Geek Ego

I was in a daily stand-up meeting and one of my colleagues said, “I know developers always say ‘That code sucks’ or ‘That code is horrible’ but, wow!”  I kinda wished he hadn’t of added the “but, wow” for the purposes of this post but he did and, really, he was beyond qualified to make such judgments.  Still, as he indicated, those kinds of really violent judgments on other’s work isn’t exactly rare in my line of work or in the geek community.

Picking on Microsoft is another favorite pass time and really illustrates the Geek Ego issue I want to talk about.  I wish I still had the e-mail for reference but I got a message once from another party lambasting how Microsoft implemented some control for socket communication work only, if you checked the specification, the control was doing exactly what it was supposed to do per spec.  This assumption that “I know better” or “Those people are idiots!” happens way to often for my taste.  Sure, mistakes are made by everyone and I’ve seen technical and reasoned arguments against Microsoft APIs on sites like Ars Technica which I found thought provoking.  But the flat suggestion that Microsoft doesn’t as a company know what they’re doing at all, that takes some gall!  I mean, Windows works!  That’s no small feat for a company to accomplish.

One of my personal goals is to reign in my ego as I’ve made violent judgments against other’s work myself.  To bleed a little, after earning my Masters and enjoying some pretty strong success in my career before that, I wanted something more out of my day to day job.  I deserved better I thought.  I believed I found what I was looking only to end up in the situation that inspired my last post.

My hope is the events of this March and April will forever teach me about watching my ego because I know better now.  Just, for so long I thought I had to be like Steve Jobs and go out there and do something really great!  Create the iPad or something that would impact the world in one fell swoop.  It’s hard to stop thinking like that when you’ve done it for so long.  What I was absolutely blind to was everyday a stylist goes to a job, he or she is in a position to change the lives of their clients that they’ll have that day.  Helping someone look better can change how someone feels about themselves and make them feel wonderful!  They then can take their new positivity out into the world and spread it.  Few will know the name of the stylist, but the world was changed for the better in part because of them.

In my career and life I’ll be aiming to take things like “Just working on CRUD” or “That code is stupid” or “I feel like an API plumber” out of my vocabulary forever.  Up until very recently I feel into the trap of using this egoist and violent communication without reservation.  I don’t want to do it anymore.  I can criticize but it needs to come from a place of analysis and reason then delivered in an compassionate way.  The news is a bad enough to hear about bugs you wrote or that the system your company made now has so much low cohesion and high coupling in the code base that it’s difficult to maintain.  No need to be judgmental or egoist or violent about the delivery.