Showing Results is Hard

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Me, handing over my work for the week. Ever felt that way?

Writing software is this weird cerebral exercise, where you can burn tons of energy working on a problem, and exhaust yourself to the point of needing a good night's sleep, yet have very little (if anything!) to show for it. Sometimes not even a running program you can point to, where you can say, "That's mine! That used to do X but it does Y now, and I'm to blame thank!" (Blame comes later.)

That's why I like woodworking. There's no need for charts and spreadsheets and PR reviews. At the end of the day, you either built something or you didn't. What you built either works or doesn't. Someone can either use it or they can't.

I spent 3 days this week modifying an NSIS script (an OSS tool to build installer files) to leave some config files alone if a setup is run as an upgrade instead of a fresh install. In theory, it sounds easy. But the target tends to change a lot, especially in a legacy application with 20 years of technologies baked in. This week was NSIS (brand new for me), last week was migrating some .NET Framework code to .NET Standard (but I love .NET and had some aha moments), and the week before that was Erlang code with modifying tests in Ruby. Next week may bring C++, which is nearly 35 years old and yet something completely new to me. Programming is hard.

Growing stagnant in this industry is a huge concern, whether real or (at least partially) imagined. After all, some people manage to dig into a niche like mainframe programming, and they're set for life. I worked for a large company that, despite an extensive tech stack, is always going to depend on mainframes for their core systems - and the people working on them were among the best compensated technical folks in the company, with huge bonuses to boot.

It seems there's always a different tool; always a different library. Sometimes things are better; many times it's change for the sake of change. Just when you think you've gotten a handle on how a set of wrenches works, some jack*** invents another one. I honestly feel bad for anyone trying to stay on top of the available JavaScript libraries.

Some poor JavaScript dev, surrounded by a pair of C# and Ruby devs

Maybe this is why impostor syndrome runs rampant for devs. How the heck do you prove your value when you can't share too many details about what you've done (assuming they could remain awake while you tried), and there's nothing you can run to wow others anyway?

If you thought I had a point to all this, or an answer, nope and nope. Fat lot of help I am, right? For a front-end dev, their portfolio emerges naturally. Other devs maintain pet projects or look for certifications. But what if you don't have time for a lot of work outside of work?

What do you do when someone asks you what you do all day? Why you seem stressed out, and have nothing to show for it but carpal tunnel syndrome? How do you prove your value? Inquiring minds would love to know... ;)

Author

Grant Winney

Is there anything more satisfying than sharing knowledge? Of teaching someone and witnessing their "ah ha" moment? I usually write about tech, but no promises. I hope you find something interesting!



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