July 13, 2011

Love, web development, and imaginary friends

July 13, 2011 - Categories: geek

There’s an interesting thing here I’d like to explore: love and web development. (If only because you’ll probably never see Joel Spolsky write about it from this perspective…)

Not passion. Love.

Passion gets all the press. Web development has plenty of opportunities for clever hacks and technical brilliance.

This is a quieter thing. It has to do with why I develop and where I find the energy.

On all the projects I’ve had the pleasure of building with IBM, I’ve been able to build sites for friends. Well, not quite. Most of the time they don’t know they’re friends. There’s nothing stopping me from imagining they are. Sure, I’ll put my business hat on when negotiating requirements, but when I’m in the groove of development, I build for specific people.

Sometimes it’s frustrating. This week I worked my way through a twisty, tangled bug in an app I’m building for a local nonprofit. It was one of those embarrassing “I can’t believe I didn’t come across this when I was testing it myself” bugs, too, of which I still have far too many. You know that feeling when you disappoint someone? It sucks, even if they don’t know it. I’m getting better at pushing aside the self-recrimination and ignoring that feeling of being so limited, focusing instead on moving forward, holding on to this idea of friendly encouragement. One step at a time. I’m learning, too.

It’s hard to be patient. I want to get things to people quickly. Sometimes I miss things. I’m working on getting better at placing myself on the other side of the screen, seeing any rough edges, then coming back out and sanding those off.

When it rocks, though, it rocks. Then the work is also a gift, a little change in someone’s life. Maybe even many people’s lives. I’m looking forward to learning how to make it rock more.

Another thing I’m learning: taking that energy and applying it to a team. I want them to do awesome. I want them to feel awesome doing it. I’m still learning a lot about planning and coordinating, but hey, it’ll probably only get better from here.

Maybe someday code will just be code, but I hope not yet. The time is going to pass anyway, and the work will need to be done one way or another. It’s better for me to care than to not care.

I’m moving past the imposter syndrome – hooray for experience – but there’s still “wish I was even better than this; oh well, learning opportunity” to get through. Maybe sharing this will resonate with people, help you feel you’re not alone. When you look at code, do you see people too?