Cool Projects

A year and a half ago, my friend recommended me to watch the TV show “Silicon Valley.” I was aware of the show’s existence but had not found the time to check it out. My friend pitched the show as funny, parodying tech industry and having the main character looking and having mannerisms similar to mine. I accepted two of those three statements.

I’ve started watching the show and found my friend’s recommendation to be accurate. “Silicon Valley” was funny. It accurately parodied the tech industry. And it did have the main character, whose traits I found eerily familiar. Three out of three!

Richard: It says here on your resume that from 2010 to 2011 you “crushed it”?
Applicant: That’s actually an old resume. It should also read that I crushed it from 2013 to present.
Silicon Valley Season 2: Episode #4 Clip.

I feel that today, “Silicon Valley” is less and less of a parody. Crazier things happening in real life than in the show.

There’s another TV show I love from my childhood. Dragon Ball Z. I loved this anime series. I still watch TeamFourStar’s parody series “Dragon Ball Z Abridged.”

I never imagined that Dragon Ball would be used to recruit developers.

A couple of weeks ago, peculiar billboards started appearing across Vilnius. They often seem to appear close to offices of tech companies. Odd. Those advertisements feature a young male going Super Saiyan, gadgets flying around him and an invitation to work on cool projects and “Level Up.” For the uninitiated, Super Saiyan is a transformation in Dragon Ball Z that makes characters stronger.

I can only wonder what Akira Toriyama and Toei Animation would think about the likeness of their characters used to recruit. It might fall under “Fair Use.” I don’t find it tasteful either way.

These billboards primary feel wrong to me, because we, the technology industry, have dug ourselves a hole. We continue digging instead of trying to climb out.

GitHub, Twitter, and Hacker News are filled with new libraries, shiny tools, and cool frameworks. Much of it is engineering for engineering’s sake. Everyone is obsessed with new, shiny and cool. Resistance is futile. All of them must be tried and learn. Still talking about containers and serverless? That’s soooo 2016. Cryptocurrencies are where it’s at. In 2017, if you don’t use cryptocurrencies for something, you’re behind the curve.

A week ago, Hacker News frontpage featured a post named “Is Ruby on Rails still worth it?”. Someone seriously asking this question boggles my mind. Ruby on Rails is a perfectly good framework, used by many worldwide. I can only assume that it’s too boring for some.

Words like ninja, guru, and rockstar pervade job postings. I’m ashamed. Before the Super Saiyan billboards appeared all across the city, my co-worker told me about them. He said that he’s seen how they’ll look and described them as terrible. I laughed. After I saw them myself, I’m not laughing anymore. Seeing ninja-guru-rockstar ads and Super Saiyan billboards make me feel shame. The technology industry looks like children sandbox from the outside.

Daniel Pink asserted that autonomy, mastery, and purpose motivate people. In the technology industry, a lot of people understand mastery as “mastery of the newest tool.” Instead, it should be mastery of things that will be needed throughout our whole career. Problem-solving, analytical, critical, architecture, general software development, productivity and various soft skills are more important than knowing the latest JavaScript framework.

Purpose, as motivation, seems almost forgotten. Those billboards are a great example. They put no focus on impact. Instead, it’s the cool projects that are important.

And if it’s not cool projects, it’s money. The weirdest conversation I’ve overheard this year featured a person debating whether opening a restaurant or “some sort of Bitcoin business” is a better way to get rich.

Super Saiyan billboards and Bitcoin businesses. What a world we live in. Good thing that’s not all. I’m happy to work for a company that has a mission I believe in. I’m glad there are significant advancements happening with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, clean tech and even space travel.

We, the technology industry, are more than cool projects and speculative markets. Working at SpaceX is not a prerequisite to improving the world either. But if we’ll set our sights barely on going Super Sayan and cool projects, that’s all that we’ll get. Let’s aim higher.