Beyond the code

If you’re a developer, why do you do the work that you do? What’s the goal of all of the frameworks, databases, code, and tests that we swim in every day? I’ve been doing this professionally for ten years now, and I’ve noticed an interesting progression, and it wasn’t one that I had pursued originally.

Early on, I wanted to work with new technology. The goal was to do cool stuff with the latest technology and find new, better ways to do what used to be harder in the previous year’s hotness. Working at a consulting company was great for this. I got to do new projects every 6 months that often were greenfield and we usually got to pick the technology. Now we were smart about it and we weren’t just doing “resume builder” projects where to tried to use some new framework for the wrong purpose. We were delivering value. Everyone would always hope that they would land on that cool project using the latest stuff, and whoever wasn’t on said project would want to talk to everyone on the project and see what they were doing.

Two years ago I joined a Ruby on Rails project and spent a year in the Rails world. This was the pinnacle of hot technology (at least at the time). I loved how elegant the Ruby language was, the Ruby gem ecosystem, and the Ruby community’s focus on quality and testing.

Eventually my time on that team came to an end and I came back to .NET. I have nothing against .NET, but in terms of geek cred, many people would consider .NET a step back from Ruby (but that’s not the point).

What I noticed from my transition to Ruby and back is that no matter what the technology, the code isn’t what’s important. What is really important is how we interact with users and how we can structure our process and teams to best deliver quality software in less time. We need to value people over the tools that we’re using.

The longer I’m in this business, the more I realize that software development is all about people. It’s about using technology to help improve the lives of the people who use our software, that somehow we can use our coding skills to help them be more successful at their job. It’s about the people that we work with on our team, it’s about helping them feel everything that comes along with working alongside others to help the team achieve a common goal. It’s about looking out for those team members who are feeling overwhelmed by their workload and struggling to hold on to their confidence.

I still geek out on code, and I’m still glad that I get to spend most of my workday writing code. The means may be the same, but the ends have changed.