Software Changes the World?

Software changes the world. That’s the line. That’s the rule. That’s the reason we get into technology, to a large extent. We’re actively making the world a better place.

Then why can it be so difficult to feel?

If someone asks us, or if we take a step back and think broadly about our work, most in the field of technology will maintain — with varying degrees of enthusiasm — that the work we do improves the world in a real and measurable way.

But in the unavoidable day-to-day drudgery, it’s often beyond us to maintain that perspective. The optimism gets lost in the morass. The goals get buried in the challenges.

Sure, we celebrate our victories, when we launch a new product, or seal a contract, or get positive feedback from investors or customers. But then we go back to the “real world” and subsume ourselves in confounding challenges and in the inexorable mundane.

Is that ok? It isn’t to me: passion is at the root of much success, and for technology, that goes double, in my mind. Lose the passion, lose the promise. A positive future requires unfaltering persistence.

Yet undeniably our work — any work — is born from the mundane. Edge cases, rigorous testing, real-world scenarios and limitations, unpredictable accidents, legal impediments, security concerns: the list of boundaries is not a short one. Solving these problems to get to a practical solution requires patience and a certain amount of drudge work.

It may seem a bit depressing that all of our wonderful successes should become dimmed by lackluster toil. If it does seem that way, it means you’re thinking about it all wrong.

Rather than the drudgery denigrating the previously supernal, allow the supernal to elevate the mundane. Keep track of your successes, even the small ones, and be cognizant, even verbally so, of their role in the larger scheme. Take a moment to recognize the quality of your work, even if it’s merely one cog in a large machine.

If you spend an entire month building and testing security for a single data submission form, no doubt it will get a bit annoying, even boring. Checking and double checking all the possible entry points and potential attack vectors is nobody’s first choice. But it is good work, and doing a good job on that is no laughing matter. It’s ok to be simultaneously bored, annoyed, and also proud of what you’re doing.

Even a brief moment in the course of your work can prove sufficient to rejuvenate your passion. You know why you started doing what you’re doing — the promise and potential were captivating, alluring. Well, captivate yourself all over again. Remind yourself of this every time you start to lose touch with why you do what you do.

Of course, no strategy can entirely overcome the rote. Not every day will be a wonderment. Not every day needs to be. But each day can be a stepping stone, a mile marker, a valid and valuable increment towards your larger goal, and appreciable in its own merit. Your time was not wasted; you did good work and it’s going to a good purpose. Your day was valuable. Your work is valuable. Your software is changing the world.