Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Passion is Always Recession Proof

A Good Recession?

A couple of weeks ago, in the midst of more economy doom and gloom, our CEO gave a company address speaking to the benefits of a recession. He then went on to make the point that recessions can actually be good for some companies.

In short, recessions reward good management. Companies who've had the discipline to not overextended themselves financially, stay within their circle of expertise, and are passionate about what they do, are excellently positioned to prosper in a recession.

As the competition starts to thicken and there are fewer customers to go around, mediocre companies inevitably fall apart or shrink substantially. Meanwhile great companies relish the opportunity to compete against their counterparts.

A recession separates the pretenders from the contenders. Firms who have built strong relationships with their clients and continue to deliver exceptional value, often have little to fear from a recession.

If anything, a recession helps good companies by weeding out all the chaff polluting the business space. So if a recession can help great companies, how about great developers?

For The Love = For The Win

Let's face it, a lot of IT personal (including developers) aren't exactly passionate about what they do. Somehow somewhere, a lackluster wave of hires stumbled into the IT workplace.

Maybe it was during the dot com days when insane salaries were lobbed at anyone who could work a keyboard. Maybe a career advisor or two read an aptitude test upside down. Either way I'm sure at some point you've bumped into a programmer who isn't passionate about programming.

Not that being apathetic towards your job is a sin per se, but it if you're not passionate about something, you'll never be exceptional at it. And if the most you're destined for is average, then both you and your team will be having perpetual dates with mediocrity.

People who are passionate about programming, would be doing it whether they're getting paid to or not. They're a lot more likely to be reading technical blogs, show up at user groups, and help a team grow deeper technically. And get this, they'll actually enjoy doing it!

So here's the good news about recessions for developers.

The Cull

Don't get it twisted, a lot of good people get let go during recessions. Huge swaths get cut through IT groups, and a lot of great staff ends up on the wrong side of the red line.

But just like great companies, great developers don't have a hard time finding work. Their managers are more than happy to write them glowing letters of reference and refer them on to other firms that can make use of their skills. The same passion that has kept them up to speed with industry changes will help them shine during the interview process.

It's not just good staff that gets laid off, bad hires also get let go too, and this helps development teams tremendously. Managers who once had the luxury of keeping bad hires are finally forced to take a hard look at their staff. The end result is often a more proficient and passionate team of developers.

Hiring is also a lot more productive during a recession, not only are there more great candidates to choose from, but bad hires are a lot more likely to occur when there's too much work available, as oppose to when there's too little. The net result is that teams tend to get more competent as only good developers get filtered back in.

Lastly, people who are simply stumbling around an industry are encouraged to take a moment to take a hard look at their current career path and decide if it's aligned with their strengths and interests. This isn't just good for the industry, it's essential for individuals to find something that they're truly passionate about and that they can find lasting success in. Keeping distracted people in an industry when their strengths really lie elsewhere not only erodes the craft, it steals valuable time from them that they could use to find something that they're exceptional at. Time they could otherwise ply at a trade more closely coupled to their natural strengths. When a bad hire is made, it's not only unfair to the company, it's wasteful of the employee's time. Recessions help hit the reset button.

Another Take

So depending on how optimistic you're feeling you could say that recessions are pretty good for you the developer. They help people find better jobs, stop bad hires, move people to industries where they can find real success, and reward those who truly belong in a space. Ideally it'll help improve your team, your company and your industry. If you're lucky you just might hit the trifecta.

Just a thought,


Anonymous said...

You're absolutely clueless, boy. It's time to grow up. There is no protection against incompetent management.

Tyler Holmes said...


I think you missed the point of the post. I'm not saying that a love of your trade will stop bad management from tanking your firm, or from firing the wrong staff. These are indeed out of your control.

I AM a little frustrated with the developer cynicism that throws all problems on "management".

If you're really into your craft AND your industry, you're going to stick out at the user groups you attend, and with the developers you work with on a day to day basis.

The contacts you make, and the excitement you show will inevitably help you find work elsewhere (and if the "management" was truly what sucked at the last job, you'll be better off for it).

Yes, it's bad right now, but developers have never been more empowered (ie. LinkedIn, User Groups, Social Networks) to help them manage their own career.

That being said, it's unfortunate that all the tools in the world can't save some from their pessimism.

Thanks for commenting.


DrToketee said...

No, guy, I didn't miss the point. I went through all your entries. Your egotistical blog is sprinkled with highly judgemental and condescending attitudes towards others, and so was your reply. I strongly suspect you believe most of the people you communicate with are idiots.

Tyler Holmes said...


I feel like I owe you an apology. The comment I left you was indeed intended to be caustic, I'm normally used to more constructive criticism (I'm still pretty new at this). I'm sorry if it was received in a hurtful way, I've decided to leave this entire thread up as a reminder of how easy it is to get into a flame war with someone (especially over something as small as negative feedback!).

Another thanks for feedback on my writing style, I'll keep it in mind as I edit future entries.