By John Sonmez July 29, 2013

What Software Developers Can Learn From Weiner

Don’t stick your Weiner out there

It’s good to get noticed, but make sure you get noticed for the right things.  You don’t want to be caught with a permanent picture out there on the internet of the things of yours that should remain hidden.

Anthony_Weiner,_official_portrait,_112th_Congress

What I mean by this, is that as a software developer you want to look like a software developer, not a political activist.  I’ve said this a lot of times in various forms, but with the recent huge media coverage of a certain trial in Florida, I’ve seen way too many software developers potentially ruining their careers because they were so eager to show everyone their—opinions.

Remember, the internet is a permanent record that can never be erased.  No matter what you do, some server out there somewhere will have a record of what you posted, or someone will have taken a screen capture of it.

The same goes for the workplace in general.

People get really offended when they think I am giving them the message to not be themselves.  When I say things like this, I hear many developers retort, “What? If an employer or customer doesn’t like who I am, then I don’t want to work with them either.”

I’m not saying don’t be yourself.  I am saying show the best version of yourself possible.  Everyone in the world appreciates discretion and tactfulness.  Few people want to work with someone professionally who publically ascribes to themselves the opposite characteristics.

Your Weiner isn’t too big to fall

Just because you have done great things in the past doesn’t mean you will get credit for them in the future.  As a software developer you are constantly evaluated based on the skills you possess now that are valuable in the current market, not the ones you had 5 years ago that were valuable in that market.

I see many software developers that were once great legends who accomplished splendid things in the past resting on their laurels.

You chose this industry, no one else made the choice for you.  So you should have known going in that software development was a industry constantly full of change and flux.

If you want to learn some set of skills that will last your whole career and never require you to change or learn something new, perhaps you should be a plumber or an electrician. (Although, I’d venture to guess even those positions would have some degree of continual learning involved.)

The point is, knowing C++ or COBOL or assembly language is only going to take you so far for so long.  If you want to keep rising up and not fall backwards in your career, you are going to have to be that old dog that learns some new tricks.

(Here is a link to a query on Amazon for the new programming books that come out in the last 30 days.  A great way to see what is popular right now and then learn about it.)

It is easy to look at these young JavaScript kids and Rubiests and say “get off my lawn,” as your own skills rot and your value decreases while theirs increases, but it really isn’t going to do you much good.

No one wants to see your Weiner

I know you think what you’ve got is awesome and it probably is, but people are more concerned with what you can do for them, not how awesome you are.Grilling Sausage

You always have to remember that people primarily think about and are concerned with themselves.

When I hire someone to do a job, I don’t hire them because of how awesome they are, I hire them because I think about how awesome of a job they will be able to do for it.

I know many software developers who have tried to make their mark by showing how superior and awesome their own skills are, instead of demonstrating practically how they can be beneficial to a team or a project.

When hiring someone to pack and move your house would you rather hire a big muscly guy who stands around flexing in the mirror or would you rather hire a mediocre strength average Joe that is extremely hard working and diligent?

Yet, so many software developers I talk to try and show themselves as the big muscly mover, but make no indication of what kind of job they will do.

All the skills and ability in the world are of no good to anyone unless they are put to use.

Flashing your Weiner once can be forgiven, doing it twice gets you in trouble

It is OK to make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes.  It is part of life and it is good.  Failing is part of learning.  However, when you make a mistake and you are called out on that mistake, you should carefully avoid to make the same mistake again.hot dog

I’ve seen quite a few people get fired—excuse me “laid off”—and the reason has almost always been for making the same mistake more than once.

When you are called out on a mistake you have made and you make that exact mistake again, especially within a short time frame, it is taken as an utter disrespect and contempt for authority and often as a sign of extreme arrogance and recklessness.

Of course this all hinges on the size of the mistake.  It isn’t as big of a deal to forget to add the bug number to the comment of the check-in you made, a couple of times, but taking down production for a day will probably only be forgiven once.

Don’t be paranoid about making mistakes and failing—fear will paralyze and destroy your progress, much more than mistakes will—but, instead be cautious, careful and deliberate in your actions.  If you make a mistake, learn from it.  Take steps to make sure it won’t happen again and then move on.

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About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."