Hello. I like the purple cat.

Drupal t-shirtMy mother emailed tonight saying that while she enjoyed reading my “interesting narratives on food”, she wanted to know more about what I’d learned this week hanging around with Drupal programmers. Besides coming to appreciate their humor and massive collections of developer “inside joke” t-shirts (see image for example), I have enjoyed this glimpse into the tech world, where I did not see a single PowerPoint presentation all week.

The boys (and some girls) who run in this data-driven circle have skills that are high in demand. Much like the college student who studies a language for a few semesters, and then fumbles her way through a semester abroad, I am acutely aware that I am a novice on the edge of the circle here. I can talk about nodes, blocks, and views, and I have learned to champion this open-source content management system. (Returning to the foreign language analogy for a second: I can basically say hello, order food from a restaurant, and tell people I like the purple cat.)

I find myself stuck on the fence re: how to move forward. In the world I work in, and more importantly, the world I want to work in, it is clear how concrete skills, like Drupal theming or programming, are an invaluable asset. I have already seen in my work how understanding how a developer thinks can make a tremendous impact on how effectively I can manage an activity. Even if it takes years to generate the demand in public health for all of the “sexy” that Drupal can offer, our clients are clearly heading in that direction.

That said, I’m not sure I actually want to be a full time themer or developer. To jump from my novice skills to the far more in-demand roles requires not only learning some programming languages, but also a commitment to a very different approach to problem-solving. It feels a little bit like trying to switch from six years of studying German to trying Italian and Spanish in college; the transition went rather poorly, and as a result, I speak very little of all three languages, rather than being able to flip between the three seamlessly, as planned. I want my professional career to be a mashup of communications + technology + business in public health,  but I already see how delicate that balance is. As I get to know myself professionally, I find I learn best when I focus on one thing at a time; I just worry that I will wind up getting pigeon-holed.

Biker JIm's
Biker Jim's "exotic" menu

Ok, enough waxing philosophical, and back to food: In the past twenty-four hours, we have consumed delicacies from the farm, the field, the desert, and the sea. Highlights include:

The next leg of the trip begins tomorrow with a long drive from Denver to Santa Fe. My guess is that tomorrow’s blog will be a picture of a road, hopefully with a bit of scenery.

Mandatory tourist shot: Scenic Denver from the 27th floor
Mandatory tourist photo #2: dustmop statue outside the Denver Art Museum
Mandatory tourist photo #3: Jason poses in Denver's Greek Amphitheatre