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This chapter is from the book

Follow Your Bliss

Software is one of the few professions that allows its practitioners to come to work and dream, solve puzzles, surf the Internet, and then collect a handsome paycheck at the end of the day. Whether you're writing your very first "Hello world" program in a new computer language or putting the finishing touches on a new cloud computing infrastructure for your corporate data center, every programmer has enjoyed the remarkable sensation of seeing technology spring to life when their software runs for the first time. Not only is software fun, but having fun in software is a catalyst for a successful career. It was striking to me how often this theme came up in the interviews for this book. Almost everyone I interviewed commented on the importance of finding enjoyable work. If all the gurus seemed to agree on one piece of advice, this was it. Check out the consistency across these statements:

  • "If you are entering the field, find something that you really love doing and get excited about doing, so that you almost feel as if you should be paying them to come to work. I think you need to be happy to be successful, not successful to be happy."
  • —David Vaskevitch, Microsoft CTO
  • "Be sure that you like what you do at work and that you like the people you work with—you'll have to live with them for a long time."
  • —Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of C++
  • "The more you can merge what you want to do with your job, the better."
  • —Steve Wozniak, inventor of the Apple computer
  • "One piece of advice I would give people is to always make sure you're in an environment that leaves you feeling empowered to fully use your talents, and that you feel appreciated for the work you do."
  • —Diane Greene, co-founder and past CEO of VMware
  • "I believe that I just work better if I enjoy what I'm doing. I suspect that if anybody wants to be 'the best' at whatever they do, they have to realize that it takes decades of hard work. And the main way to actually keep doing decades of hard work is to simply enjoy it so much that you don't want to stop."
  • —Linus Torvalds, original author of GNU/Linux
  • "...if you can find a job that you really like, the better you're gonna be. You're gonna be more productive. You're going to be happier. You're going to be more satisfied in general with what's going on."
  • —Ray Tomlinson, inventor of email
  • "Follow your bliss."
  • —Jon Bentley, author of Programming Pearls
  • "For me, work is really enjoyable, making it hard to define where work ends and fun begins."
  • —Marissa Mayer, Google VP
  • "That's what's great—my career is a lot of fun. I don't view it as work. Computers have always been my hobby. The fact that I get to go to work and work on my hobby and get paid for it is just fantastic."
  • —Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Technical Fellow
  • "What is really important is to make sure that they are growing, contributing, and enjoying what they do."
  • —John Schwarz, CEO Business Objects
  • "My number one piece of advice is to have fun."
  • —James Gosling, inventor of Java, Sun VP and Fellow
  • "...follow your passion. Most of all, be sure you have fun in the process."
  • —Grady Booch, IBM Fellow
  • "Any career is a marathon race, not a sprint. For it to be rewarding over years and decades, it has to be something you like to do. As you consider career decisions, listen to your heart as well as your head. Your head will tell you how to succeed in a traditional sense. Your heart will tell you what fulfills you, what you find fun. Here is a simple metric: Ask yourself how fast the time passes at work. If you "lose yourself" in your work—that is, if time passes quickly—that is a powerful, positive message."
  • —Tom Malloy, Chief Software Architect for Adobe Systems

Having fun is critical to career success in any profession; those of us in software are fortunate to be in a place where having fun is easy. When you're having fun, you'll work with more enthusiasm and more energy, and you'll get more done. The natural frustrations of professional life will slide past you, paled by the enthusiasm and excitement of your work. As Grady Booch told me in my interview with him, "I can't think of any other industry that has impacted every other business in the way that we as humans and civilizations connect. What a cool business to be in."

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