Saturday, November 6, 2010

Career : Working on Unpopular Projects

The current project that I'm on is a real stinker.  Seriously.  A handful of coworkers have already confided in me that they originally didn't want to be on it.  Passionately.  I felt the same way when I was told I'd be on it.
There's nothing wrong with the project, really.  It isn't flashy or exciting.  It caters to an audience that isn't the developers.  It is sarcastically cheerful.  Amazingly it isn't overscoped, has a good budget, decent timelines, and so on.  It just... isn't what people want to work on.
I bring it up because it's turned out to be one of the best projects I've been on in a long time.  I can relax, work on developing all kinds of new tech, write documentation, and even play manager and organize.  We don't even have to crunch, really.  Let me tell you, though.  I hated the idea of working on it for a whole day.  That's how long it took me to think about it another way and realize that I could have a golden ticket to sit down and really work on new technology (and systems) in peaceful isolation.
Paradoxically a day later I found another programmer assigned to me confided the same thing.  I confided my own results, but he persisted in wanting to transfer to a more interesting project.  This seemed unfortunate, so I proceeded to tell him enthusiastically about all my ideas for developing new broad, then-theoretical (to me) systems that will happen to facilitate the project.
Skepticism remained.  Our last project was particular brutal and we were still tired.  So I changed tactics.  This time I told him, basically:  If it's your decision to transfer, just remember that you probably will be transferring into another round of crunching like the one we just went through.  You'll probably get what you wish for.  An interesting project that is really popular and therefore very tiring.
Surprisingly, I was right.  In the 'fires of hell' ratings, our project is the ugly stepchild everyone forgets about because it's going pretty swimmingly.  This despite being cursed by disease and a few car crashes.  I've had time to read a dozen books and my other programmer has had time to work on his own career goals.  Plus, I can actually take some time to mentor and (gasp) review code.
We're unpopular.  But I can't say that I mind.

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