Three developer super powers you may not realise that you have

If you’re reading this, then I assume you do software development of some sort. You write code. You “make sand think” as I heard someone describe it.

If you write code then I believe you have some super powers. You may not know it. Or you may not believe it. But I know it, and I want you to believe it about yourself.

Because it’s easy to beat ourselves up as developers. We fail a lot. We have to learn new things every day. And we often see those who are excelling posting their success on social media, making us feel like we are imposters.

But we’re not imposters. Many look at us and think that we are doing magic.

Here’s my manifesto; my creed; my decree: If you write software, then you have three incredible traits:

  1. You are creative!
  2. You are curious!
  3. You – yes you – are extraordinary!

You are creative

The word “creative” is so often used to refer exclusively to visual arts or handicrafts. But creativity is SO much broader.

Creativity is how you make and invent and solve problems. It’s being brave enough to both throw away something that doesn’t work, and to risk showing what you have made to others.

We are all making things all day long. But I’m willing to bet that when you sit down (or stand up) to code you are engaging in tricky problem solving; or preparing to publish your work for the world to see; or thinking up a new way to achieve what you have been asked.

Even if you’re copying and pasting from Stack Overflow, or using GitHub CoPilot’s AI to help, you are still combining existing things to make something new. That’s creative too. That’s most creativity, in fact.

I bet that you are, actually, a ridiculously creative person who makes multiple new things every day that you work with code. You maybe just haven’t realised it yet.

That shell script you wrote was creative. That API endpoint you created was creative. That test case you added was creative. Even that mundane list of routes you made was creative. We are building the internet every single day. It might not feel like it, but every line of code has power to do something new.

So I’m here to tell you: You are creative! And it’s your first developer super power.

You are curious

PHP is moving fast. The web is moving fast. Tooling is moving fast. Servers and serverless technology are moving fast. I know, it’s a struggle to keep up sometimes.

But you want to keep up, right? Even just a little bit? There’s always something a little more to learn?

That’s because you have the power of curiosity!

I actually love the double-meaning of the word “curious”. I think it sums a lot of us up. It can both mean:

1) Inquisitive: Not content with what you already know. Maybe not even content with the status quo. You want to make things better. To learn that new technology or design pattern. To figure out how that thing can be quicker or better. Or what your manager actually wants when he asks for that extra column in the database, because maybe there’s a better way.

2) Strange: More on this below, but as coders we are all unique. Maybe you’ve embraced your geekiness. Or maybe you shun it. But we’re all interested in the machines that we work with, usually in a way that the general population aren’t. And that’s awesome, because in their eyes we are spell-casting.

Curiosity is how you embrace the world. Accepting its – and your own – strangeness; and at the same time, relentlessly questioning that strangeness.

If you have come to be coding then you have asked a thousand “how” and “why” questions. Every bug is a quest. Every Google search an opportunity to learn and grow.

You are curious – in both senses. It’s an amazing thing. Stay like it!

You are extraordinary

Extraordinaryness is almost certainly a part of how you are. Like with curiosity’s “strangeness” there is something about you that makes you interested in these boxes of electricity that can seemingly think, and in figuring out how to make them think.

Please take this the right way: You are not normal. Disassemble the word: “extra-ordinary” – literally outside, or beyond ordinary.

It may be a bind to be the person that always sets up the computer/mobile when you visit the parents/grandparents, or that gets your friend’s stupid printer working – again!

But they ask you to do these things because YOU CAN!

Understanding the foibles and quirks of these complex devices as well as you do puts you in, what, the 1%? I don’t know the number. But it’s WAY smaller than you think it is.

It’s possible that you live in a bubble of other people doing similar work and feel like everyone you know is a programmer. That imposter feeling probably creeps up on you frequently as a result. But know this: your ability to program is just unfathomable to most people.

And that’s because you are extra-ordinary, and you can do extraordinary things.

With great power…

So you are creative.
You are curious.
And you are extraordinary.

You’re amazing! Seriously, I’m pretty sure if you’re reading this then you have these powers – and powers they are.

You can make things. You can publish to the world. Your work can potentially effect change in business, society, politics, publishing, and more.

You know the cliché: With great power comes great responsibility. Wield your powers with care. They can harm as well as help.

I encourage you to code with generosity and kindness. To make the world better with what you do. Using that curiosity to question if we’re heading in the right direction, and, if not, hopefully being strong enough in the extraordinary person that you are to try to change that direction.

With that in mind: while we share these powers – I think… I hope! – we are also uniquely creative, curious and extraordinary. There is not another person in the world with the same traits, skills, experiences, successes, failures, knowledge and talents that you have.

You are uniquely equipped to be who you are and do what you do.

Isn’t that incredible?!

Now go forth, creative, curious, extraordinary person, into the world, and make good things!!