Software Development – Job or Career, Passion, Vocation

My name is Andrew Westgarth and Software Development is my passion! Is the role you’re in just a job to you or is it your Passion /Vocation and Career? Do you enjoy what you do and are you fulfilled in what you do? I think one of the biggest requirements for a good developer is a passion for what they are doing, in order to be a good developer you need to have a thirst for learning and a desire to improve.

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog post about this topic for a few weeks but not had time until now. Prompted by a conversation on Twitter today about the distinct lack of good, passionate developers available at present I thought I’d put down a few of my own notes on this topic. I have worked in software development (primarily web) for over ten years and have been on both sides being both the prospective employee and prospective employer. I have been involved in the UK Development Community for many years, running User Groups (NEBytes and previously VBUG), speaking at User Groups and Conferences and am now putting together the very first Developer! Developer! Developer! North.

Software Development is a career that you choose to go into and for me personally it is more than just a job, it’s my passion, it’s a vocation and it’s my hobby. I am always looking to learn even more, every day is quite literally a school day, if I’ve not learned something new every single day then I’m disappointed. My passion drives me to get better and better with every opportunity. Be it looking to make sure that my code compiles cleanly and has no errors, or that I’m building the best user experience or looking at how new language enhancements can improve the performance of my applications.

Money has never motivated me, as long as I’ve got enough to have a reasonable standard of living and can pay for my season ticket then I’m happy. What really motivates me is an opportunity to learn and to work with equally passionate people. The most enjoyable and highest quality work is always completed when a team is passionate about what they do. I’ve worked together with fantastic developers and designers to produce fantastic results. The infectious nature of passionate people rubs off on the others in a team and carries them along and reignites that spark.

I’ve been thinking about why there aren’t more passionate developers available/in the industry and have my own opinions on why that is the case and here are some of my thoughts. Some developers don’t see software development as a career they see it as a means to an end. They come to work at nine and finish at five and are not interested in learning anything other than what is directed by their company. Some developers are happy to work with older technologies day in day out and are not interested in raising their head above the parapet to take a look at what’s going on in the world outside. This creates problems for them and the teams they work with because in the long term they will become obsolete as do the technologies they are working with, and it causes divisions as teams are held back from moving forward and the passionate developers are held back.

Some developers see training and personal technical development as something they should get paid for and something which should only happen during work hours, they will only attend events if their company pays for them to go and gives them time off to go. This attitude is seriously flawed when under hard times the first thing that is often cut is a company’s training budget, so hence personal technical development stutters and stall.

Other developers are passionate about software development and see their role as a long term career which they are always looking to build on. Some developers want to work with code all day every day, some want to move towards architecture and beyond. They spend huge amounts of their own personal time learning, reading blogs, RSS feeds, tweets, journals, attending User Group events and community conferences, taking part in online seminars. They will bring this enthusiasm back to the team, distribute the information and hope that their enthusiasm and passion rubs off on the other developers in the team. Even better if there are a number of passionate developers within the team they feed off each other and drive standards higher and higher.

So we have roughly three groups, the 9-5ers who just see software development as a job, those that see their own technical development and progression as the responsibility of their employer and not themselves and finally there are the passionate developers who want to share their passion. So why are there so few of the last category both in the industry and available?

The possible options are that:

  • The passionate developers are employed in teams of equally passionate developers by employers who recognise that passion and how to nurture it
  • Those developers who once were passionate about software development have been taken advantage of by colleagues and employers who rely on those individuals to provide training and technical development for the whole team, and have now lost their passion
  • They have left the industry/country and taken their passion elsewhere.
  • ???

I’d really be interested to hear your views on this topic so please leave comments below and I’ll follow up this post based on your comments. One group of developers who I haven’t discussed in this post are graduate/student developers but that would be a complete post on it’s own.