Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What You Work on Is More Important Than How Hard You Work

This morning I opened a work-item with a vague description of the work to be done. Since I don't know much about this particular project, I immediately went over to see my boss who has extensive knowledge of the system, just to get a head start on understanding the basics of how to approach the problem. He looked at the ticket and the related code, and said the requirement was actually different than stated, and that I should update a regex statement in the code to resolve the problem (and add some extra tests too).

I got to work immediately.

The regex statement change was not nearly as straightforward as I would have expected, and within an hour, I realized that the only reliable approach I could conceive-of was to modify the code, not the Regex. So, I wrote code instead of the Regex and made quite an elegant and extensible solution to the set of problems to which my work-item belongs. Still, I was feeling bad that I couldn't fix it with only a Regex change, but at the end of the day I sent my boss a PR so he could look at my solution and added some notes about wishing I could have done it the way he envisioned.

My boss came over almost immediately.

It turns out that he saw my solution and immediately realized that the requirement in the work-item was simply dumb, and that we shouldn't allow the users to do what the ticket was asking for.

Sigh.

Yet another instance of "What you work on is more important than how hard you work.", an idea which comes up a lot these days.

To abstract this idea a bit, you see people, smart ones too, who chose the wrong career and work harder than I do at their profession, and yet they make far less. What mattered most from the beginning was what they chose to do with themselves. Had they known the right thing to work on, they could have far surpassed me by now.

Working on the right thing is the primary concern, so if you can manage it, do that instead. If not, sometimes you can still earn a paycheck while occasionally making elegantly-written throw-away code.

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