The Roar of the crowd

Like many Ottawa Senator fans, I watched their playoff game on Friday (vs the Habs) from a very loud bar and last night in their heartbreaking loss and subsequent ouster from the playoffs.  The CTC was the place to be as people were going nuts and on their feet for the whole game – what an amazing feeling to know so many people (at least 18,000+) are behind you and think you can do it.  People screaming their names, cheering on the team, waving towels and flags.

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I cannot even fathom what that level of energy would feel like.  

But imagine for a second if you had that – cheering you on daily, wherever you were working, whatever you were doing.  Imagine what it would feel like to have  people chanting your name as you compiled that last binary and got ready to push it to Production (maybe even untested because hey, 18,000 people believe in you) OR maybe finish that last report where you’ve put in more effort then you thought you ever could and don’t need to mark it as draft because you already know it is going to be THAT good… you are… THAT good.

Instead, it can sometimes feel like you have a crowd of BOOs or maybe even the one naysayer screaming the loudest at you, holding you back – I don’t know what I’m doing, this is too hard, it’s going to slow, I’m failing, I’m messing up, it’s going to be late, etc, etc, etc.  This can be even harder when at 12AM you check the IM status of everyone on your list and see a lot are online or away and you realize you need to become your own cheerleader to keep pushing through.

Crowds of cheering fans would make it a lot easier, you would gain an infinite amount of energy… but the real stars… the real playmakers are the ones that can funnel that energy from within when their 14th attempt fails and they need to start over again.  You can see it in any game, those players are fueled by some other power then the crowds (who are great), they know what has to be done and they are willing to do it.  Because as great as the crowds and fans are, at the end of the last game, they all go home and the real playmakers are the ones that show up the next day to start training for next season when no one is around.

What’s in a Title?

Absolutely nothing.

Ouch!  That’s going to hurt some people – some might not even be reading this part… or this part for that matter.  But here it is – a job title does not define you, it’s an indication of what you do, but not the complete picture.

Brain Surgeon – yup you’re good at that, but I’m sure you do more and maybe it’s not what defines you exactly.

Architect, Software Developer, Team Lead, Tech Lead, Director, VP, etc – I’ve been all these things and at the end of it – they are not nearly what defines me or stops me from working on a variety of projects in either of those roles.  Sometimes I’m building code, writing docs, making powerpoints, putting furniture together, buying paper, troubleshooting production bugs, working on batch invoice processes and yes… cleaning toilets – do you have a title for all those roles?

Doubtful.

So then why do we seek to have a title that purportedly shows our prestige in what we do?  At some point in your career under Title X you realize – “I’m just doing what needs to be done, to push the ball forward, make a difference and ship” – that can’t be a title but maybe it should be a slogan and maybe instead of trying to define ourselves with titles we should define ourselves with slogans instead.

We don’t need another Hero

Software is a game of late night deployments and early morning patches to fix a “new feature” before it becomes a big problem.  It’s not bad, sometimes it’s lots of fun, the camaraderie built over some take-out while everyone is grinding on the last release trying to fix the last of the team’s bugs or it’s that bright and early design session to lay out the plan for the day and make it happen – not just talk about it… but make it happen… really, really make it happen.

Those are the best moments that I remember, when you are working with your fellow team members to meet a goal or a deadline – it doesn’t get much better than that.

There is a lot of literature and media that always surround the success of a project that it always comes down to one person.  This guy/gal made the difference, they were the saving grace, they were the hero – time to step aside everyone because we have a new hero in town.  But it’s never the true, honest case – because while buddy cranked out that last piece of code, the rest of his team were making sure the other projects of the team didn’t fall off the radar and QA put in some extra OT to make sure that the fix actually did what it was designed to do (and didn’t create some wacky new feature in the process).  Are they no less than everyone else on the team?  It’s the team that has to come together to make your projects a success and yes, some times you need a hero to jump in and save the day, but a hero shouldn’t be one person, it should be a team.

The problem we fall into too often, is a person steps up and becomes the Hero in a release or fix and we keep propping them up as the hero, not recognizing that what we really need is to create a whole team of heroes that are interchangeable and contribute in exactly the same way.