When I’m feeling good about my job, I tell people I solve problems for a living. On the bad days, I tell people I type for a living. The reality is somewhere in between; I google for a living.
There’s a lot of conversation about diversity in the tech industry and I’m glad we’re having those conversations. There’s an uprising in awareness of the gender and minority pay gap, which is great. The first step to change is acknowledging there is a problem.
But there’s another, equally invasive issue, for developers and those of us who work to create solutions for often changing requirements. You know that weekend you stayed inside and didn’t sleep because you were solving a problem that inspired you, created hope in the industry as a whole, and renewed your sense of passion for your job and made you generally feel like this?
On Monday morning when you excitedly gather your teammates to celebrate this new, simple but elegant solution, the meeting inevitably goes in one of three ways:
This reaction is almost universal, at every place I’ve worked, with every team I have been on. I’ve been on wonderful teams full of great people that I really respect and admire and I’ve been on teams with the classic “Brogrammer.” In the end, even with the friendliest faces in the audience, presenting The Solution feels a little like a PhD defense discussion. As Ben Goldcare perfectly said, “A session after a postdoc presents data is often a bloodbath. And nobody minds that; we actively welcome it. It's like a consenting intellectual S&M activity.”
The idea of a bloodbath after presenting A Solution is exhausting to me. I understand the need to find every single possible reason The Solution might not work. I understand it’s why we work in teams and not in a closet. I get that my own ideas are rarely going to change the world and I am on board with collective reasoning being the “Quad CPU” instead of that one lil’ CPU running itself to death on IO stacks. I don’t only GET the logic, I wanted it. It’s why I wanted to work on a smart team. I need to be challenged and I crave interpersonal interaction to raise my own level of understanding.
And still, I struggle with presenting The Solution.
This brings me back to The Good Days vs The Bad Days that I started this post with. On the good days, I can think of inspiring quotes like this one from Big Magic, “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.” Because if you love and want something enough—whatever it is—then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.” On the good days I remember that I love my work and my team and I’m drawn to solve these problems not just for myself but because I want to contribute in a way that benefits us all.
And on the Bad Days? Well. On those days, presenting The Solution is a bit like holding out your precious new baby bird to a group of vultures and hoping nobody comes to the meeting hungry.
Thankfully, reality lands somewhere in between.