When Interests Diverge

I ran across this interview with Joel Spolsky today and while it’s all good, I found one part of it to be really eye-opening as it relates to my current job. That insight is that if, as a software developer, you work for a company that isn’t a software shop (I work for a company that does third party bill payment), your interests as a software developer are going to be seriously different from CEO. And that is a big problem if you want to be happy as a software developer.

The people who are happy in a company like that are the CEO, the sales guys and maybe marketing because what the CEO thinks about all day long is how to get more people to do X and those thoughts align perfectly with sales guys. The CEO could care less if they are happy after they’ve done X, just as long as they’ve done it. That means that he could care less about whether you, as a software developer, have the best tools or a quiet workspace or two monitors. None of that helps him get more people to do X, at least not in his very focused view. By understanding this, you, as that poor maligned software developer, can realize that it makes no sense to rage against the machine as it were because the people who have the power to change things don’t have any interests in common with you. It’s almost impossible for people who don’t share your interests to understand or care about whether you can do your job well. Because your job doesn’t directly make the CEO more money, it’s pointless to be upset because everything you do in your daily job seems to be set up in the most ineffiecient way possible.

At my job, this is true for the CEO, the CTO and probably for the VP of IT (who I shall mention has been on the job for 2 weeks now and has not bothered to introduce himself to any of the developers, which is in and of itself, probably a huge sign that the hierarchy of the system has run its course and we, the people who write the software this particular company runs upon, have in fact become the untouchable caste – however that is a subject for another blog post). When the people who make the decisions regarding your ability to do your job well don’t happen to care whether or not you are happy, you won’t be happy, at least not directly happy because of your job. You can give up on “my job makes me happy” and either search for another job if you are sufficiently motivated or give up and accept a life of meaningless security.

If you do the latter, I’m not sure you can actually consider yourself a software developer. If you do, you’re going to be an awfully cynical one.

I’m tired of being cynical.

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