your gloves and take them on – I would bet on you.

    I’m sure that there are lots of people who work in Identity management – and just about any field – who are strictly 9-5ers. (If not there soon will be) You just don’t happen to be one of them; you also cultivate relationships with people who tend to be passionate about what they do as well.

    Project scope creep and customers who don’t know what they want are a big part of any project (Identity management or not). I think part of the problem that you encounter is a result of people “knowing” what identity is but who find it difficult to articulate exactly what it is. I know you do your best (which is very good) to get requirements and project scope nailed down but customers will be customers.

    You do what you do based upon your passion for the work and there is no-one keeping you at it – you get your motivation because what you do is important to you. This is the difference between you and 94.

    Keep your stick on the ice.

  3. Don, if I didn’t know you, I’d say that you might be just a WEE bit cynical…

    Oh wait – I *do* know you — and you’re a whole lot cynical (:

    I certainly know I have ‘taken one for the team’ in my career. I remember very clearly the time I spent in 2001 working in Silicon Valley at the height of the boom. I remember spending nights sleeping on the floor of the computer room, working as part of a team of Canadian import talent trying valiantly to get a set of systems working for an eCommerce site whose requirements shifted, and whose own staff could not assist us.

    I remember being sat down on a friday morning, and told that I couldn’t fly back to Canada, that I was too “valuable” to allow them to let me leave at that time. I remember being in tears, tired, overworked, homesick, and unable to even hold up the pretense of professional detachment. But for me to leave was to add to the load of the people who were also trying to keep these systems running. Who was it that sat me down? I don’t even remember. Whoever they were (and they were not my current employer), that person had a vested interest in seeing me working. That is the reality of any business that is service-based. It is a calculation – and that calculation is weighted differently depending on the stamina, endurance, ability, and willingness of the performer. The psychology behind cultivating willingness is an interesting art – perfected by armies, but nevertheless used to good effect elsewhere.

    Just because the willingness is cultivated doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable or worthy of respect though.

    Psht, just try and rain on my parade, mr. poopy pants…. it won’t work!!!



  4. Do ya think 6 or 7 digits in the salary might have something to do with it? ;)

    Here’s my commentary coming at you from the warm bench (not on the ice, but still on the team).

    I think there is an important distinction to be made between passion and professionalism. The professional expectation in the NHL is to get out there unless you can’t stand and swing the stick (especially if you’re one of the hot ones). Anyone not expected to do this is on his way back to the minors anyway.

    The IT equivalent to a puck in the face happens all the time. Say – a bug in a vendor’s product that renders your plans mush or some dude changing the password on your bind account without telling anyone. You show up the next day, you get creative, you sort things out, roll with it, and carry onwards. That’s the professional expectation.

    I’m not passionate about identity or IT. I’m a 9-5er when I can be. (In fact I think a lot of people would be a lot better off if they could get their asses out from behind these machines and have direct interactions with real people and maybe get some significant exercise to boot.) But I do believe in quality, and service, and pride in doing one’s best. I often think lowly of IT and still come up with quality solutions and results for my clients. This interest in quality often pushes me outside of 9-5 and sometimes leaves me disgusted with my apparent priorities – but, I tell ya, it ain’t passion for identity or IT.

    So, do you think there is a place for ego and reputation in the discussion?

  5. I disagree about the expectation that you get out there even if you can barely swing the stick. This is NHL playoff hockey, and these guys are thoroughbreds. Presence is not sufficient at that level. In this case, #94 was more capable injured than many of his teammates in full health. If that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t matter how willing that player was to get back onto the ice. As well (and more to your point) I don’t believe that #94 would really expect or want to stumble back onto the ice in the middle of a playoff game if he was a detriment to the team. It is a different definition of professionalism, but it still is professionalism (imo).

    There is *definitely* a place for ego and reputation in this discussion. In fact, I have to say that I’m having a great time watching the legs that this discussion has grown, can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Mark, you are not a 9-5er. Everyone you work with will attest to this. You are not a workoholic either. When the chips are down, you stay – otherwise, you choose other pursuits. You are the poster child for work-life balance, but you are NOT a 9-5er.

    So ego & reputation. It is interesting — two minutes after I originally posted this entry, It occured to me that it was really egotistical to draw all these parallels with “Identity” (with a capital I). Sounds like I have some kind of ownership. And really, you are right, I’m talking about concepts here that aren’t “Identity” problems, they are really just geek problems, so putting the “Identity” part in is somewhat superfluous, just an attempt to be trendy really.

    Not that it stopped me from typing it in anyways, heheh…

  6. Ok. Let’s drop the gloves here…..

    We have no idea why the hero in your story came back on the ice. Perhaps it was his passion for the game that made him play through the pain. Or it could have been his teammates would have made fun of him if he did not, or his 3.5 Million dollar (US) salary, or his coach telling him he going to get cut for only scoring 36 goals this year (not a magic number like 40), or that he’s 30 and only has a couple of more years at best, he may have just been a big dumb jock and it did not occur to him to go get some medical attention, hell it may have just been a flesh wound and really not mattered too much to him.

