The Passionless Developer

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For the longest time, a vocal opinion I would hear frequently was that good developers need to be passionate about programming. I’d be exposed to this opinion from my peers, from those senior to me, from people interviewing me, and from the development community as a whole. It reflects badly on me that, for a while, I believed it.

We judge developers based on their Github contributions, on their Stack Overflow questions and answers, on whether they are active on Twitter. What these all have in common is that (for the most part) they are extra-curricular. The other thing they all have in common is that they have no bearing whatsoever on whether someone is a good developer. More specifically, the absence of these things doesn’t mean someone isn’t good.

I fear we’re confusing strong recruit-ability signals with actual worth. People graduating coding bootcamps are being advised to curate their Github presence, because the advisors know that these things are looked at. I’ve seen so many of these profiles now, each containing a handful of code repositories that do nothing except plead “please look at me, let me prove I’ve been learning this technology in my free time”. Why have we allowed this to become the norm?

Why do we not instead encourage the coders who want to spend all their free time with the friends, the loved ones, their children? Who are passionate about becoming amazing singers, actors, musicians, or dancers. A team composed of people with a diverse range of interests, is a team with access to unique insights. Not all great ideas come from the world of programming.

A culture where we confuse a passion for programming outside of work, with programming ability is an inherently exclusionary one. It’s one that’s biased towards a particular demographic of people, and we have to do better.

I used to think that if I didn’t have a load of side-projects on the go, I was somehow falling short as a developer. I’m having to learn to fill my life with other passions. Dancing was the first, i’m excited to see what’s next.

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