The Question That Started A Book
I Began Better Bits, Or How Software Developers Can Change Their Organizations, After Being Stumped
“I’m just a developer. How does someone like me change where I work?”
I’ve wrestled with that question since 2017. I had just finished a main stage appearance and had a surprisingly large number of folks milling about afterwards. I was elated at the number of people that wanted to keep the discussion going. My presentation resonated with even a Silicon Valley audience! I reveled in my momentary celebrity.
And then I got that question.
I don’t remember exactly what advice I gave then, other than feeling my off-the-cuff answer lacked convincing detail. In the time since I’ve come to appreciate the vast amount of nuance inherent in that simple question. I’ve also become convinced that seeking “How to change?” is the difference between software success and failure. The answer to that question is more important than the technology stack, 10x developers, architecture, or automation acumen. The ability to introduce, champion, and sustain positive change creates better software outcomes. Period.
“The only constant in life is change.” - Heraclitus
And achieving “better bits”, in whatever form that might take in your organization, requires being a change agent.
I’m not the first to write about how to make change happen. Bookstores have entire aisles devoted to self-help and “change management”. However, as I bumbled through meetings with all sorts of leaders, I knew there had to be something better. I sought experts able to address software’s unique challenges. When the opportunity to write a book presented itself, I started putting years of these bookmarks, Twitter likes, highlighted pages, and saved YouTube presentations into the reference I wish I had when I started.
As far as I know, interpersonal skills are still not a point of emphasis in computer education; they certainly weren’t the cornerstone of my computer engineering degree. And, like anything worth doing, change is still a tremendous amount of work.
The good news, however, is that anyone learn these skills. How we relate to our peers can be improved. Further, in the process, we might just become more capable people.
“The toll of making change is that you will be changed.” - Seth Godin
Better Bits represents my best understanding of how to make organizational change work so far. It, like myself, remains a work in progress. I hope that by putting it out into the universe, it serves not as a definitive statement that ends debates but as an invitation to continue the conversation.
Finally, to the person that originally asked the question that put me down the path, please accept this, my belated response. You asked for a sound bite. As I am wont to do, I wrote you (and everyone else like us) a book.
"Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book." - Cicero, 106-43 BCE
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