Alex Chiri's Blog

Professional Software Developer

While my mind was going to random places, it brought into focus that this activity I was spending my days (and sometimes nights) on has not been around for that much time, maybe a few tens of years?

And is it a profession? Am I a "professional"?

While it seems that something being a profession is more of a technicality than anything else, being a professional is a bit more complicated and might have something more interesting to look into.

These thoughts were not coming at this time out of complete vacuum. No, quite the opposite. I was reading Seth Godin's new book called The Practice. He talks in it about the difference between a professional, an amateur and a hack. Before I go any further, I will try to define these categories of people, based on the content of the book:

The professional always sticks to their commitments, even if they feel like it or not. They stick to their practice. Day by day they show up and deliver. While goals are important, they don't forget that being sensitive and empathic to what happens around them and keeping at bay the urge to control outcomes are important features of their craft.

The amateur shows up and does what they feel like it, when they feel like it. They are not consistent in their approach and in the results they deliver. Luck plays an important role in their perception of their approach. Amateurs can at first act as professionals, but they lack commitment and are prone to lose their way.

The hack does not care how the goal given to them is achieved and how the approach fits in the bigger picture, but they do deliver. Also not consistent in their approach, but you can rely that they will take the shortest path to achieve their goals, one way or the other.

I can imagine most of us like to see ourselves as professionals in whatever we are doing. But are we, really?

And does it matter? I think it does. Maybe on a short term the difference between the impact of the three categories is not great, but the focus should be on the long term. And honestly, there are situations when you'd be better off with a hack, but after that someone needs to clean up and put things into perspective.