I worked as a software developer for many years before launching my own business, and I constantly found myself feeling underappreciated at work. Not out of a sense of entitlement, but from what I later learned was a lack of alignment.
Most software developers get into this business to build things that real people will use, that will make a difference in their lives. I was eager to implement cutting-edge technologies and create the best apps on the market, but even when I was putting in extra hours every day or working weekends to produce great software, it seemed to go unnoticed. I watched countless other developers go through the same thing.
I wrote this beautiful code! Doesn’t anyone like it? See how great it works!
I knew the code I was writing was solid, above expectations even. So why did it feel like no one cared?
Now that I work on the ‘non-technical’ side of the business I realize it wasn’t that no one cared about me or my work. I was missing a key understanding in how my work impacted the greater business.
The thing I was missing was alignment. Once I understood that, my perspective and my work improved dramatically. And I was recognized for it.
It’s not enough to be a great coder. Your work needs to be aligned with your project’s goals.
Individual efforts in the wrong direction don’t help get a plan where it needs to go. You can even cause more harm than good if, for example, you’re wasting hundreds of development hours building the perfect algorithm for a proof-of-concept product. In the end, your work is just going to get thrown away to build the real thing, and in the meantime you’ve blown up the project budget and slowed down a critical go-to-market timeline.
The good news is that alignment can be simple to achieve. You just need to understand why a project started and where it’s supposed to go.
Software projects start with a sale. A CEO may have sold an investor on giving them money for a new app, or maybe it started when a lead engineer sold a CEO on investing in new infrastructure. Whatever the origin story, understanding why your project was approved and its end goals will help reframe your perspective and clarify your development roadmap.
You’ll also find that your day to day decisions become easier when your work is aligned with your project goals. Should I spend more time on this feature? Ask yourself whether it’s critical to achieving the project goals. How should we prioritize requests for new features? Again, go back to the project’s original purpose and decide which ones are most critical to the end goal.
Once you’ve aligned your work with your project goals, I promise you’ll feel more effective…because you will actually be more effective. You’ll add more value to every project you join, and you’ll be producing great work that matters.