Find Your Inspiration and Start Coding
Technologists have the power to impact nearly everyone’s lives. The problem is, it’s not always easy to relate to those unfamiliar with or living outside the realm of technology, but it is important to try.
As a kid, I would spend most of my days playing video games, not really caring what anyone else was doing or what was going on in the world around me. In addition to being a sort of lackluster way to live, this lifestyle also prevented me from getting exposure to an entire world of problems (not necessarily a bad thing), which in turn prevented me from ever getting inspired to solve said problems (<- bad thing). Luckily, my time at college led me into a complete lifestyle overhaul. Now I am both more aware of, and more capable of solving, a multitude of problems, and can shift my focus to getting out there and getting inspiration.
Being in software engineering though, I’ve noticed that many of the engineers I know tend to focus their efforts within their field of study. There is certainly something to be said for becoming a master of a single trade, and I’m always happy to use the latest software contributions, but it’s also too easy to get stuck in a singular way of thinking. Software engineers make up only about 1% of the world’s population, and there are a lot of areas outside of software that could use a little technological innovation. It just takes a little outside inspiration. What activities have you participated in recently that you thought could use improvement? What conversations have you had lately with people who could use a little more technology in their life?
Maybe take a cross-country train ride to find your inspiration. You’ll meet a lot of interesting new people (unless you try really hard to avoid everyone for days), and see a lot of interesting new places. In a plane, you’re separated from the places you’re flying over, as well as from the other passengers (with the exception of the snoring fat guy next to you).
At Edmunds.com, developers can get the opportunity to do ride-alongs with salespeople or dealers, giving them exposure to a part of the business that they otherwise may not have known about. It’s good practice in general to know the full pipeline in which you work, as it may prompt you to make smart choices on existing projects due to your new understanding your company’s clients. In addition though (and perhaps more importantly), the experience may get you thinking outside the box to come up with an entirely new product your company hadn’t yet considered.
Maybe you’d rather dig a little deeper into the idea space, and do something most engineers might not do, spend a week with a farmer, in a program such as WWOOF. You may be surprised at the opportunities you see to make an impact, not to mention it would be a welcome break from sitting at a desk watching your muscles atrophy all day.
Perhaps you’re not the entrepreneurial type, you’re just looking for inspiration in your current job. I find inspiration from Rodney Mullen, skater turned Silicon Valley spokesperson. He was discovered by technologists during an interview about skating, and was convinced to make a TEDx presentation linking skating and technology. He presented on the similarities between hacking and skating, and has continued to speak on the subject since, including talks about embracing failure, and the impact of skate inventions on American culture.
The moral of the story is, don’t get so caught up in the day-to-day of your own world. There are lessons to be learned from all walks of life, whether those lessons are technological or personal. Find a company with ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) or equivalent to work for. Take the opportunities it provides to work remotely (ie. while riding a train), take time off to work on a farm, or attend a tech talk from a person in an unrelated field.
Find your inspiration. Get out there.
Matthew Nease was hired by Edmunds.com straight out of UC Irvine, where he graduated in Computer Science and Engineering. He is currently working on the advertising technology team to automate and optimize our SEM campaign spending. He keeps an active lifestyle, primarily through sports (bubble soccer, volleyball, football, tennis, disc golf) and dancing (swing, country line dancing, salsa). He also enjoys board games, spending time with family, and just about any other activity you can think of.