Passions vs. Strengths

16 02 2012

Following your passions versus your strengths

How much do you follow your passions and heart, compared to following your strengths?
My heart and passion is technology, but my strength is in business strategy and combining the two together, I think.

Now, I’m not a creator. I’m not a programmer, as I don’t program things. I’m a “configurer”. I set things up, and install infrastructure and programs. I like to take what someone has created and make it work. It’s a huge difference. So often when I tell someone that I work in IT, they think I’m a programmer. Not at all. I would be the worst programmer you ever saw right now. Since I grew up in a General Contractor’s house, I’ll give a “house” example. There are multiple people that pertain to putting in new front doors in a house. Someone designs how the door is going to look. Someone actually sands down the door and stains it until it’s beautiful. Then someone delivers it. The last guy (or girl) puts the door on its hinges, makes sure that it doesn’t rub on the floor, and installs it just perfectly. Regarding IT, the programmer designs and creates the “door”. I am the person who installs the “door”. We have way different skills, but are still lumped under the IT category. I don’t think people ever think this about IT, but programming is too creative for me. I like things that just work and the functioning of the product, not the designing of it. Give me the pieces and I’ll make it work. Instructions on how to install things and the operations side works better for me. I like operations not product development.

I like doing hands-on-tech, and not just planning tech strategy. This past week I’ve been working on installing a program that is accessible via the web for one of the departments at Biola. I’ve had so much fun. I’ve stuffed my headphones in my ears and cranked away at setting up Apache Tomcat. (Side techie note: Developers are NOT good at writing documentation; I wish the people would write really easy installation instructions for this program!). I hadn’t really ever done anything like this, so it was a new challenge to crack. I like solving puzzles. When that website came up after I typed in the URL, I was so excited! I wanted to get out of my chair and do a little dance.

My concern is that I’ve been accepted and am planning to attend an MBA program. I know I’m going to be very sad to leave the tech aspect of my job for an MBA program. Sure, it doesn’t mean that I’ll never be a part of technology in the future. I hope to be a CIO or IT Director, so I’m still going to be a part of it. However, after school, I probably won’t be going back to a System Administrator job. (I could, but the question then would be “why spend two years for a degree and then go back to the same thing?”)
How do you plan for 10 years out? It’s hard to know if I’ll like being a manager. I’ve never done that. It’s a little tough to pick a position and say that’s where I want to be in 5-10 years, if I haven’t occupied a position like that. What if I hate it and want to go back to being a SysAdmin?

The problem lies between strengths and passion. Not that I’m a bad technologist, but I’m not the best. Out of a room of 10 people, I wouldn’t be picked first to solve the problem. My strengths lie in my other non-technical qualities that make me organized, assist me in requirements finding and problems solving, keep me tenaciously working, and help me interact well with others relationally. That’s why I stand out. So from an over-all perspective, I’d do great things for your team. But if you just want the technical part figured out, there’s probably someone who’s better at that than I am (although I would try, ask others who know more than I do, and complete the task successfully; it just might take a little longer than the super-good techie person). In a room of 10 business people, however, I probably could stand out, partially because of my background in technology and understanding that huge aspect of business. Let’s just say that my full-ride scholarship that I received to University of Rochester in New York shows that I can stand out in a crowd! 🙂

However, this scholarship probably won’t be matched by a Computer Science or Information Systems program, unfortunately.


People say follow your heart; that’s what will make you happy. I mean, you want to be in a job that will get you up in the morning, right? The Bible says ” The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Does your heart really know what’s good for you? Passion is good, but it can’t fuel life. Dr. Barry Corey, Biola’s president, stated today that we need to have conviction AND courage. Without conviction, courage will take us all over the place without meaning. Without courage, conviction will take us nowhere. Both are a necessity. I might argue that in the same way we need passion AND logic/wisdom. Passionate lovers may enjoy love, but where will they live and how will they make money if they don’t plan and be wise? But two planners living in a house without passion doesn’t make for a fun house either.

So what if your passion and your strengths don’t match up? Then what?

I would consider myself to be a wise person. I seek the Lord’s will and try to look at the long-term effects of of my decisions. Because of this though, I may miss out on “fun”. Someone who sees the big picture normally is satisfied with their choices, but it may not seem as fun at the time. They know that in the end, it will pay off though. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4) There’s a bigger picture to life that doesn’t just have to do with the jobs that we carry out here on earth. Character is important. So the decision doesn’t just come down to which job will make me more money in the end. Heck, I really don’t care about making a lot of money. A modest salary is more than enough for me. I’m a simple person.

Looking at the difference between a Masters in Information Systems program compared with an MBA, I think that the most wise decision would be to do an MBA. It gives me a broader skill set, allows me to still be technical if I wanted, but have the credentials to do more. Also, because technology changes so much within 5 years, an MBA allows me to have a better entrance back in to the workforce after raising kids.
I still feel like I’m trying to convince myself that this is the smarter move and I should do it though.

Currently, I don’t have any other options besides an MBA; I’m waiting to hear from Carnegie Mellon University (both their MBA and Masters in Information Systems program), but I need to turn in my deposit to the University of Rochester’s school by Monday. The fact that I have a full-ride scholarship there sways me quite strongly! Don’t get me wrong, the Simon school at University of Rochester seems really good. I was definitely impressed over scholarship weekend. It’s more the fact of MBA vs. IT that it comes down to. Am I okay leaving what I love doing now for something different? Am I willing to take that leap of faith that pushes me in to the unknown?

God’s word has truly been applicable lately every time I open it. Some encouragement that I’ve found:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Prayers are appreciated! Comments are welcome too!

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One response

16 02 2012
katie grigel

Amanda! I loved reading your blog; it put a smile on my face. Also, congratulations on your acceptance to University of Rochester in New York! That is super exciting news! Although I completely understand the continuous struggle of balance between passions and practicality in life and work – I am confident that whether you choose a MBA or a Masters in IS you will find joy in your work. Keep me updated on your decision, and enjoy the adventure!!!

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