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Finding Underlying Motivations to Stay Resilient In Your Career

Published 6/22/2020

Aside from the fact that we're making a living being engineers, what is it that keeps us coming back into work every day? 

At some point in your career, the initial things that brought you into engineering will shift, and when those things change, what is left? 

What keeps you going? 

Today, we talk about what motivations drive us and how to keep our motivations relevant when the career changes.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
What is it about engineering that you love? What keeps you coming back to doing this as a career? That's what we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and my goal on this show is to help driven developers find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. And here's the reality. Every love is a strong word for this, but at the end of the day, we have a reason, a reason to continue being engineers. Sometimes that reason is simply inertia. In other words, you don't want to spend the amount of energy necessary to switch your career. And so it's easier to simply continue being an engineer. This is a way to get paid after all. And virtually no one would do this indefinitely, at least wouldn't do it full time indefinitely without getting paid. So setting aside the fact that most of us are making a living as engineers, what exactly keeps you coming back? Instead of going and doing something different, what is it that you enjoy about engineering? This is especially important. This episode is especially important for early career developers. People who have just started software engineering, maybe you're in your first junior job or even an internship. And you really love coding, something about writing code and then seeing whatever the result is of that code coming alive. And there's absolutely a cool factor that brought us a lot of us, at least, to the table here. We see things that we would like to build, we go and learn how to build them, and then we can build it. And it seems like the possibilities are relatively endless. It's also really interesting to be able to look at things that other people have built and dissect how they may have built it. So there's a lot of kind of intellectual puzzles that can be really enjoyable about this career. And specifically, the idea of being able to code. There is some level of social appreciation for software engineers more now, maybe than ever. And there is a sense of accomplishment when you learn how to code in a particular language. Now we're simplifying things drastically here. You don't ever stop learning, even as specific language you don't ever stop learning because there's new ways to express the same ideas. There's new ideas to express in old ways. And the world around your code continues to change. Computers are changing and user behavior is changing. And the landscape of businesses that run on software are changing. So you're never done learning a given language, but there is something really rewarding about learning how to code. So I'm going to ask you an even more challenging question because those rewards are relatively easy to see. But at some point in your career, the things that brought you to the table, those rewarding moments are going to fade. They'll fade because maybe you have to learn a new language to stay relevant or maybe all the problems that you used to solve, you can no longer get a job solving. And so you have to solve a new kind of problem. So when those things fade, what is left? This is a hard question. And the answer might be genuinely that you don't know or the answer may actually be nothing. At some point it may be that the things that brought you into this career fade and nothing is left. And so you decide to move on to a different career. So why are we talking about this? Why are we getting to this uncomfortable level of talking about what drives us? Well, I want you to peel back those layers and understand what specifically is underneath those motivations. Why is it that solving those particular kinds of problems is rewarding? It's not rewarding on its own. There is a reason why you specifically find it rewarding while someone else may not find it rewarding. What about your personality wants to be an engineer? For example, a reasonable and perhaps overly vulnerable answer is that you feel smart. You feel intellectually capable when you are able to write a particularly challenging routine or when you're able to debug a problem. Perhaps an even more vulnerable answer is that you like knowing things that your peers don't. You like being the person who knows more than the other people in your group of friends or even at work, maybe even in your family. I would say less vulnerable and more easily acceptable answer is that you enjoy making things come to life. You enjoy envisioning something and then doing the work, going through the steps of learning, the trial and error necessary to go from a vision to a reality. Not everybody shares that. And though it seems like a fundamental thing that most people share, not everybody wants to do that. A lot of people are okay and in fact completely fulfilled in simply coming in and working with other people. They're cooperating with other people and they're doing their job as it's been given to them to do. Another totally valid answer is that the people that you're working for, the job that you have, the company that you have as your employer, maybe your team, those people you really enjoy working with them. Perhaps you could do almost anything with that team and still be similarly fulfilled that it doesn't really have much to do with software engineering. Finally, it's also completely reasonable to say the reason that you're a software engineer is because it's one of the highest paid jobs that you are capable of doing. Whatever the reason is, it's important to try to uncover those underlying emotions, those underlying motivations and be honest with yourself about those so that as you run into these moments where your job is changing, maybe you get laid off or maybe you find out for some reason that you're no longer happy in a job that was once fulfilling. If you can dig up these underlying motivations, then perhaps you can diagnose why you're no longer happy in that job, right? Or whatever your next step should be. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea. Today's episode did not have a sponsor. So in lieu of a sponsor, I'd like to encourage you to go and subscribe in whatever podcasting app you're currently using to this podcast. Today's episode and every other episode can be found on spec.fm, along with other shows that are built specifically for you as a designer or developer looking to level up in your career. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. This episode was produced by Sarah Jackson. And until next time, enjoy your tea.