You Dont Have To Be A Number

Do you feel like a number? Making a name for yourself in the software development community helps build street cred in the corporate world.

When you join the corporate world, you become a number. At least, that is what I heard - and believed. The game involves a lot of players and you need to play or quit while you are ahead.

What does it mean to be a number anyway? Is it someone who's opinions go unheard? Is it someone who completes boring tasks to get a paycheck at the end of the month? I don't know the answer to this.

I have opinions and ideas that I like sharing with others and skills that I can contribute to different areas in the software development life cycle. I don't want to settle. I want to contribute.

When I joined a corporate I found it overwhelming. There's a lot of people, technologies, integration points, business rules, data and processes. I found it daunting. How can you avoid to be a number in this corporate ocean?

Create your identity

Let me throw names out there: Jeff Atwood, Scott Hanselman, John Sonmez, Jon Skeet, Kent Beck, Iris Classon, Lea Verou and Robert MacLean.

These people are a small fraction in the global software development community and are sometimes seen as celebrities. They take the time to share their findings with others consistently. They blog, tweet, speak at events, write books and get involved in the development community. They have created an online identity - or brand - for themselves.

Imagine if you were a software celebrity starting at a corporate. You would already be well known in the community so your identity would be rock solid.

I tried blogging in my career. I had five separate blogs with a mixture of content that never gain traction. I probably posted under 10 posts in total. I wasn't consistent or focused. I failed dismally but have learned from my mistakes.

At the time of writing, John Sonmez at simpleprogrammer.com is giving a free 3 week e-mail course to boost your software development career. The insights and tips provided here are a sure way to create your own identity.

Build relationships

You are going to be working with a lot of different types of people. Roles seem to play a big part in the corporate game although I still find these lines blurry. Dependencies can be like a large spider web and not everyone is aware of the bigger picture. It often feels like trying to find a gold needle in a tower of silver needles - painful and almost impossible.

It's important to start speaking to the right people. With time and some personal investment you can start building relationships in all parts of the organization. Figure out what people do and why they are doing it. If you are friendly and helpful, people treat you the same way.

This is not some way of social engineering people to do what you need them to do. This is about working with people and learning from them.

Sketch the bigger picture

If you stay confined to your immediate environment you have little exposure. As you start building your relationships and understand what and why it's getting done, you get exposure to the bigger picture.

When something goes wrong with a dependency our team uses, I go to that team, show them the problem and work with them to help solve it. This gets easier the more I learn about the company and its people who make it a success.

My final thoughts

If you consider joining a corporate and think you will be a number, remember that you have control. If you want to be a number, you will be. If you don't, get out of your comfort zone and start talking. Build your identity and relationships. You learn so much by talking to other people and corporates tend to have a lot of them.