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Love Your Career as a Nerd

By Ryan Lambert -- Published January 20, 2014

So far for 2014, I'm not doing very well on my target of one post per week. Why's that, you might ask? I think the best explanation is that I love my job and career. Since coming back from our extended holiday break I have barely had time to catch my breath, and I love it! I love being a nerd!

Programmers are Lucky

It's true, we are. I wake up every day and get to do work that I love being a part of. Granted, I still have responsibilities that I don't care for as much as programming (cough meetings cough), but that gives my brain time to relax and reset a bit for the stuff I really love. As Gustavo Duarte said:

Few things are better than spending time in a creative haze, consumed by ideas, watching your work come to life, going to bed eager to wake up quickly and go try things out.

For me I think a lot of the satisfaction comes from the creative outlet as Gustavo mentioned, but the most alluring element of the job to me is the constant change. Yes, I'm constantly programming, but I'm always solving different and new problems. Because if the problem is the same and I've already solved the problem... what am I doing here???

Constant Change

If you are a programmer, I would bet that you are constantly squashing bugs, troubleshooting, fixing errors, and adding features, right? Those are all different ways to say "problem solving" throughout a project's life-cycle. As a professional problem solver (i.e. programmer) you should always embrace the change and opportunity this brings. Especially if you happen to work for an employer whose primary product is nothing related to programming like I do. When you're a problem solver in this type of environment, you will be brought in to help sort out all sorts of problems all around the business. What that should mean to most programmers is an opportunity to learn, and an opportunity to be noticed and further your career!

You do all that every day!?!? Can I make your life easier??

Take Opportunities

If your boss asks you to help Department X with a particular problem even though you know nothing about Department X's business functions, what do you say? If time permits, I always agree to at least entertain the idea of the project for a three main reasons.

  1. Professional Networking
  2. Learning
  3. Show off

First, and most importantly, it gives me a chance to work with colleagues I normally do not get to work with. This means that in the future when they have a problem, my name will be on their mind. This is more valuable when the projects are high profile and the Big Wigs might be watching, but good relationships with co-workers are always a good thing. Next, I get to learn more about the inner workings of the business. For me this is a two-pronged bonus: I get to learn, which always makes me happy, AND the more I learn about the business the more valued (read "valuable") I become.

Last, I get a chance to show off my skills because I was brought in on a particularly tough project that I volunteered for and I succeeded where others couldn't or wouldn't.

Make Opportunities

Ok, not every programmer has these types of opportunities falling on their lap, so what to do? Make your own opportunities where you notice something that can be improved. Does your organization have data reporting that is currently aggregated and/or formatted manually? Write a script to automate it. Do you have a repetitive task that must be done on a schedule? Try to automate some of it.

I didn't actively pursue this career, it sort of just... fell on my lap. I was tired of the service industry after 11 years of waiting tables and tending bar. One day I casually mentioned my job hunting status to a instructor of mine and she responded by saying "It's probably not a job you'd really be interested in, but you'd be good at it and you'll get along with your boss." Fast forward six years, three positions and two employers and here I am! That first student job offered me so many opportunities to say "You do all that every day!?!? Can I make your life easier??" that I fell in love with the role and I won't look back.

The End

If you're a programmer, I hope you love your job the way I do. Take advantage of the ever-changing scenery, savor the challenges, and don't stop learning. What makes you love your career?

By Ryan Lambert
Published January 20, 2014
Last Updated January 20, 2014