Posted by: Peter Scott | October 3, 2005

Job descriptions

One of the questions that strikes fear into a parent is "What do you do at work?" Do you tell the truth and sound uncool or come up with something glamorous that will come back and bite you later? – 'Oh, I am a spy!' is probably not the best thing to say if you wish to inspire truthfulness in children (and of course if you just happened to be a spy you would not tell the kids that anyway) I guess the hard part here is to encapsulate your job description into terms that children can understand. If I was a truck driver or a fireman then the kids can relate to that with ease, but tell them you are a manager at an IT services company and have responsibility for the data warehouse service line and instantly you run into problems with comprehension. After all, it's hard enough to get adults to understand what I do (and why I do it)



  1. I used to be a programmer, then a DBA, and now a curriculum developer for the Oracle database group.
    I start with “computer programmer”. Most know what that is now. Then maybe “DBA”. To say I’m a curriculum developer makes some people think I work for the school district and cut flashcards out of contruction paper for second graders.

  2. Maybe start by telling them what the database applications do.

    For instance, I used to work in oil & gas, so I said I worked on the computers in a company that helped get energy and heat to hospitals, businesses and homes.

    Now I work in a financial company, I say that I work with computers to help make sure people can get their money into and out of banks, and traded amongst themselves.

  3. “So, what do you do for a living?”
    Man! Do I hate that line in social conversation! All too common here in Australia as a conversation starter.

    Instant social ice when I tell them I’m a DBA/application support technician at an online search engine marketing company. 99% of the folks lost me on the “dba” bit, let alone the rest of the stuff.

    Kids? They’re easy: “Dad does computer stuff”. Period.

    Wish my life was that simple!!!

  4. I used to say “Oracle A/P”; unless I wanted the conversation to continue, in which case I’d say something about programming computers.
    “So, what do you do?”

  5. To the kids: I create the games you play. I created the Harry Potter Game…

    To the older people: Errr… depends. An engineer , a DBA, consultant 😉

  6. I can agree with the kids bit…”Dad works with computers” is the ideal line.
    The neighbours, however, are completely in the dark. To them, my car disappears from the drive at 6am and magically returns sometime between 6pm and 7pm. For all I know they probably think i’m an insurance salesman!
    My mother has no comprehension of computers, dispite me spending ages trying to explain what I do. And Dad (and the in-laws to an extent) think i’m a help-desk!

  7. “If you do well in math and science people pay you to do whatever you want ’cause no one else knows how, and you can buy as many toys as you want. I play on computers all day.”

    Not exactly the whole truth, but seems pretty motivating for now.

  8. That just reminded me of Heinlein’s “Have space suit, will travel”.

    Still very true, still very pertinent.

  9. I tell them I am a computer programmer. Many people are fine with it. For little older people I say I make machines work in banks, insurance companies. Kids understand easily when I tell them I make computers work.

    The problem is when they ask me to fix a hardware problem or windows problem in their home computer. How do I tell them I am not a hardware guy. Although most hardware problems are easily identifiable to me.–>

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