The other day, I was with my team at an interview for an internship. After we had asked the candidate some questions, he started to reciprocate, asking each one of us a little about our development past.
Every one of the developers stories went something like:
“I was at the wrong job, and had to get out.”
The candidate listened carefully to each story, sat for a minute, then asked the obvious perfect question:
“What makes the right job?”
I heard responses like:
“Waking up in the morning and being excited to work, rather than counting the days until the weekend.”
The reason this struck me as interesting was only when I reflected back to why I loved computers and programming in the beginning.
It was all about the problem. I went to college, so I could join the CIA or some think tank which wrote software which monitored and defeated the enemies entire world. About every developer I went to college with got into computer science with some similar grandiose notion.
Most of them were gamers that wanted to work on the next big game. Yet today, I know no developer who works on games, and I don’t work for a think tank. I know lots of developers who are more than qualified to do it, but choose not to. So, how does this relate to the right job question?
It‘s about Culture
The answers about the right job question had nothing to do with the problem set being solved either. Nothing to do with what applications were being written, but the culture and with whom they are being written.
I think this is because each problem set worth application development proposes unique and interesting problems for a developer to solve. I have never been on a project which didn’t constantly keep me on my toes as far as problems to be solved. Even if the business domain is a bit bland, the development domain isn’t.
As a developer, my problem set isn’t the business/science problems I am solving, even though that might be interesting in itself. My problem set is development itself, the different patterns/practices I use to solve the world’s [software] problems.
It is like many art forms where the beauty and creativity exists in the process of creation rather than the results. I am sure you could have asked Pablo Picasso to paint something he didn’t have any interest in, and he would have been passionate about it and done a wonderful job.
I suspect it is because the importance is in the painting process and the choices you make during each step. How he chooses to depict the subject is more interesting more than the nature of the subject itself.
I find the same true in development. The thought that goes into the different development choices I make on a daily basis is the part that drives me to love development.
Having the right results is only part of the equation (an essential part though). When I started my path as a developer craftsman, I learned the what in applications is not as important as all the other variables. I suspect some of the other members on my team would agree, based on their answers to the right job question.
Being part of a company that values the software for its own ends and spends the time and attention to do it right is a privilege to me. To me, that is the definition of the right job.
I enjoy knowing my software will be used. Everything I write is valuable to the company for its longevity and success.
It takes people who are similar in values for it to work, but it makes the work fun. It makes me wake up before my alarm, rather than snoozing.