Making your own choices

I’ve been talking to lots of developers of the last three years, especially within the .Net community. And one of the things that keeps shocking me is the fact that most of them (and I mean around three quarters) seem to hate their job. It’s become a personal quest to find out how this happened and why these people are so unhappy.

One of the common demeanors is definitely the work environment. Most of the ‘unhappy’ that I’ve talked to work in consultancy (body shopping) and are located at the big financial institutes, energy providers or government. Most of the comments I heard were that they got zero technical flexibility and loads of command and control. Sooner or later, when you end up at one of those dinosaur companies/clients you will have to choose.

Either you become a code monkey. You just type out code without really thinking things through, without the opportunity of being creative. You don’t even think about the stuff you learned in school or at home coding away at some cool stuff. Even worse, you get into this mental state of ‘I don’t care’ and you don’t feel proud of what you produce. In the same way laborers feel and are treated in ‘traditional’ industry. I once even got the comment personally: “You are not paid to think, you are paid to write code.”

The second alternative you have is to leave it all behind. Go into the world and try to find a better place to work. Find a working environment where you can be inspired and where you have some slack to experiment with new stuff.
You can leave the high paying jobs behind and go work for smaller companies that are really dependent on creative and innovative methods, where quality of code actually still means something. Don’t get me wrong, not all small companies are like that. You can start up your own company or start working as a freelancer.

Some of the people I’ve talked to or even got the opportunity to work with, have some brilliant and fresh insights in software development. But they let themselves be downgraded to the state of uninspired code monkey. And I still can’t wrap my head around why they do this. Are we all so easily sucked into habits? Are we that easy to ‘buy’ with some higher rates or salaries that we are willing to work in any environment, as long as they pay us the big bucks?

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to one of my new colleagues about his working environment because there is a chance that I will be going to that client somewhere next spring. The only positive thing he could think of was the fact that all the windows were locked, otherwise he would have certainly have jumped somewhere the last month he was there. You know, that situation has been bugging and haunting me for all this time. Aren’t you at least partly responsible for that situation yourself? Should you allow it to go that far?

Well, for me the answer is easy, although the implementation of the answer is a bit harder: Take your life in your own hands. What if all developers take a stand and tell their companies to just shove their jobs somewhere? What if all truly inspired developers just turn their backs at this body shopping market, step out of it and move to companies that do offer a decent working environment? Could you imagine what it would be like if you could go to work with a smile on your face and really enjoy developing software again?

Don’t forget that we have one of the most spectacular jobs in the world. We get to create new stuff every day. We get to make software do things most people wouldn’t think possible. We are the basis of the technology for our and future generations. Where did we lose this truth? Where did we lose our sense of pride and inspiration? Don’t you think it’s about time we start to look at ourselves as craftsmen again?

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