On professional motivation (or changing the world isn’t just for entrepreneurs)

I came across this post by Micah Baldwin via Hacker News and I could empathize with the content just a few lines in. Although, I am not an entrepreneur (by choice), I agree with the essence of the post that …

The world is fucked up place. There are more problems than solutions.

But, with the acceleration of the capacity of technology to make important and
lasting change, we need more of our great minds caring about changing the world
than clicking an ad.

I’ve often wondered (and people have questioned me about this too) — why I do what I do ? why did I chose to work at the companies I did ? Especially since I know for a fact that there at least a few dozen of places out there, that would not only offer me a better pay packet but also offer the technical challenges and stimulation that I crave.

Every time this question crops up, it doesn’t take too long to come to the conclusion that it’s because, for me to feel like showing up, it isn’t enough that I enjoy the technical aspects of my job, or the flexibility to nurture creativity or the big monitors and comfortable chairs — all of which, yeah, I do care about — however, at the end of the day, I want to feel like my work, the stuff that I do on a daily basis, needs to have a impact on society at large.

This is why I worked at Red Hat …and at the UNFCCC …and now at Largeblue (focusing mainly on openideo.com ). I have worked at other places too and except for the places where I transformed and grew as a programmer, I wasn’t really satisfied just ‘pushing the bits‘ so to speak on the path to successful acquisition or market leadership.

Which brings me to the other point I’d like to make with regards to the Micah’s post — It isn’t just the entrepreneurs who are continually chasing the software industry equivalent of producing penile enlargement pills instead of cancer research, regular software developers, the foot-soldiers too do not see beyond the toys that they get to play with.

I am, by choice, a foot-soldier of technology[1]. I do not have the motivation nor the tenacity to be a entrepreneur. However, as a foot-soldier, I still deeply care about the cause I am committing to. So, it isn’t just a choice made by entrepreneurs. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the foot-soldiers eventually make all the difference. You cannot change the world all by yourself even if you have the best of ideas.

Regardless of that last point though, ultimately it is the choice of every single one of us in the software industry to be part of either the ad-revenue generation business or that of ‘the agents of change’ in the world[2].

Thanks for reading. Please leave any thoughts/comments you might have.

[1] of open source technology specifically.
[2] Note that, I do not think these two things are mutually exclusive.

  1. lonetwin baba, where are you, never heard from you since a long time.
    do let me know when are you coming back to india.


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