I believe that everyone of us, regardless of our current position, has plans and hopes for our career. It is only natural that we as a developers want increase our knowledge and advance in our career. Sometimes, increasing our skills is not enough. We want to increase our influence as well. We want to become senior developers and architects. We want to make our mark in the projects in which we participate. We want to decide what kind of architecture is used and how it is implemented.
I have been fortunate enough to be in a position where I was able to do just that, and I can tell to you that it feels great to be the king; At least for a while.
A Snake in the Paradise
Even though our goals might be noble, it is very easy to forget them and become blinded by the power given to us. This transition might also be so slow that we are unable (or unwilling) to notice it. However, there are signs that should tell to us that we have gone too far. These signs are:
- No one questions our decisions. We have created an atmosphere where decisions are not made, they are given. We might fool ourselves to believe that we have made good decisions but in reality our motives might be unclear even to ourself. Are we just playing it safe or do we really have logical reasons behind our decisions? And most importantly, are we really making the best possible decisions? Sadly, we will probably never ask these questions because we are too busy polishing our crowns. After all, a king must have a shiny crown.
- No one suggests alternative solutions. We have taught to other people that their opinions are not required or respected. No one will stand out and say: “that’s bullshit”. And why should they? After all, we know it better. Unfortunately, as humans we are often afraid to go outside our comfort zone. This means that we tend to make the safest choice and use the tools that are already familiar to us. There is no risk involved but the prize is nonexistent as well.
If we recognize these signs, we must act immediately because the situation hurts both ourself and the people around us. The problem is that this kind atmosphere does not stimulate innovation or encourage learning. Instead it creates droids that have both low morale and productivity. We are about to be trapped in our comfort zone.
Avoiding the Trap
Luckily for us, there are three things that will help us to avoid the trap:
- We have to ensure that our decisions are questioned and that we must justify them. This prevents us from always making the safe decision. Also, this is an important signal to our colleagues. It shows to them that is their opinion is important to us and that we respect it. More importantly, it makes them feel that they can make a difference. After all, isn’t this what makes us all tick? As a bonus, we might end up learning something useful.
- We must go outside our comform zone. An easiest way to do this is to learn new programming languages or frameworks. This helps us both to see things from another perspective and to keep in touch with the reality. It reminds us that even though we might be working on with the same problems day after day, the rest of world will not stay put. Hopefully we will learn that sometimes it is better to leave our old habits behind and take a leap to the unknown.
- If going to work pisses us off, we must find an another job. Otherwise we will just become grumpy and sarcastic men who find blame from anyone else but ourself. The longer we stay in a job that makes us miserable, the harder it is for us to leave. One day we realize that our times of “glory” are over and all that is left is a bunch of what ifs. That is a destiny that we want to avoid, right? Also, the sooner we leave, the sooner the healing process can begin.
In the end, the key of our freedom is to understand that we need more than just a fancy title to earn the respect of other people. We must remember that a king without subjects is just a fool.