According to this Gallup’s World Poll, only 15% of us can say they love their everyday work. Surprisingly low, even considering that the number jumps to 30% here in the U.S. But why is it that most people settle on jobs they don’t like? Can it be worthwhile to pursue your passion? Can you have a successful career doing what you love? Can you become rich?
Paul and I, we never thought that we would make much money out of the thing. We just loved writing software. Bill Gates
I’ve always had a passion for writing software. Challenge is my main motivator. I never counted long hours spent on exploring new technologies or working towards those “impossible” deadlines.
I remember this advice from my old boss received 20-some years ago: “You will do fine if you stay “technical-technical”, but for a big career you need to be just a little bit technical plus a lot more business savvy”. So I tried. But soon I realized that a chance to climb the corporate ladders carried a huge downside: I would need to give up my passion.
The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. Steve Jobs
It was consulting that provided opportunities to pursue my passion. Without the constraints of the corporate walls I could absorb new technology trends way faster. It became natural to spend time doing research. The long hours of my own time no longer felt like a sacrifice. I was able to stay on top of technology trends even those unrelated to the task at hand. It may now look like forward thinking, but in reality, I was simply following my passion.
New Means of Writing Software
Technology advancements bring new means of getting the work done. Looking back, I’ve been writing software all along; but over time, I did it in so many different ways. Every so often, an opportunity arose for a change. Here are some examples:
- Source code analysis without using a hard copy.
- Touch typing.
- Using computer mouse.
- Advanced IDEs with intellisense, visual controls, code generation, etc.
- Relying on source control.
- Adoption of virtualization, cloud computing, etc.
Changing old habits is not easy. There is always a “hump to jump over”. Sometimes it is high and steep, at other times it may be easy to conquer. Regardless of motivation, you always go through the same 4 phases of change. In the end however, you realize there is no going back. You ask yourself questions like these:
- Why would I ever want to print out my source code?
- How could I get my work done typing with my eyes on the keyboard?
- How cumbersome it was to work on code changes without source control?
- … and so on.
But even more profound changes occur in what software you write, not how you write it.
It so happens that the majority of my career revolved around the healthcare payer industry. Healthcare payers lag behind the leaders in introducing technology innovations. For one thing, there is a lot of legacy data to carry forward. And for another, the industry is heavily regulated by decades old standards and laws, such as HIPAA. Nevertheless, technology shifts happen among healthcare payers like everywhere else.
Back in the 90’s, many of us became experts in the client-server platforms and object-oriented software development. We then realized how inefficient the older technologies were. We started to view COBOL programmers as folks that could no longer compete in terms of coding speed, accuracy, robustness, and just about every other aspect of software engineering. Yet, they were still very much in-demand.
Nowadays, object-oriented programming is the new legacy. It is no-longer the mainstream among technology innovators. Companies such as Google, Facebook or Twitter develop their software the functional way. The change is inevitably coming to the healthcare industry as well.
You may have touched upon functional programming without even realizing it. Recently added .NET features, such as LINQ, Nullable, Lazy, Task, async/await, and many more, all have roots in functional programming. But there’s a lot more to it. Your head will likely hurt before the new concepts eventually sink in.
What will drive you “over the hump”? Is it direction from management? Need of a project at hand? Fear of missing an opportunity? Job security? Curiosity? Or… is it the passion for writing software?
I am no Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Writing software didn’t make me rich or famous. But I can say it gives me tons of satisfaction. Yes, following my passion requires countless hours of reading, exploring and experimenting. But in the end, all those “Aha!” moments when “the lightbulb suddenly goes off in your head” made the effort totally worth it.