    The point here is that doing something like this for “the love of the game” is a nice romantic, but I suspect unrealistic, view. However, like all decisions in life there are probably many factors to look at and just seeing the result of a decision (especially on TV) is very likely not the whole story. I’ve told you before – I do not believe that decisions are made in a one-dimensional world

    Now, back to you – Girl learn how to take a compliment. You do what you do not because you have a tyrant of a boss telling you to do it, or because you get paid huge buckets of money, or because you are trapped in a job where you have to work just to get by on a day-to-day basis.

    You have chosen to take on a body of work – namely the Infocard stuff – that you have decided on your own is important to work on. I suspect your boss at some level would be just as happy to have you out there maximizing billable hours. I was trying to imply, without being too patronizing, that I think your motivation for what you do was in fact nobler that some hockey player who got his face busted up.

    I think I’m going to take up figure skating.

    So there

  7. ok, so 94 has a name – Ryan Smyth. To these guys losing teeth (chicklets), although horrifying to us, is like a badge of honour. Some of them get nice detal work done so they can still pick up the chicks, others don’t seem to care. Not that this matters at all, but Ryan Smyth got up because he is a proud competitor and a leader and he has a shot at the coveted Stanley Cup. The only way he is not going back on the ice is if he could not physically play or he would be a detriment to the team. He surely didn’t do it for the money as his last cheque was a couple of months ago.

    Anyway, he is not unlike us. I like Mark am here because this is a great way to make a living. Givne the choice of having to work for money and not having to work for money, I will always choose the latter. Unlike Ryan, I would probably take a couple of sick days if I lost some chicklets while skating to work. Like Ryan though, when the chips are down at work I am there to finish the job.

    Anyway, I hope the Oilers do whatever it takes tonight to finish off those nasty sharks tonight.

    Go Oilers, Go!

  8. Don – I suggest a no-holds-barred arm wrestle, to the winner goes the spoils, including one evening of beer drinking, location to be determined :)

    I didn’t mean to diss your compliment — I just couldn’t help reacting to your characterization of professional athletes. We simply have different estimations as to what these athletes do. I look at Ryan Smith and see competence, competitiveness, leadership, ability. These are all things that I aspire to, although in my own personal form. I get the feeling that you think I’m nuts for giving the guy so much credit :)

    But I do give him credit, and I take pleasure from watching him perform. It is a very subjective form of value to provide, and sports in general don’t appeal to everyone.

    My apologies for behaving churlishly – and thank you very much for such a nice compliment, I’m sorry to have been so rude (-:


  9. ok, Don did it to me I have to comment now because now I have big mental imagery of Don in a leotard doing a double axel :-)

    I’ve been trying for quite some time to stay anonymous in the web world and protect my identity. I know this is a futile thing and that to be productive I’m going to have to bite the bullet and join the rest of you.

    While some of us observe skeptically the progression of infocards, you are out there embracing this technology and forging ahead not knowing what lies ahead for you. You could score but you might be taking the puck in the face. My guess, knowing how brilliant you are, you will score.

    As for Mr. 94, I think adrenaline speaks for a lot of his actions with perhaps a dash of anger at his opponent. Maybe saving face, and continue going like the machine that he has something to do with it too. Maybe he has a good dentist.

  10. Very interesting point in likening hockey to war, the same thought had occured to me while watching a junior A game in my home town. There is indeed a similar dynamic, a need to find one’s place as an adult that drives a young man to fit at any cost.

    I read a book some time ago by a guy whose name I cannot fully remember but his book was called “A choice of Heros”. The whole premise was that as a young man grows he looks for an identity in one of but a few narrowly defined roles. Now this is neither good nor bad, it is just an observation of fact. Some young men identify themselves as fighters, some as chick magnets, some as the car they drive. Having served in the military I came to understand (After I left) the dynamic that made the individuals do things that would from the outside seem quite nonsensical. It is a warrior society whose needs purpose can be seen in most societies and at any time in history. Whilst serving I did have a brief moment of clarity when it occured to me that in some sort of wierd way i was following along the path of the lemings as had countless generations before me; but why?

    Within the dynamic of the team, despite the impression that winning is everything, it is not the case in professional hockey, they are all individuals who are well paid and not entirely bonded as might be a different kind of group. A regiment is fully bonded, it has its own “glorious history”, elite nature and large group of young men who are willing to die for the colours.

    In truth I suppose it gets more complex than that when push comes to shove but it is the premise that everyone starts out with.

    I guess at the root of the matter is one’s personal ego, your reputation as a tough guy, the opinion of your fellows is more important than anything sometimes. Is it because you love hockey? is it because you love the Queen? No, its because you must prove yourself as a man.(Sorry I ramble a lot) Mick

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