I used to be a customer support agent, working on the livechat team for a company called Dreamhost.
Because the chat agents were, rather simply, evaluated mostly on the quantity of our customer chat sessions, I equipped myself with the Kinesis Advantage Contoured Ergonomic Keyboard. It kinda looks wonky because of its shape, but it works extremely well at preventing repetitive stress injuries in the wrist.
The keyboard itself and the fact that I'm selling it is not that interesting. But what this keyboard means to me now was interesting enough to write about.
As a support agent, the amount I typed was directly and heavily correlated with the quality of the work that I did. After all, the volume of help I provided was a key component to my evaluation as an employee. I don't personally agree that the volume is a good measure of how much actual human help I was providing and agents generally shouldn't be graded on volume beyond a certain point, but that opinion is really for a different post.
I've since shifted my line of work to software engineering. Despite still sitting at the keyboard all day – sometimes for even longer durations without any sort of mandated break – I don't have the problem of wrist pain that my customer support job caused.
That's because a software engineer is paid to comprehend, analyze, design, and implement software systems, and we are evaluated often times on the effectiveness of how we solve an ambiguous set of problems with software, rather than the literal keystrokes we record with code.
The source code that we write is just an implementation artifact. How that implementation comes to being is what takes up most of our time. Not the literal creation of the implementation itself.
It's not like carving a stone where an artifact comes into being as the artist works on the piece; It's more like a hunter analyzing the situation, stringing together the appropriate tools for the job, and communicating their vision with other hunters to successfully execute a large hunting expedition. Much of the work is in the planning and cooperation.
This Kinesis keyboard is much more than just an ergonomic keyboard to me. It is symbolic of the growth I've experienced over the years to move into a line of work that requires more abstract thinking and navigation of ambiguous problems. It's ultimately more challenging work but also more intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
It's time to let the keyboard go as it no longer serves my needs. But reminiscing over how I used to swear by this keyboard and how it saved my hands prompted me to write this as a thank you note to this tool that was so good to me.