The Craftsman vs The Passion-Driven Programmer – Two Roads to Success in IT

Piotr Groza Piotr Groza • Aug 01
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Apart from the obvious technical requirements, job offers will more and more frequently contain less measurable criteria. One of these is being passionate about programming. But does a good programmer really need to have passion? Should they put all their heart and time into what they are doing? Or is it simply enough to be a good craftsman who does their job correctly? This is an important aspect that will often raise emotions and is clearly not a black and white case. Hence, we decided to share a few thoughts on the matter.

But what does “passionate” even mean?

Fascinated, fervent, enthusiastic, even fanatical – these are some of the synonyms you will find in a thesaurus. Passionate about programming fits in extremely well with this string of connotations.

The truth is that those with passion have it easier. They live in the world of their hobby and they live off their hobby. Is there anything better than being paid good money for what you really love doing? You don’t need any in-depth study to conclude that only a fraction of society can afford such a luxury. People with passion are welcome in any team because their enthusiasm is contagious and they inspire others, are up-to-date with the latest innovations and are always one step ahead. For them, neither learning nor performing assigned tasks is a chore. They are happy to develop their skills and do their job which greatly influences their efficiency. And finally, it is them who usually set the pace of the industry, are responsible for its development and new technologies.

Software Engineers - development team

But the truth is that people with passion will have a harder life. When programming, they feel satisfied, but they can lose themselves completely in code. Both on the internet and among friends you will hear many stories of being in front of the computer for 14 hours straight, day in day out, and the disastrous results of such marathons. No time for family, health issues and times when even the mere sight of code makes you sick – too many programmers have experienced the dark side of their passion. Sometimes these ardent enthusiasts of coding will pressure others to be just as committed to work as they are, which will have negative impact on the entire team.

And who is a craftsman?

In terms of programming, craft relates to aptitude, the mastery of technology and its effective use while working on projects.

IT is a very absorbent and attractive industry. That is why it attracts a lot of people who are not passionate about programming but simply wish to find a good job. And as long as they carry their tasks out correctly, there is nothing to complain about such an attitude. A good employee is someone who does their job according to requirements and arrangements. There is nothing wrong with a good programmer coming to office, doing what they are asked to do and leaving after 8 hours of work. Professional experience gathered over numerous years is priceless and such experience is not exclusive to people with passion.

So does only being a professional developer have any drawbacks? One challenge is the need to constantly broaden one’s knowledge. You cannot teach yourself programming in a single attempt which is why learning in this profession is just as important as practice. A coding craftsman will most likely stick to learning only what is needed rather than doing anything beyond the programme. The difficult part of such an approach to programming is the higher risk of experiencing burnout. The industry sets high requirements and has a plethora of problems to solve but we all get the same amount of time to do it. If you cannot distance yourself from existing barriers and there is nothing else to keep you going, you may experience this problem sooner than later.

Do you need to be passionate?

You may be surprised to learn that people with passion constitute only 20% of all programmers. Yes – only one in five developers love what they do for work and will enthusiastically devote long hours of their time to coding. But isn’t this true for any other profession? Not all drivers are car lovers and not all accountants zealously search the web for any tax-related news. This does not mean that they are bad employees.

If you don’t have the passion now than you will probably not develop it in the future. Remember though: it is not required to do your job correctly. A lot of companies will not require their employees to be completely devoted to what they do for work. They require their employees to simply be professional. So what is more important? Firstly, persistence, commitment and work ethics. Programming can be frustrating and problem solving can be extremely time-consuming – this is true for any programmer. To cope with this you do not need passion but perseverance and the desire to find solutions.

Is it possible to judge, who has the upper hand? You can’t… and you don’t need to. There is still a lot of code to be written and a lot of room in IT to be filled. If you love programming – good for you. If you don’t – no worries! Provided you like what you do at least a little bit, with the correct attitude you should do just fine!

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