Juha Riippi

By Juha Riippi

Back at Coding

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Once upon a time, there was a strapping young programmer. He wasn’t half bad as a coder and knew how to get along with people. He wasn’t entirely unambitious, either. Being the way he was, he was pretty quickly allowed to add the word Lead in front of his job title. Before he even knew it, he began spending a part of his working time on team management instead of coding.

Some time went by, and the young programmer changed jobs. He found himself at Vincit, a company of 20 employees at the time. The programmer’s interest in team management didn’t go unnoticed, and soon he was back to his old shenanigans at Vincit as well. The young programmer became interested in Agile development and its methods. Having spent some time learning about them, one day someone said to him: “How about you take over our Agile software development model and its development?” He liked the sound of that! He rolled up his sleeves up and got to work. The young programmer also joined the company’s management group and found the work they did really interesting. With all the other things going on, coding had become a rare treat.

“Hey, I really seem to like this sales stuff, too!” the young programmer said when he noticed his days starting to fill up with more and more sales-related work. At the same time, he began to dabble with the company’s competence development model. The young programmer began having creeping doubts about the whole thing – was it really wise to be involved in so many things at once? He was soon able to turn his versatility into an asset, as he adopted the title “Passionate Slash”, a jack of all trades. At this point, coding was occasional at best.

Then things got interesting. All grown up, the young programmer and Vincit noticed it was time to give some thought to organizational structure. Business units, or cells, were born. The cells needed managers who would build the company culture and manage the sales, staff and customer relations. “This cell building sounds awesome!” the young programmer thought and let the higher-ups know he was interested in the position. And what do you know, he got the job. He had so many things to learn and so much work to do that he didn’t have time for coding anymore. No matter, though, he could still do some programming in his spare time.

Who are you?

Then one summer the young programmer read a book about the anatomy of winning, “Voittamisen Anatomia”, by Oskari Saari. The book dealt with the life of the sports physician Aki Hintsa and discussed his philosophy of self-understanding, which sought to answer the central question “Who am I?”. It didn’t take long for the young programmer’s world to shatter. He realized his work needed to be more meaningful, something profound, a noble endeavor. He began to wonder if he should apply for a job at some company that was trying to save the world from an impending environmental disaster. Perhaps he should look into getting involved with an organization fighting for human rights? Then again, maybe not, he thought – he could probably find meaningful things to do without turning his whole life upside down. Now that he thought about it, Vincit had always promoted a good workplace culture and provided opportunities for creating a positive work environment. “I have everything I need to make an impact right here,” the young programmer thought. Life was good for a while.

But after a year, he noticed something wasn’t right. He was starting to feel a bit desperate. “Didn’t I already go through this last summer? Things need to change – and fast,” the young programmer decided and shared his thoughts with his colleagues. With Vincit being the fast-paced and people-oriented company that it is, it didn’t take long for the young programmer to find himself working as a management consultant in Vincit’s new Now team.

Per aspera ad astra

At this point, it seems right to switch to a first-person narrative, since as many of you have guessed, the young programmer is me. Working in the Now team felt really good for a while. However, it was mostly because things were once again new and exciting. The old feelings soon began to creep up on me once more. In addition, the consulting was a lot of work and required multitasking which only yielded half-baked results. I soon noticed that I found it difficult to smile – I was sleep-deprived and ready to snap. Having to work remotely and the never-ending teleconferences didn’t make the situation any easier. I began to have physical symptoms, even panic attacks. As bull-headed as I can be, at this point even I realized that it was time to get some help. After paying a visit to the occupational health services , I found myself on a sick leave.
While recuperating, I had time to think. I got interested in coding again, which felt therapeutic. I realized I had missed coding. I asked myself why I had given it up in the first place. I realized I hadn’t – I had just found myself in a situation where I didn’t have any time for it anymore. While working on my own coding projects at home, I was happy to discover I still had a knack for it! I realized that nothing was stopping me from getting back to coding. And here I am, about to launch my first work project – still at Vincit, because, as before, it only took about a day for me to switch roles.

Has something changed compared to my previous role shifts? Am I going to be faced with a crisis that will once again lead me to ponder the meaning life? Maybe, but I believe things are somehow different now. This time, I think I know how to answer the question Aki Hintsa asked his patients. So, who am I? I am a builder. I am happy when I get to work on things that leave a mark on the world while challenging myself intellectually in the process. For me, that means being able to work on programming.

What does it mean to have a meaningful job? For me, the meaningfulness of work comes from enjoying the things I’m working on and being able to show the results of my work. It may not save the world or people’s lives, but it’s good enough for me. I’m a builder, not a savior. Who are you?

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