Software engineers – Revive your software soul

Software engineers – Revive your software soul

on Nov 10, 16 • by Don Boughey • with 5 Comments

Next time you're in a funk (that’s the technical term, by the way) and disillusioned by the seeming normality of day-to-day work, try this ...

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Warning: This is NOT a technical blog. However, it will be a good read.

I started my career as a software engineer. Today I’m a senior director – managing software support engineers, software consulting engineers, and software development engineers. I’m privileged to have worked beside and to have managed some very bright and talented people over the years. Sometimes these highly technical people, myself included, get into a funk (that’s the technical term, by the way): We become disillusioned by the seeming normality of our day-to-day work. It might be that we have to fix bugs (not of our own making, mind you) for a few sprints. We might be assigned to a project that doesn’t demand our best technical chops while others get the “cool” projects. Heaven forbid, we might even have to spend time documenting our code, or explaining our code to someone else.

Here’s a technique I’ve suggested to many of my employees to reduce or eliminate that funk. Reflection. Create a list of things you’ve been able to accomplish, to develop, to experience, as you’ve been engaged in those day-to-day software endeavors.

I’d like to share my list – not because of any current disillusionment. This list was created as I passed a significant longevity milestone in my career. It’s the reflection of things and places encountered as I’ve navigated these many years in the software tools business.

• Introduced new visualization techniques related to data insights to customers in the finance, energy, cable television, heavy equipment, pharmaceutical, telecommunications, and aerospace industries.

• Attended an oversold regional hockey game in Sudbury, Canada – standing room only; what a great game.

CN TowerMultiple trips to Cold Lake where they test everything related to Canadian aviation. My trips included training classes, sales calls, and an invitation as a VIP to attend the grand opening ceremony of new office facilities that coincided with an annual air show.

• Attended a trade show reception at the CN Tower and walked around the underground city in Toronto.

• Rode the subways in Tokyo during peak commuting time.

• Invited to a round of golf in Australia where we saw kangaroos on the course.

Attended the first flight of the Boeing 717 (our software was used in the flight test analysis).

• Saw temples, museums, and street markets in Taipei, Taiwan – including The 101.

• Tours of wind tunnels in both the US and the UK.

• Able to spend non-working day(s) as a tourist in Paris, Melbourne, Taipei, London, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Brussels.

• Airplanes and airports – LOTS of those. If you take all the actual flight miles, time in an airplane seat, it equates to 29 trips around the equator.

Bullet trainRode a high-speed bullet train during data collection test runs. I even got to go into the engine for a while (until the train hit an antelope that damaged the fiberglass nose – ride over).

• Walked around Parliament Hill in Ottawa – what a wonderful summer evening that was.

• Worked in vaults – literally inside insanely secure vault-like rooms where our software was being used for various purposes.

• Asked to be a judge at one company’s annual homemade wine/homebrew competition.

NASARiding along on the Autobahn, at 140 mph (I peeked because it seemed we were going rather fast).

• Sat in the chairs of the Houston Control Center as part of a NASA tour.

• Saw a number of the largest computers, and computer centers, in the world.

• Assisted a company using our software to control a huge robotic arm that captured and analyzed images looking for cracks inside a mock-up of a nuclear reactor vessel.

• Edmonton – June 22, the longest day of the year, and seeing the glow in the sky at 11:30 p.m. from the hotel window.

• Walked the mile long factory, where raw materials were delivered on one end of the plant, and completed airplanes were rolled out the other end.

• Saw cardboard and plywood mock-ups of next generation weapon systems (drones, troop carriers, etc.).

• Tours of clean-room satellite assembly locations in both the US and the UK.

Spent the week of 9/11 at a convention of aerospace engineers – the week when all aircraft were grounded. At the closing banquet that took place in a hanger, when the grounding was lifted and we heard the very first aircraft leaving Boeing field, the speaker interrupted his speech to say, “Ah, there goes the sound of freedom.”

• Experienced the dramatic, evolutionary shifts in computing as our industry moved from mainframes, to workstations, to PCs, to the cloud – all the while keeping abreast with the needs of the developers to make their lives easier.

You want me to fix a bug or two? Sure.
You want to assign my talents to a project in need of some help? No problem.
You want more clarity in my comments in that routine? Happy to help.

In the end, this is all part and parcel of what we call software development!

I challenge you to create and reflect on your own list. Hopefully your list makes you smile. Hopefully it makes you realize all the things you’ve been able to accomplish. I hope it re-grounds you and revives your software soul.

Learn more about working at Rogue Wave Software here

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5 Responses to Software engineers – Revive your software soul

  1. Thanks Don, I’ll keep this technique in mind. Sales engineering is pretty funk-free for me – at least the bad kind of funk – but you never know.

  2. A great read indeed. I am proud to have been one of the engineers you managed and to have participated in one, maybe even two of these projects. In fact, thanks to both Ed Kase and yourself, I have been privileged with rich and rewarding career memoirs myself, most of which were under your direction and guidance Don. Thank you.

  3. Ed Kase says:

    Don,

    Nice reflection. There are a lot of significant accomplishments there.

    I hope all is well.

    Ed

    • Don Boughey says:

      Yes, all is well Ed – thanks for asking.

      And thanks for your comments – and for your direct involvement in some of these reflections.

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