I’ve been doing front-line software development for more than a decade now. I got my first job in the industry working for this small startup making the digital equivalent of a calendar or a fruit-basket for real estate agents to give out to their clients. The business side of the enterprise seemed so far away then; the rest of the team and I put our heads down, banged out features, solved problems, and were shocked to find, three years later, that the product we’d so lovingly crafted wasn’t selling because our target market didn’t have money to buy it.
Since then I’ve worked for the military and done battle with ColdFusion, a contract development shop where I tooled around with mobile before mobile was big, and another small company doing C# web development for the mortgage industry. As I’ve changed jobs my roles and responsibilities have drifted further and further away from head-down coding and towards more nebulous things like “architecture,” “process,” and “professional development.”
I like these things but I’ve always thought of myself as a developer.
Until now. I’m not sure when it happened but sometime in the course of the last year I crossed a line between development and management. I don’t write software anymore; I manage software developers.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I love the people I work with and the challenges I get to grapple with. I get to help people, explain things, give just enough guidance that others get the thrill of cracking the problem on their own… it’s great; really it is.
But I am acutely aware that I am giving up something in this career change and that, in so doing, I am leaving part of myself behind. I have Word and Outlook open more often than Visual Studio these days and while I can keep up with the theory of what my developers discuss, the implementation is slipping away from me. I increasingly find myself forced to trust the expertise of others in areas I’d have, out of professional pride, taken no one’s word but my own just a few years ago.
There are still side projects to tinker with, smaller programs to write and the like, but I am both aware of and comfortable with the fact that I’ve neither the time nor the energy to stay current with the shifting state of the art of a full-stack developer; that time has passed.
Onward and upward; there’s no shortage of new challenges ahead.