Admittedly, this is a bit of a “fluff piece.” Honestly, it’s as much for me as it is for you. This topic became front and center for me recently while conversing with a friend over breakfast. He asked the question that has plagued me off and on for the better part of ten years…
Why do you do this?
I am in a constant search for meaning in anything that I spend a significant amount of time doing. I have often struggled to attribute any real community or social impact to the work I do. I’m not feeding the hungry. I’m not preserving the planet. I’m not improving equality. I’m not serving social justice. What the hell am I doing?
When Jeff (he’s a great guy!) asked me the question this time, I was surprised to find that I had a passable answer.
It’s about allowing people to do great work that makes them feel good.
Those weren’t my exact words. There were probably some filler words in there, and I am sure it took me a whole paragraph of nonsense to arrive at that quippy sentence. But that’s the gist of it.
Why here? Why work at RocketBuild?
RocketBuild was founded as the sort of place where developers could feel appreciated, where they could do fun projects, and where they could be nurtured. This stood in stark contrast to the sorts of places where developers tend to work. A normal programming gig consists of being asked to complete a project that is already over-budget, rapidly passing its deadline, and with no help. While developers make a good salary, they are often required to put their lives on hold in order to do the nearly impossible for a client they don’t even know, or for a product they feel no connection to.
That’s an over-generalization, to be sure, but it is not uncommon. Many of our own developers at our founding had experienced those situations regularly. And to make matters worse, they were underappreciated by most of their teammates. More astounding, they were simply a profit center to their owners and leaders, rather than being seen as masters of a craft worthy of awe and appreciation.
We’ve been successful at creating a place where developers have agency in their process, their timelines, their budgets, and their deliverables. They can be proud of their work, and they are appreciated for doing it well. Even better, they get to work side-by-side with peers who can assist them, and whom they can assist. It’s collaborative but in an organic sort of way.
It’s about more than Development.
More than half of our team are not developers. I’m not a developer. I can barely write HTML anymore! Despite that, I see the same benefits as my developer coworkers. I am pretty sure that our accounts, sales, marketing, and project management team members do as well.
We all get to do some great work about which we can feel good. We get to choose our clients, most of the time. We get to dictate the terms of our engagements, most of the time. We get to run through a process that is collaborative, fosters learning, and delivers great results for our clients and partners. Whether designing screens for a mobile application or writing a proposal for a piece of software, I can ask for help and expect to get it, and usually with a smile!
So, to answer the question…
Well, I do get to impact the community and society at large. My work at RocketBuild helps several other people have healthier home lives and a sense of pride in their work. The work we produce often helps nonprofits have greater reach and impact in their communities. My fellow RocketBuilders and I have the time, space and freedom to take our non-work energy and put it into direct community impact efforts through volunteering and community service. That might not be possible if we were the sort of place that demanded too much from our team, and gave them too little of ourselves.