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Profiles in software

I’m going to reach out to people in the software industry and ask to do interviews with them to write profiles on who they are and how they were coached or mentored. My goal is to bring stories of growth and coaching to a larger audience, while providing a stylistic view of these people and how they navigate the software industry.

There was a period of time during the late 1960’s in the burgeoning rock era, when writers created a mostly new category for music criticism and journalism. Rolling Stone magazine was born here, alongside the less commercially friendly magazines like CREEM and many others. Stories about bands and albums exposed people from places outside of the new scenes to bands and artists that they otherwise wouldn’t hear about. This new category of writing elevated rock and roll, punk rock, and other relatively new styles in music. And it wasn’t just about the music. It was about the artists, who they were, how they felt about their work, and how they behaved while they navigated their worlds. This writing helped connect artists to regular people and in many cases created a relationship between the two that was significant and long-lasting.

Social impact of software

Software has created nearly all of the social impact of the last 10 years — I can’t think of another industry in the same timeframe that can make this claim. With this in mind, do software developers think about their position in this larger context? For those that have been in the industry for longer than this social emergence, do they recognize a particular moment when it was all different? For those just beginning their careers are they even aware of the difference and if not what does the world look like to them? Is this the same for similar creative careers? 

The environment that software engineers live in today is very different than what it was even just three to five years ago let alone ten, and worlds apart from decades ago. Social impact is now a major point of interest. Politics have changed, and sides have been chosen on many topics. Tech culture has moved past the serious science of software building and on to questions about how software impacts humanity and the planet.

There is a missing view in today’s landscape of tech writing: profiles of the people making the software we use everyday. The profile writing form is well-known and used in many other industries. However in tech, the people who are start-up founders or the isolated few who create viral trends get reported on the most, and not always in the full profile form. What about all of the everyday people who build the software that makes the current social landscape possible today?

Tech journalism certainly exists today, and podcasting is reaching a zenith, while conference talks allow engineers to share their work or ideas. But it isn’t about them or how they feel about their spot in the world. The social media appeal of short bite-sized content is taking away too many opportunities to truly hear from software developers. Who are these people? What if there was more long form content that was a description of themselves, including how they feel about their work, both triumphs and failures.

Scratching my own itch

I’ve always been attracted to well written stories about people. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I admired people who put together a story or an idea with words that made my mind totally dive in. I constantly sought out inspiration in books and magazines. In school my favorite classes were those that forced me to read, exposing me to writers and their works. When I was in the 8th grade my mom got me an annual subscription to Sports Illustrated magazine. I kept that subscription for 3 years. I still have each issue to this day. At the time, I would cut out the full page pictures of my favorite athletes and hang them on my bedroom wall. But the real joy for me was reading the profiles. I loved learning about Will Clark yelling “You will never, ever, do that to me again!” to pitchers who had struck him out in pressure situations. Stories like that would inspire confidence and elevate my spirit. I used to carry those stories with me to school and baseball practice.

Writing has been a tucked away part of my life. I’ve blogged, tweeted, and used whatever other medium du jour. But mostly those were casual moments of wanting to express myself, or share my work in programming. Sometimes it got personal. Nearly all of it was written in a forced nature. No spirit or art. I never took time to edit or punch-up the words. Just me, trying to swim in the big ocean of social media.

I have a wonderful career as a software developer. I’ve been using software as a form of writing, to create my version of art, allowing me to play out this desire to be a writer. I’m very comfortable being a programmer and writing uncountable lines of code, and working hard to make it look and read “beautifully”. Having done that, now I think want more. I want to know more about the people in my industry. I want to write about people in software. The everyday people, and maybe a few of the really popular ones. Certainly the ones that have unique stories to tell.

Coaching is for everyone

I’m going to try getting interviews with people who have inspired me in software and ask them how they’ve received coaching in their careers and how it has impacted them. I want to hear who gave them the best advice, and how that shaped who they are today. The software industry is chock full of tech articles and even interviews with popular folks in the industry, but I’ve yet to see anything focused on the coaching and mentorship they’ve received and how that has inspired (or hurt) their careers.

This is a call for volunteers. I’m asking for people to take a chance with me. Let’s tell your story. I promise to take it seriously, to be honest, and to try my very best to put inspired words together about you. I’m interested in talking to the most popular among us, but more importantly finding folks with wonderful stories to share. I’m hoping to meet and tell the stories of those of us who are doing really interesting work and have intriguing stories to tell — that otherwise wouldn’t be known to people inside tech. I want to write your unique story and share your inspirations for your own work.

Who’s first? Reach out to me and let’s get started!

I am an engineering manager, product engineer, full-stack developer, and professional coach, with over 20 years of experience in application and systems development. I am successfully putting together code and culture for any size team, from enterprise to start-up.

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