Monday, January 26, 2009

What's My Purpose?

No, not as a person. I kind of know that one; father, husband, son, etc.

I'm talking about my chosen career.

Software Developer, Database Developer, DBA, however it is that I am defined professionally.

What is my purpose as one of those?

I bring this up because I had a great conversation with a friend over the weekend. In discussing all things geeky, he said, "My job is to eliminate the need for me."

That's a paraphrase of course because I believe beer was involved during this discussion.

I about jumped out of my seat though. I had never heard anyone (to my knowledge or memory anyway, though my old boss may jump in and remind me) utter those words. I have uttered those words (but not to my wife apparently, as I called her almost immediately) before. I have said them in interviews, in discussions...but never here.

"My job is to eliminate the need for me."


I strive for build a system that requires virtually no support. I am nowhere close, but I strive for it.

What other role do we serve but a support role (unless we sell software)? IT in just about every instance is a cost center right? We are there to support the business side of the house do their job more effectively and more efficiently. Nothing more, nothing less.

We aren't there to build systems that will require constant care. We aren't there to ensure we have a job in the future. We're hired to build the best application possible and get out of the way.

Of course, there are many factors in our way for doing so. Poor business requirements is probably the number 1 reason. If the business can't describe how can we build it?

The upside of eliminating the need for us is we can move on after a couple of years. We can demand more money up front as they won't need us for 5 or 10 years (still don't know how to sell that one). The idea remains the same though...

So then, how do we build software that will obviate the need for us? I still don't know...but if you do, feel free to comment.


Narendra said...

Oh My God...
How dare you write such post in current environment?
(Just kidding...:)
Although I want to agree with you very much on this, I am certainly not in a position to afford to do so. Hey, I am getting out of a project and don't know what, if anything, is there next.

oraclenerd said...

There aren't many of us that ARE in the position to afford this right now...I know that a bit too intimately!

That's part of it though, if you are able to do this you will be rewarded in your next gig (nerd karma?). I do believe, I'm fortunate to have not reached that pinnacle yet, so I've got plenty of work left in me.


Kris said...

you are thinking too much!

Unknown said...

OK, there's a really hokey-sounding motivational quote that goes along with this perfectly. I just looked it's very true but way too hokey for my taste. So I'll spare us all :-)
But yeah, I totally agree with this. I've always said the same thing, just a little differently: "My job is to make myself obsolete.".
In my experience prospective employers and working colleagues generally don't really care what my philosophy is. They just want me to do my job and not mouth off (I'm still working on achieving this level of professionalism...the not mouthing off part is tough, you know?).
However it is important for us to know for ourselves what we ourselves think and what our own philosophy is. Absolutely. Who wants to be an undefined blob? Define yourself young man!! haha.
Anyway, yeah, oh wait I just though of a not-so-hokey quote: "When you're green you're growin'. When you're ripe you're rotten."
Man I want to be movin' on all the time you know? I don't want to be hangin out at some place with my butt sprouting roots that grow into my chair. Freakin-A. Please tell me I'm going somewhere other than where I am!! Oh my god...I'm getting depressed just thinking about it.
I'm getting a little dramatic here but you have to admit I have a point, no?
If all I'm doing is "maintaining" a system, I consider myself an idiot. A bespectacled moron. Somebody my boss is always looking for a reason to get rid of. Why can't I create a system that doesn't need me to babysit it? What am I a data-bit-byte-electron-nanny? If so, I need a new career and I don't care what the pay is.
Why would I ever accept such a destiny for myself?
Here's another spur of the moment adage: "Don't think about what the world needs you to do. Think about what lights you on fire. The world needs people that are on fire about something."
A half-dead-glazed-eye cod? Not for me.
I'll keep my self-respect and take the smaller paycheck, thank you very much.

Unknown said...

OK, I forgot a couple important points (it happens when I rant):
1) I actually do wear glasses so the potential for me to be a "bespectacled moron" is by default a minimum of 50%.
2) I have created several systems, none of which were maintenance-free.
Yeah, so that whole mouthing-off-rant there was a statement of philosophy, which we all know differs from reality pretty much all the time by a large margin.
Hence the "always moving on".
I guess I could say I believe that when a person's philosophy matches their reality...then that person is in danger of sprouting roots.
Be on offense - even when you're doing defense, if only in your mind.

oraclenerd said...

Love your comments here Mike. Please keep it up.

Yeah, employers don't necessarily care about your philosophy. I would agree for the most part. I guess the goal is to find an employer who would care. But then were probably highly paid consultants right? Hopefully!

As far as keeping your mouth shut, I suffer from the same problem. My wife tells me to keep it shut. My coworkers wish I would keep it shut. Life is short though...I prefer the passionate ones, even if I violently disagree with them. ;)

Anonymous said...

For those that claim they cannot afford to operate in this fashion, one must understand that by gaining such a reputation, one becomes more valuable to an organization, usually resulting in significantly greater compensation.

One also gains a reputation in the community that spreads as people leave the company and move elsewhere, giving you more opportunities than you otherwise would have, if something should happen..

How can you afford not to?

oraclenerd said...


I agree. Thanks for phrasing it that way.

If it were 30 years ago, your reputation doesn't really matter outside your company. But now, how can you not afford to maintain it?

Your reputation is really all that you have. Pet it, groom it, feed it...just take care of it.