In all honesty, and I’m usually honest, I never once saw myself ending up as a software developer. I didn’t see myself ending up as anything really, in the sense that I never gave much thought to the matter. My schoolmates dreamt of this grand career or that fancy course but I merely said I’d give computers a try and that was it. I probably should not be making such confessions on my blog. Anyhow, when I was studying Information Technology, I put one foot in front of the other and hoped for the best: I did not pursue the degree with the enthusiasm and vigor that some of my peers had. They spoke the language and walked the walk but I simply plied my books with as much diligence as I could muster. In particular, they attended events and hackathons and God-knows-what, and came back with fancy stickers and t-shirts, and spoke of connections and mouth-watering opportunities, and left me wondering what on earth I was doing in this field.
Many weekends a classmate would tell me there is this hackathon and would I please attend? He’d add something along the lines of those attending would be mentored by the very best in the industry, the crème de la crème, that there would be fancy gifts and opportunities, and the winner of some coding competition would land a rich job, and that I wouldn’t dare miss it for the world. Well, I dared. I missed all such events, most of the time on purpose. I wasn’t proud of it, to be sure. Yet I wasn’t totally ashamed. Here I was, barely past “Hello, world” and someone was inviting me to conquer the world. One does not hold a candle to the sun.
Yet said schoolmates seemed to love those events. They belonged to this society or that group and organized those events and rounded up people to attend them. They posted pictures everywhere your head could turn and vied for leadership positions and big titles. They very likely benefited from belonging to those groups, for they gained exposure and an understanding of the industry. They were exposed to variety, so that one would say he fancies data science and another would not touch it with a ten-foot pole, not even to save his life. They knew who to talk to when stumped with an issue and who to show off an idea to so that the idea blossoms into something useful to the world. And, what’s more, those already in the industry knew who to go to should an opportunity arise.
For my own part, as far as I could tell, a good number of these schoolmates of mine suffered from shiny object syndrome. They knew all hot frameworks, but not enough to do anything meaningful with them. They knew all fancy personalities in the industry but did not have enough technical vocabulary to hold a meaningful conversation with them. They learnt to fly before they could walk, for a good number of these events driven developers simply cannot code. They are all bark and no bite. Set them on a computer and give them a task, then watch them write code so jumbled up it hurts to look at. Yet, alas, maybe they really have had the last laugh. They drive fancy cars while I run to work. They have sleek computers and workstations so sparkling you could eat off of, and all I’ve got is my simple desk and a chair that creaks with my every breath.
It seems to me many developers jump the gun. Certainly, connections are important, for no man is an island, entire of its own; it makes little sense to be the very best developer in the whole world, if such a feat is possible, but not be able to put your skills to any good use. But surely, aren’t connections a means towards the end and not the end itself? If the end be a career in software development, doesn’t it make more sense to invest more time in being an expert developer than in being a famous developer, to learn the hard way, and put in those hours of sweat and toil, so that the connections are useful in the end? Ah, I don’t know.