Making a dent in the universe - as a Java Developer?!


Posted by Steven

A couple of days ago, I finished reading „Rework“ by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. The book is about their enterprise 37 signals and mainly addresses founders. One chapter is about the motivation of work. Fried and Hansson state that “to do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference”. The own work should be part of something important and by doing it, one puts a meaningful dent in the universe. If one would stop that work, someone would notice. The own work has to matter.

I have to confess that while reading this, I wasn’t sure about my work as a Java developer for a huge automotive company. Do I matter by writing yet-another-CRUD-application for the fat middle layer of that enterprise? Does this make a dent in the universe?

Well, the answer to this is: Plain and simply NO. I don’t think so. Although the system I’m working on is pretty important for the enterprise, it would not go out of business if I would disappear from one day to another. There would be plenty of developers who could take over. My motivation lies not in the product I am programming, but in the process of development itself. Understanding the requirements, figuring out how to integrate them into the existing system, coding using design patterns, obeying clean code standards and creating a consistent, whole application is what matters to me. I could also develop banking software or some kindergarden management tool as long as there are challenging problems to solve and I’m interested in the technology being used. However, I sure have a mission statement for the projects I’m working in that forbids for example to work for defense industry.

I’m not sure if Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson would accept that as “making a dent” or if it’s even close to that at all, but I share my knowledge and hope that it makes a difference for other developers. Blogging, going to conferences and speaking there is a huge part of my motivation. I’m under the impression that I can help other developers in their work by sharing my thoughts. In the bigger picture, the sum of all blogs, articles and talks in the sphere of software development develop the craft itself. However this is not the case right now, I sure hope that someday someone would notice if I stopped doing what I do.

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I`m java developer too, working in a big company. But it doesnt hurt me. I know why I`m doing it: this is a way to learn, earn reputation and make money. And do need these things:

  • I need learning because I want to become awesome developer to be able to do awesome things; 
  • I need a reputation of awesome developer - awesome things are not done alone, and it would be easier to gather great team if people would thought about my invitation "Wow! I wont miss an oportunity to work with this guy!"; 
  • and I wont describe why I need money, it is obvious :)

Hi Gleb,

I think we both have the same mindset about this. I agree with you that working in a huge company is a good way to learn, especially about different architectures and wide-spanning IT infrastructures. But: this is not a good way to earn reputation in the development scene. This can be done by talking on conferences and writing articles (blog or magazines). An important part of this is in my opinion to have at least one side project. This project should have something to do with more recent technologies then the ones used in the company. If done right (I still have a long way to go), other developers will hopefully notice that "cool guy". ;)