Friday, September 25, 2009

Work to make a company successful, or work for a successful company?

Once in a while, I think we all find some statement we read somewhere, while doing something, that sticks with us. I have *definitely* found that to be true very recently, mostly because it puts into words a concept that has rolled around in my head for quite some time.

First, some background .... If you read my blog, then you know that I have been known to rant, at times. Really, I try not to, but it happens. Sometimes, it is just that I want *so badly* for others to change, and I have a hard time understanding why people don't just *do* things the best way, all the time. Often, when I find others to talk through the issues I am encountering, they ask me questions like "Why do you still work for that place! It's hopeless!" (Sometimes, I believe it is, and I leave, as I did in 2008.)

Sometimes, however, I stick around for a while, and I have a hard time explaining why. And then, recently, I saw a sentence that resonated with me.

Twitter was all abuzz recently with responses to Joel Spolsky's recent blog about "The Duct Tape Programmer". He quotes Jamie Zawinski, and Elisabeth Hendrickson (@testobsessed) pulled out Zawinski's resignation letter from AOL.

This one quote resonated with me, and continued bouncing around in my head:
" can divide our industry into two kinds of people: those who want to go work for a company to make it successful, and those who want to go work for a successful company."

It rolled around in my head for a few days .... Did I agree? Did I think that people could generally be so easily divided up into just those 2 groups? Probably not quite *that* easily, but for many people that I have encountered in my career, I could place most of them into one of those pretty quickly.

For a while, I have described these groups in the following way: people either seem to come to work because it's a job, and they do their job, and that's it, OR they seem to be really passionate about *what* they do, and are constantly striving to make things better. I fall into the latter of those 2 categories. I most certainly do what I love and love what I do.

But Jamie's sentence looked at things from just a slightly different point of view, and after thinking about it for a bit, I believe, describes *me* just a little bit better. I have *always* wanted to work to make things great, and not so much wanted to work for/with/on things that were *already* great.

This can be applied to many aspects of my life. I was the single mom who put herself through college, working full-time and taking full-time classes in CompSci. I am the vocal advocate of a high functioning autistic child who wrote to the local newspapers when the school district was failing at its job. I chose to bring a Siberian Husky into my home (this sounds silly, but Husky owners will tell you .... WOW).


That's it, that's me. That's why I like testing over development. I have said for years that developers have to find one way to solve a problem and testers have to find ALL ways to un-solve the problem. Testing gives me the challenge of being creative, being technical, being analytical, speaking in at least 2 different languages, juggling an obscene number of balls in the air and being squeezed and sometimes disrespected along the way. But, it's a challenge, and I like a challenge.

In the same way, companies that are struggling, companies that don't "get it", and have fallen into the proven patterns that destroy great ideas, are a CHALLENGE. They are high-risk, for sure, and sometimes they offer little reward other than knowing I am doing my best, but *if* I can affect change, *if* I can help, the reward is incredible.

I believe that for "successful" companies (I place "successful" in quotes because this is a relative term .... for me, in this context, it is mostly about doing things the best way possible), I would personally gain little reward because there would not be *enough* of a challenge.

I wonder, then ... how many other great testers that I know are like-minded? Do other people enjoy testing because they enjoy a challenge? Would they generally choose to work to make a company successful, or choose to work for a successful company?