Be kind

Dear new developer,

Kindness is an unsung virtue for software development. I touched on it in this post on empathy, but wanted to emphasize it again.

Practice kindness. When I was young, I thought scoring points and being right were important. They are, but being kind and a good human is even more important.

Be kind to your teammates

They are working with you to try to solve problems. They bring different experiences and perspectives. Value those. Assume positive intent. Yes, there may be the occasional toxic person, but in my career the vast majority of my co-workers wanted to do good work and help our customers.

Be kind to them by listening to them, trying to understand and incorporate their perspectives, and honoring your commitments to them.

Be kind to your users

Making software is an excellent career for many reasons. One of the best parts of my career has been building tools that help others do their jobs or live their lives more easily. To do so requires understanding of their problems, empathy for their constraints, and a vision for how to improve both.

Be kind to them by listening to them, especially when they talk about their problems. Understand that what you do is magic.

(Think of a highly focused discipline that you aren’t familiar with. I’m not a car person, and I still think that the fact that you can turn a car and have the tires go different distances without impacting the overall vehicle speed is pretty magical. This is similar to what users think about developers.)

Use your powers for good.

Be kind to your friends and family

As much fun as coding is, don’t disappear into it entirely. Spend time with friends and family. Forge those bonds.

I promise you in five years you won’t remember the precise problem you were solving today, but the friendship and family bonds you foster will sustain you.

Be kind to them by spending time with them.

Oh, and when you do, don’t talk shop. That gets pretty boring pretty quick.

Be kind to yourself

I read another tweet about a developer being burnt out and quitting the industry recently. It made me sad, because I think I could write software until my 80s. Not full time, but man can it be fun. It can also be horrendous. The environment matters, but so does setting and enforcing boundaries. Make sure you do so.

Be kind to yourself by taking regular vacations, setting and clearly communicating boundaries, and celebrating your wins at least as much, if not more, than your failures.

If you wouldn’t say something to a close friend in the same situation, don’t say it to yourself.

In conclusion, be kind.

Sincerely,

Dan