Almost a year ago I put together what drives me to be in the software industry. I discussed how innovation in web development and tackling people problems start to fulfill those motivations. Read my post What is Your Why for background on why I did this, my why at the time and the short term benefits I had. A year later I value this idea 10 times more and use it to own my career. My why helps me take my career in a direction that I not only want, but a direction that capitalizes on my most intrinsic motivations and produces my most productive output. I highly encourage you to start writing down your why and most importantly start the lifelong process of questioning it, challenging it, and refining it.
Below is the most current version of my why.
My Why as of 2016
Update (May 2016): I want to make a meaningful contribution to the world. When growing up, I wanted to be in a history book. This may have been slightly egotistical at the time, but I think underneath that, it was the desire to do something so useful, so widely impactful, it was worth writing about. Deep down that desire of positive contribution is what motivates what I apply effort toward.
The majority of my effort so far has been aimed at problem solving with computers. Through my experience I have found larger impacts come from solving problems in innovative ways. I define Innovative as not necessarily giving people what they want, but giving them what they didn’t know they needed. After a group starts hearing some of these off the wall, innovative solutions, they all of a sudden need it. They start seeing a future they didn’t realize was there. I like to be a driving force of that contribution.
I like to implement those ideas. I want to see those ideas all the way through and learn from them. Learn what works and what doesn’t work, so next time I can apply the good concepts and discard the bad. All of which should increase the impact of those solutions.
With that as my base, I am really good at software and web development. I learn technology concepts and computer science very quickly. I have always had a passion to understand all the things around technology which has excelled my abilities in actually implementing these innovative ideas. I focus on web development over other tech because it has the biggest opportunity to impact the most people at once; to help the most people at once. That drive of problem solving for large numbers of people and my development abilities mixed together is definitely why I am here in the software industry.
However, problem solving for me isn’t limited to just software. My interests fluctuate between new technologies, product improvements, and people problems. These are prioritized by what I think will have the greatest impact at the time. I co-found the Agile for Defense Meetup because I discovered that many teams and smart, innovative people were not producing anything useful on their projects. It’s often not any individual’s fault or problem, it’s the situation, system, assumptions, lack of ownership and empowerment which has just lead to software being built the way it was. For a handful of us, we saw a way of improving that which was mostly solving people problems: how we communicate what’s desired, how we work together, and how we cultivate an innovative approach to producing usable software. This problem at the time had a much greater impact than any particular software problem on the project I was working on. So that motivated me the most and I was really driven to solve that human problem.
Recently I spoke at a conference sharing a handful of innovative solutions to these people problems. One of those solutions, was this, identifying your why. While preparing, I thought to myself, “why am I presenting?” This isn’t solving a problem innovatively. This is just sharing an idea. Further introspection led me to understand a deeper motivation: substantial positive impact on the world. The May 2016 update above concludes this revelation for me. I am presenting and sharing because I believe these ideas could be leveraged by others, allowing for them to apply these ideas on their teams and therefore cause a bigger impact than what I can do individually.
I continue alternating between technology, product improvement and people problems. It’s a mixture of what is needed at the time and what I can apply the most innovative ideas toward that could make a meaningful contribution to the world. That’s what drives me. That’s my why.