Today I am going to discuss something I have been having on top of my mind for the past several weeks.
How do you show what distinguishes you from other creators?
We are code brave, we have all been taught how to code at school, bootcamp and Pluralsight tutorials. We learn very fast and code with a ton of unit tests. Our code looks beautiful and well-structured, and product managers love us for coding up their every whim (I certainly hope not!). We are all software businesswomen, and this should be enough, right? Is just knowing how to code and grok new technology enough to survive in this industry?
What if McDonalds and Masa, the most expensive restaurant in New York, served the same food and had the same atmosphere? Masa would be a ruin in a moment. Why would I ever pay $450 for a cheezeburger? Masa’s food is definitely tastier than that of McDonald’s but is it $450 tastier? No, Masa is all about the authentic food experience, where a world famous chef comes up to you after dessert and inquires about the well-being of your cats.
The same idea goes for developers. As software craftswomen, we create code, yes. But do we all provide the same value?
During my months at Microsoft, a huge software development company with a ton of brilliant creators who have been working here for decades, I am realizing that no, we definitely do not provide the same value. When you are a big fish in a small pond, you can get by with what you learned at school, your coding and speed of learning abilities. But how do you distinguish yourself in a place where more than half of the people can code?
You create. You learn something about yourself that you are truly passionate about, and you create, create, create. This is the reason why I spent the last few months learning how to code HoloLens without the actual device and participating in a Hackathon.
Okay, you have created a bunch of awesome products in your new company. Can you show your creations?
For most of us working in this industry, the answer is no. The bugs I have been fixing are buried far behind the IP’d layers of code, and the product has not been released to the public. Software development industry has driven itself into a rut where it does not allow great minds to shine. I am not sure why we did not take cue from other creative fields, like visual arts. Last week I went to San Diego Comic Con, part of which was Talent Search. Thousands of creative types from around the globe brought their portfolios with them to show the hiring managers in companies like Disney and Nickelodeon what they have done.
Can I do this with the work I have done in the last few companies (sans research at school)? No. So what do we do?
While the software industry is stuck protecting their IP behind metal doors, I urge you to create something new on your own terms. This will partially go completely against my previous argument that you should not code after work hours. But I am coming to a realization that you cannot show your value proposition otherwise. Create awesome projects, record a video showcasing them and start putting up together a portfolio. This is the only way. Did I mention the be Code Brave part? 😉