Education

My career advice? Be unreasonable for a change

Some developers (and their managers) never step outside the strict confines of their job descriptions. But looking at the Big Picture--and asking uncomfortable questions about it--can help, even save, your career.

This article originally appeared on ZDNet AnchorDesk.

Novelist and playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Wise words if you're a developer or manage one.

A lot of coders think their job is to meet the specifications and then go home. They don't care whether the resulting product is the right thing to build. They're just doing what they're told to do.

Sure, a few of them might go a step further, devoting a bit of energy to documentation and support. But that's where they draw the line. Developers figure, I built it, someone else can figure out whether or not it meets customer expectations.

Some developers care so little about the broader context of their jobs, they figure, hey, if the company goes belly-up, I'll find the same or better money at the next trolley stop.

That's the "reasonable" approach.

Maybe you can get away with that kind of slacker attitude in some shops. But Builder.com columnist Sean Michael Kerner believes there's a better way: a technologist should be an active change agent within the organization, willing to challenge the status quo.

In a recent Builder.com article, Kerner outlined three reasons why taking a more active overall role in your company is in your best interest:
  • The company will have a better chance of surviving, so at least you get to keep your job.
  • You'll build a reputation for yourself as "the person who saves the company."
  • Last but not least is my personal bottom line: cash. People who save companies are often (if not always) paid more. A fatter pocketbook never hurt anybody.

I agree with Kerner. If you don't care about what you're building or the company you're building it for, if you won't challenge questionable requests or the way things are done, maybe you should be building garages instead of software. You're like a surgeon who doesn't care whether the patient makes it through the operation.

I'm not saying you should jeopardize your job by objecting to every design choice or functionality request. But if you see a wrong that needs to be righted, and you're the one who can right it, you'd better find a way to communicate that with the powers-that-be.

Of course, you may even find yourself out on the street for challenging the status quo. But, as Kerner notes, static organizations die in tough economic climates, so you could end up on the street anyway.

So dare to be unreasonable.

Are you unreasonable?
Has being unreasonable helped or hurt your career? Post a comment below or tell us about it.

 

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