A few years ago, I read a blog post somewhere bewailing what an injustice it was that Google should hire some of the greatest minds on the planet and then squander that talent by putting them to work on problems like… well, let’s face it… advertising. I’m not sure I was all that persuaded at the time (I’ve always rather fancied working at Google) but the last few months having given me reason to reevaluate my position.
It’s the 21st century now, and whether you like it or not, we live in a world that is built on software. A huge proportion of our lives interact with computer systems at some point or other – whether that’s directly using a website like Facebook on your PC or your phone, whether it’s firing up an app to check the weather forecast, or whether it’s the automated billing system working out how much to charge you for the electricity you’ve used. It’s hard to imagine anyone going long without having their lives affected in some small way by a piece of software.
That means that software developers have the potential to make a huge contribution to people’s quality of life. How much frustration are you caused each day by those little quirks in the way your Word processor works? And what a breath of fresh air it is when you find yourself using a website that “just works”? If you’re a talented developer who has an instinct for what’s going to make a better experience for the end users and the technical know-how to make that happen – well then you’ve been entrusted with a precious gift, the opportunity to bring a little happiness into people’s lives. How are you going to use that gift? What are you going to channel your energies and your talents into?
A few months ago I did something I thought I’d never do – I turned down a further interview with Google to go and work for a little startup company called Hubbub, doing their best to change their little corner of the world by letting people shop online with their local independent shops, allowing the little guy to compete with the big supermarkets. I’m having the time of my life doing exciting work with wonderful people, and helping make people’s lives a little better in the process, all whilst eating amazing lunches from incredible local suppliers – and it’s such a frustration to see how hard we’re finding it to hire extra developers to support us in our work. I reckon Google will survive without two developers they might otherwise have been able to nab – but what a huge difference those two developers would make to Hubbub, and in turn to our passionate and dedicated customers and the independent shops they seek to support.
So go on, I dare you – put your skills to work somewhere where you can make a real difference. Maybe that’s Hubbub, maybe it’s continuing to do what you’re already doing, maybe it’s getting involved in some kind of Open Source project. But whatever you do, remember that your skills are a gift. How will you use yours?