All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions. – Leonardo da Vinci

April 23, 2008

One thing that has recently become very apparent to me is that, in fact, people skills over any number of technical skills, are far more important in my career. This has become increasingly apparent as I have recently changed jobs, moving from a permanent position at a large “blue chip” (hate that description, like “red-brick” unis) to slide into the contracting field. It just suits my lifestyle at the moment, no mortgage, no women, no cry.

It seems as though I’m beginning to realise that appearing to be successful, is far more important than actually being successful, or being good at your job. In many ways this is a sad but true conclusion of the industry I seem to be operating in. Admittedly, job-hunting magnifies this fact by a factor of 10, because the cost and benefit to the employee and employer is at its highest.

I’d compare getting a job to a crisis situation, like escaping a burning building, crisis brings out the best and sometimes worst in people. Its also a huge PR exercise, selling yourself to someone. This is where it gets interesting, because, traditionally, the “alpha geek” developer, who is very good at their job, is in fact a terrible salesman, in fact all the developers I know shirk at the thought of the slimy salesguy/guyess. And (never start a sentence with And), herein the lesson lies.

You do actually have to turn into a salesguy to progress in your career. If you don’t you’re going to struggle.

The thing is humans, are clever, but inherently simple when it comes to processing information in short terms. So, in situations where you only have short terms, you have to exploit this. I dislike using the word exploit, but thats what it is, and this is where I’ve had my greatest struggles. I mean, I’d certainly not lie, or fabricate, or mislead, but I have had to learn that acting as though you are the greatest at what you do is the only way you’ll find success, especially, and notably, whilst you are still young, i.e <25. As credibility is inversely proportional to age, it shamefully appears sometimes.

The reason this has been such an epiphany for me is due to the fact that I know it is not in the nature of the stereotypical software developer to be like this, and I’ve noticed the change I’ve had to go through in order to be successful. I’m keen it doesn’t change me fundamentally, but Im also keen that I develop it further go help me get to where I want to be.

So, the old David James, software developer = quietly confident, bright, technically sound.

The new DJ = Experienced, leader, salesman.