Pro Developer - Creating Your Dream Project

Creating Your Dream Project

Some guys have all the luck. You know the type. He's got a wide screen flat panel monitor on his desk that you could use for the screen at a drive in movie. The computer tucked under his expensive oak desk has more processing power than the WOPR out of the old War Games movie. And of course, let's not forget that this is all tucked away in a real office, with a door that even locks (no doubt for some very valid reasons). As if this weren't enough for those of us who live in Cubicle City, this guy is always in charge of the coolest projects in the shop, working with the latest and sexiest bleeding edge technology on the market. The sort of stuff that lesser mortals have to play with at home in their spare time, instead of sleeping. How is it that this guy is always so darned lucky, anyway?

The problem with most programmers is that they've lived a rather monochromatic life. Hammering away at a keyboard, basking in the glow of their monitors, these geeks are technical wizards and yet often know little of the outside world. If you really want to know why the Super Geek in our previous example is so lucky, you need to do something that most of us would never consider in our wildest dreams. You need to go have a couple of drinks with the guys in Marketing. Really. I'm serious. And no, I haven't started drinking already. Honest.

By now, I can see most of you in the back rows reaching for your slide rules and trying to do the math on just exactly how all of this fits together to somehow relate to your Dream Project. Particularly that last bit about Marketing. Well, much as I'd like to keep you in suspense just for the fun of it, here's the secret the folks in Marketing know that most techies just never grasp - if you don't ask, you don't get. No, this isn't one of those Zen-like statements that's so simple it's profound. In fact, it's the very model of practicality.

Your lucky friend, who's ushering you out of his plush office even as we speak so that he can close the door and talk to one of his girlfriends, didn't get all this cool stuff because the winds of fate just happened to blow in his direction. On the contrary, if you were a fly on the wall during a typical day, you'd find that he's the poster boy for self promotion. Every bit of the goodies he has came as a direct result of his either asking for them outright or preparing a context for management to come up with the idea on their own. You, on the other hand, have been slaving away working countless hours of unpaid overtime and expecting that one day management will magically recognize all your hard work and reward you for it. If you listen carefully as Mr. Lucky closes his office door, you'll hear him joking with his girlfriend about his suspicion that you probably believe in the Easter Bunny as well. Real life just don't work that way.

Are all of us lesser mortals doomed, relegated to a fate of doing the heavy lifting while someone else gets all the goodies? I think not. I don't know about you, but I hate to lose. And here's the key thought to remember - you can't win if you don't play. Tired of working 20 hour days maintaining someone else's nightmare code? Bored with using technologies that were popular when they landed the first man on the moon? Long to rekindle the excitement that you felt when you were constantly being challenged with new languages and Killer Apps? Then grab that cup of cappuccino, come with me, and for heaven's sake, put down that slide rule. People are watching.

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Christopher Duncan Christopher Duncan is President of Show Programming of Atlanta, Inc. and author of both the monthly syndicated column Pro Developer and the recent book for Apress, The Career Programmer: Guerilla T...

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