The Passionate Programmer


I hate marketing. It makes me feel dirty.

I feel as if I’m intruding or bragging or generally being a pain. You’ve got enough to do without me taking time to try to sell you something.

Funny enough, the thing that is slowly changing my mind about all of this is the thing I’m going to try to sell you.

I was editing a podcast that we recorded last week in which Susannah Pfalzer interviews Chad Fowler about his book The Passionate Programmer. Chad talks about an article he once read on the moral imperative of marketing. The argument starts in the abstract. Suppose you had a service you could offer that could save people $100 a year. This is a service that could benefit anyone. It’s a service you can perform and anyone can consume.

Chad explains that the moral imperative part goes something like this. If you don’t tell people about this service, then you are cheating them out of that $100. You owe it to them.

Then he zooms in and makes the argument more concrete. Suppose you have a special skill that would help your company in some new product. You owe it to your company to tell them what you can do.

Generally, developers aren’t very good at that. We just don’t feel right marketing ourselves. The result is that we don’t get noticed.

Chad’s solution is surprising simple and palatable: only market something you really believe in. Wait until you have something so cool to talk about that you would feel wrong not talking about it. Forget about the deadlines. Forget about management’s desire to sell this particular item. Wait until you have something cool enough to talk about and people will believe you when you talk.

Fortunately, that’s where I am now. I have two cool things to talk about. One is the Pragmatic Life series and the second is Chad’s book. Chad’s book is about creating an exceptional work life. His book challenges you to look at what motivates you and what excites you. He draws from a lifetime of playing jazz. In the podcast he tells Susannah that musicians might start out wanting to be rich and famous, but a lot of very good ones are playing in bars for $50 a night. At some point it’s not the money or the fame that’s driving them.

Chad’s book is available today in PDF, or for your Kindle, iPhone, or Sony e-reader. You can also order the print copy. You’ll be able to buy this book online and in bookstores pretty soon as well. For those of you new to the Pragmatic Bookshelf, we ask that you consider ordering it directly from us because we and Chad make about three times as much money per book on a direct sale as we do if we sell it to someone who sells it to someone who sells it to someone who sells it to you.

This is a challenging book. It asks you to make some tough decisions about who you want to be at work. Do you want to lay low and hope that you don’t get noticed at layoff time? How do you do that? How do you do just enough not to get noticed? Or do you want to have an exceptional career of learning new things and working on interesting projects. It’s a lot riskier but Chad also tells Susannah that looking for a job has changed. People applying in the traditional way don’t seem to be finding work very quickly. Those people who already have networks and are known through their work, their writing, or their presentations are being snatched up as soon as they are available.

It turns out that Chad is absolutely right. I don’t feel slimy in the least asking you to buy two or three copies of this book. It’s a good book and one that I believe in. You certainly have family members and friends who deserve their own copy.

(What? Did I go a little too far at the end there?)

Daniel Steinberg

Pragmatic Life, Series Editor

This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.