Developing developers

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Developers are quiet, introvert human beings. Obviously not all of them, but the majority simply don’t like to interact with other people that much. Or perhaps they don’t like to discuss topics they’re not interested in. Anything besides tech stuff, that is. What I just wrote is not some generic exaggeration. It’s based on what I’ve experienced in my almost-10-years-old career as a professional software developer. I’ve met hundreds of developers of all kinds and this is what I concurred.

But that’s not at all a bad thing. Developers are extremely focused people, often specialized in some area they like so much that they can speak for hours about it. Yes, when they’re passionate about a topic they are all-nighters, but when the topic is boring (to them) silence is their best friend. When they speak — it’s all technical, when they show up — it’s some sort of tech conference or niche meetup. Or interviews.

I think it shouldn’t be like that. These guys are very smart and informed human beings. They know a lot, but often they simply don’t feel the need to open up about it in public. I always thought “why doesn’t that guy start a vlog about that issue” when I listened to a colleague talk about the nitty-gritty internals of a car or “why doesn’t she publishes reviews of that pile of books” when I heard the complex correlations a developer friend made based on her reading list. “The world would be a better place if you’d get up from your desk and talk to more people”.

I’m often like that too. When I don’t have something to say I just shut up. I listen and I think. But what I discovered in the past years is that usually it’s not that I don’t have something to say. In fact I really do have something to say on the topic. But it’s the inertia that holds me back from taking a position, it’s the shyness or the fact that I don’t like certain types of people that keeps me seated and quiet. And it shouldn’t be like that.

Lately I started to interact with more non-technical, non-workplace-based, different-than-I people. I went to theatre courses, started organizing cultural going outs, convinced people to go to hiking trips with me, did a lot of volunteering. Even started a meetup group to discuss about the rural life in Romania. That’s not what a regular software developer like me would do. That’s not what I did until a few years ago. But I discovered that these activities connect me with so many interesting people. They make me better today than I was yesterday. And that’s such an awesome feeling!

Sometimes one of the best ways of getting better at something is actually distancing yourself from it. Becoming better at programming sometimes implies staying away from a computer for a few hours or even days. Really! Seeing what the world is about aside from what you regularly do has surprising benefits. I cannot explain it much better, you have to experience it yourself.

I’m absolutely sure other developers can do that stuff too. Odds are that they can do it even better than the guys doing it for a living. Because they have a different mindset, they’re analytical and hard working — very important prerequisites of any success story.

If you’re a developer, I urge you to get up and experiment. Start something, get involved, open up, speak up. Improve the world around you in ways somebody else can’t or is afraid to. You can do it, I’m sure.

It’s 2018. It’s time.

Thanks to Irina, Adrian and Raluca for reading drafts of this

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