The value of a developer

One of the great frustrations all professional developers will face over the course of their careers is the manager who cannot see the value they are producing. Rather than appreciate the elegant solution they’ve devised for the difficult problem they’ve been tasked with, the manager complains about the initial estimate not being correct. You release something that will allow the company to get real feedback on what the user wants out of the product and the manager gripes that the end-result does not quite match the mockups.

What’s going on here exactly? Perhaps your manager isn’t great at what he or she does. It’s certainly possible. Maybe even likely. But even if this is indeed the case, there’s another factor we’re likely underestimating: evalulating software developers is hard.

Take the situation above. Your manager probably speaks with you multiple times per day. If you’re within 50 miles of SF, you’re probably reporting what you’ve worked on and what you finished at the beginning of every day. This is a lot of interaction and if your manager still cannot figure it out, what makes you think some random stranger looking to hire an engineer is going to have an easier time with it. You may be that good, the much sought after “10X” engineer, but if you can’t make it obvious to others, it won’t do you much good. Your skill should be enough to get you hired, but not to be compensated appropriate to your talent.

So, what should you do about it?

Go through this exercise:

1) How many software developers can you name off the top of your head that you have never worked with?

2) How many of these software developers do you know by reading what they’ve written on a blog?

I’d be willing to wager that if he answer to question 1 is greater than one, the answer to question 2 is a number at least half as big. And if that is true, why aren’t you writing a blog yourself? After all, you consider yourself skilled at your craft, so you by definition have things of value to share with others.

I’ve had this thought many times before, but I never quite had the motivation or confidence to execute on it. Well, I’m trying now and I’m following a plan, one put together by John Sonmez, which I heard about for the first time on the Ruby Rogues podcast. It deals with software development as a career which is not how I or most other developers I’ve interacted with really frame our thoughts on it.

But just because you haven’t thought about it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about it. Sonmez’s website gives you lots of free content to start the gears moving in your brain to get the gears turning on building a career in software development. And if you’re considering starting a blog, he offers a free email course to get you started.

Some of the lessons will be obvious to you, but they’ll provide motivation nonetheless. Others won’t be though, and will provide you some clever ideas for how to get going and more importantly keep going in your blogging adventures.

Originally published at on February 11, 2015.