Are you a web developer who doesn’t write code outside of work hours? One of those web developers who don’t have an active Github account and loads of side projects? Have you ever felt less valuable than other developers due to not staying after hours or weekends for your job? Less valuable because you haven’t tried all the latest and greatest frameworks/languages?
And finally, have you ever been told or made to feel that you “lack passion” due to the above mentioned points? Then this post is for you. Let’s chat about the feeling of passion in web development.
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day, and had an epiphany about this career. Web development is one of the only careers where “passion” can be used as a metric for hiring or determining an employee’s value. The feeling of passion. It reminded me of some food for thought I’ve come across while reading, The Art of Loving:
First of all, the practice of an art requires discipline. I shall never be good at anything if I do not do it in a disciplined way; anything I do only if “I am in the mood” may be a nice or amusing hobby, but I shall never become a master in that art.
Why bring up a book about love when I’m talking about passion in web development? Passion and love are related words, in some cases, even synonyms. The first definition I found for passion confirmed it as, “
And there’s nothing wrong with passion when it comes to work. I just want to get that out there. If you’re passionate about your work, then that’s great. The problem I see though, is when we determine skill sets or personalities based on said passion. I’ve seen one too many job postings summoning rock stars and ninjas with sizeable portfolios or side projects.
What happens to the web developers whose work is company owned? What happens to those who arrive at work just to do their job, and then go home once it’s time to go home? Should developers feel guilty for not pursuing code outside of work hours?
Let’s return to those questions in a minute and talk about passion a bit more.
What’s wrong with passion?
The thing with passion is it’s temporary. It’s a feeling. Just like love, feelings come and go. Here’s another snippet from The Art of Loving:
“To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise.
If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever.
A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgement and decision.”
This might sound silly, taking quotes about love and relationships, and comparing them to work. But is it? We spend about a third of our lives working. For an 8 hour work day with commute, let’s assume 12 hours a day, we’re spending 50% of our day at work. Assuming we’re getting 8 hours of sleep, that’s another 33% percent of our day, leaving us with about 17% of the day for whatever.
In other words, aside from sleep, work is what takes up most of our lives, and whether we like it or not, it’s a commitment. Same as the way a relationship is a commitment, work is a commitment. Work is a relationship. It’s something you put effort into regardless of whether you have a passion for it at all times.
My point is that books like “The Art of Loving” exist because there are so many relationships that fail due to the loss of passion. There’s this myth that love is this magic that just happens, effortlessly and never wanes. But the truth is, as the first quote I wrote earlier in this article, that love or a relationship is something that takes discipline to master.
Web development takes discipline to master – not passion.
Yep, you read that right. Passion is not what will help us “master” the art of web development. Discipline is. Discipline is what gets us up every morning at some ungodly hour through freezing temperatures in a place like New York, all to commute to an office and write code. Discipline is what let’s us practice the art of web development on a regular basis so we can evolve and grow over time. And despite what some may say, even without side projects, we have enough discipline to be experienced in our fields. Work hours are enough discipline time, don’t you think?
You have enough discipline. Go home.
If 8 hours a day, 5 days a week isn’t enough discipline, then there has to be something wrong with this picture. Remember what I said about the percentage of time we’re spending at work daily? We only have 17% of our weekdays to ourselves, not counting 8 hours of sleep. Thinking about it like that, does it make sense to let work or the pursuit of code seep into and take over the small percentage of our lives that we have left? Let’s think about this another way…
Have you ever heard a waitress say, “Hey, I love serving tables and taking orders, it’s my passion! I love it so much that even when I get out of work, I just hop into other diners and just do it for free because I can’t get enough!” ( Stay with me here, I know my analogies are not that great. 🙂 ) What would it be like if doctors came to work based on how passionate they felt that day? How many jobs would not exist and how many people would never go to work if the requirement for that job was a feeling of passion at all times?
This doesn’t mean that the waitress/waiter doesn’t like her/his job or the doctor isn’t proud of what he or she does for a living. Not being passionate doesn’t necessarily mean the person hates their job. It just means some people want to go home when work is over. It’s actually a pretty healthy thing to disconnect outside of work hours – the French seem to agree.
I’ve always been known to leave the office when I’ve logged my hours for the day. It doesn’t mean that I never went out on a limb, or that I never worked a weekend. It also doesn’t mean that I’ve never felt genuinely excited, or dare I say, passionate, about going to work so I can write code. But for the most part, I was known for leaving the office on time. In fact, whenever I didn’t leave, my co-workers would IM me on chat telling me to get the hell out because I was their “cue” to leave too. If I left, everyone else felt better about leaving too.
There’s nothing wrong with going home – both mentally and physically. This took me a few years to accept as the culture in some work places will try to say differently, so I’ll say it again. It’s okay to go home. Take it from Pam Selle in one of my favorite talks to listen to whenever I feel that guilt creep in, “Go the f*ck home“.
You are valuable.
So to answer the earlier questions, no you should not feel guilty about going home. You should not feel less valuable because you don’t pursue code outside of work hours. Passion in web development should not be used as a hiring metric, or a determination of value between employees. Developers should not be judged by their Github repositories, or the number of free projects they tackled during off hours.
Not every developer has tried “all the latest and greatest technologies” out there. Not every developer has the desire to. Not every developer has had the opportunity or the experience to work on freelance projects. However, it doesn’t mean that said developer isn’t good at what they do, or that they won’t try a new tool or language if it solves the problem at hand. The first agency I ever worked for gave me that chance, and I gave them my best for several years until it was time to move on.
Not everyone can be a passionate developer, at least not at all times. But we can be committed and disciplined regardless of passion.
I like web development, but as a caregiver for a family member with cancer, as one who has dealt with mental health since childhood, and as someone who really loves being with her family, I want to do my job to the best of my ability, and go home when it’s time.
I don’t normally write code outside of working hours ( although I do write about it – got me there ). Instead, I want to keep up with my favorite shows, catch up on a book I’m really into, or write a poem that I’ve had nagging in the back of my mind. I want to try a new recipe for dinner, walk my dog, and spend time with my significant other. I want to eat and sleep properly.
My Github profile isn’t that impressive and I’m still working on a portfolio. However, I’m still a good employee. And yes, I’m still a good web developer. This is true, regardless of passion, and this is true for you too. You are a good employee and you a good developer. Whether you have internet fame, created a framework, or are just committed to code during work hours only, you have value. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
I hope this was insightful, and most of all, I hope this encourages others out there to feel less guilty, feel more valuable, and to keep pushing on. Have a great holiday everyone and here’s some related reading about passion before you go:
- “I’m a developer, but it’s not my passion,” By Antonin Januska
- “Programming doesn’t require talent, or even passion,” by Modmaj
If you know of any other articles about passion in web development, or the development career track in general, let me know in the comments. I’d love to add them to this post.