How often do you stop and think about why it is you do what you do for a living? Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis thing, but of late I’m acutely aware of the finite nature of time, and that there are an infinite number of ways I could spend that time. I’m also aware that ‘software developers’ are a quite diverse bunch of people, despite the persistent stereotype of math geeks huddled around technical toys talking in obscure acronyms (OK, we do that too). So I put some thought into why I choose to spend my time making software.
For me, it’s really simple: I like making things that people enjoy. That’s a pretty broad definition, but creation and connection is absolutely at the core of my motivation. It’s not really about the technical or logical challenges for me; at least, not any more – that might have been more of an issue earlier in my career. There’s something indescribably satisfying about creating something from nothing, sculpting and refining it from an image in your head into a functioning, tangible product. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just that it didn’t exist before, and now it does, purely because of your will. “I made that” is a satisfaction universal to all languages and cultures. That I’m a software developer rather than a sculptor, writer, musician or painter is down to a combination of circumstance and natural tendencies, but I don’t think my motivation is limited to this technical sphere at all. In fact, I think we all have this creative spark, it just gets drummed out of a lot of us after childhood.
I also think that you have to make things that speak to you first and foremost. Obviously you hope they will resonate with others too, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that they will (it’s just the degree that’s variable). I’ve made products entirely for other people before, indeed I spent a large portion of my career doing that, and it’s a bit of a lucky dip whether that turns out to be enjoyable and fulfilling or not. I’m at my happiest when I’m scratching my own itch, eating my own dog food, and building a community of people who feel the same way. It’s where both Ogre and SourceTree came from, which are the pieces of work I’m most proud of, and are also the most successful products I’ve created so far. That can’t be a coincidence, right?
This may sound like woolly, new-age thinking, but what feels right normally is right. I’m convinced that when you spend your time doing things which sync up with who you are as a person, better outcomes are more likely. Have you thought about why you do what you do lately?