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Programming with Reason: The Startup

The Startup Truth

I began to prepare, once again, to build a software company. I searched deep inside myself and asked why I wanted to do this. In other words, I wanted to make sure I wasn't motivated by the wrong things, such as greed, or an unrealistic sense of being better off than I was at the time. It's too easy, when things get stressful at your current job, to believe it would be easier if "I were running the show"; or that it would be nicer to not have to answer to a boss; or not have to be at the mercy of the corporate world. But while there may be some truth to these lines of thinking, the reality is that "running the show" often involves making difficult decisions about money, people, and personal sacrifice. And even business owners have a boss. In fact, they have many -- each customer you sell to becomes someone else you need to answer to.

I believe that the same entrepreneurial spirit that mysteriously drives some to start businesses is what drives most software developers. It's the drive to create, to master, to control (a computer in this case), and to leave something successful behind to be proud of. Regardless of the type of business or the type of software, good entrepreneurs and software developers both enjoy the challenge and reward involved with problem solving. I've noticed that when a developer's role gets reduced in some way, that's the time when job dissatisfaction creeps in. We're an interesting breed; we can deal with working long hours and meeting impossible deadlines, but take away what we perceive as our creative freedom and we want to run for the hills!

What Drives You?

The thrill of seeing my software (my creation, my brainchild) used by people to solve their needs drives me as a developer. Writing and publishing offer the same rewards to me, as I also like to share my experiences. I've come to realize that it's the sharing that's more rewarding, so I often find I enjoy writing about software more than I like to write software. However, that's certainly not true for everyone – it's rare to find a software developer who likes to write, or is it?

I've come up with a list of common factors that drive satisfaction for both entrepreneurs and software developers. Take away any one of these, and you may perceive that something's missing. It's admittedly a complicated mix of factors, which explains why both entrepreneurs and developers tend to be picky when it comes to their work. Where do you fit in the list?

  • Creative freedom (i.e. software and product development)
  • The chance to lead (i.e. a design, software project, or a company)
  • Being part of a successful team (i.e. a development team, or an executive team)
  • Creating a vision bigger than oneself (i.e. a large complicated software system, or a business plan)
  • Filling a void
  • Solving difficult problems
  • Dealing with abstractions (i.e. software design, or business financial planning)
  • Financial growth and prosperity
  • Recognition (even the most modest among us want our achievements to be noticed)

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