A programmer should focus his creative talent on finding an elegant solution to the business problem he s addressing, not to fussing around with computer code. This takes more time and mental effort than journeyman programmers are willing to expend: Most programmers stop at a basic solution. But superior programmers keep turning the problem over in their mind, wondering, Can I come up with a better solution? They are like writers refining their prose , like artists painting the scene over and over, to make it better. And this is necessary when you re dealing with a complex job like automating a warehouse with a sophisticated system to pick full cases. Basic solutions won t work for big, mission-critical jobs.
Whenever I write new code, I am an inventor ”I create a unique programming solution. No other programmer will handle the parameters and constraints of the job as I will; no one else will take the steps I take to implement the application. This ”finding an elegant solution to a business problem ”is creative work, and doing it well has buoyed me over a career lifetime.
Sometimes the job is unmistakably important (like, say, keeping planes from colliding , or running a bank s ATM machines, or guiding the computers used in surgery). Even less glamorous projects, though, are brain-challengers, and there is satisfaction in creating a smoothly running operation that does something useful. Thirty-five years ago, I automated the fabric-cutting operation of an apparel company. My job was to do a much better and faster job than the six experienced cut planners could do ”and greatly improve the company s capacity to estimate fabric and cutting labor costs precisely. It was a not a glamorous job like keeping an airplane flying, but there was a reward in doing it well. That program cost perhaps $10,000 to write, but it saved the company millions of dollars as it planned and optimized the utilization of expensive men s suiting fabric and cutting-room labor in the cutting of millions of suits . Apparently, no one was able to improve upon this tightly written code, because that program ran for twenty-five years, until the company went out of business.
There are many multi-million-dollar programming projects waiting to be discovered by corporate programmers who will ride those opportunities to glory . Go after those projects; don t waste your corporate career as a bit-twiddler. Inventing complex ways to perform a simple task and turning routine code into a showcase for your inventiveness will bring you no reward except the label unproductive techie.