After my wife and I had been dating for about a year, she came to an interesting realization.
One day, she said to me, “This must be what it is like to have a doctor in the family. Everyone asks you for advice when something goes wrong.”
I looked at her fondly and said, “No. It is nothing like being the doctor in the family. When you are the doctor in the family, you don’t have someone telling you during dinner that they had a pain in the abdomen and decided to give themselves an appendectomy, but that it didn’t work out very well so could you please take a look at it when you get the chance, but it’s not urgent, really.”
You see, being a Geek-in-Law, you are straddling a strange gap between consumers and professionals. Your family often straddles that gap along with you.
On the one hand, you are an engineer, and the work you do (at times) has the same impact on society as that of someone who designs and builds a bridge or a train. You use professional tools to do your work. You have skills and experience that are not generally available to most of (ahem!) your family.
On the other hand, technology, software development, information services – all of these fields are evolving ad-hoc each day. There is no licensing requirement for professionals. The tools, methodologies, and skills are rarely very similar between any two technology professionals. To make it more complicated for the poor Geek-in-Law, the same tools that you use are also readily available at Best Buy to anyone with a credit card or a little cash. You don’t need a permit to buy a new hard drive.
So if your cousin wants to self-diagnose the abdominal pain being experienced by his ultra-portable Lenovo Netbook or figure out why his wireless SD card no longer uploads photos automatically to Flickr, all he has to do is run a few Google searches and then march off to the surgical supply store (Best Buy) to find himself some tools.
Don’t worry – you won’t be out of a job. For better or for worse, oftentimes the Geek-in-Law will be called to join the surgery. Perhaps just as a consult, or perhaps to do some hands-on work.
And so it goes. Technology deployed, problem solved, the Internet marches on.