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Custom Software

Software Rockstars? Really?

by Eric Potter
on June 2, 2017

Software Developers and Rockstars?

Software Developers and Rockstars? 

Our industry has a weird fascination with rock stars. Frequently, recruiters will send out spam saying they are looking for "rock star" developers. Developers who want to brag about their skills will say that they are a "JavaScript rock star." Has anyone ever considered this may be a terrible analogy?

Rockstars are not role models

As a group, rock stars are not the individuals we should strive to emulate. Anyone who has ever watched VH1's behind the music knows that most of their careers end badly, to say nothing of their personal lives. We may want to emulate their fame and fortune, but in terms of work ethic, we should be better role models.

Rockstars are not team players

Rock stars are notoriously self-centered and uncooperative. Would you really want to be on a scrum team with Liam Gallagher? Imagine what it would be like to be in a retrospective with him standing on the table screaming "I don't want to limit my work in progress." Would you want to try and solve a tricky performance problem with Johnny Rotten, knowing he would try to take all the credit for it later?

Rockstars are not innovative

Rock stars tend not to be innovative (with some notable exceptions). Generally, the ones who get famous are just playing a style that is already popular. And once they find the sound that makes them a hit, they usually stick with it forever. It may have been a good thing to be the Mick Jagger of COBOL in the 70s, but it likely means you are still the Mick Jagger of COBOL today. 

Rockstars are not responsible

Rock stars have repeatedly earned their reputation as being destructive. They get famous for performing a popular song. Then they get more famous for trashing a hotel room. A rock star developer might be able to get a web application up and running quickly. But how long is that application going to function if the code base looks like it hosted a party for The Who? It would be miserable to try and maintain an app where someone drove a proverbial car into the thread pool.

Rockstars are not problem solvers

As developers, our primary goal is to solve problems by building software. We achieve this goal when we work well together as a team. We ought to be focused on making our clients and our teammates look good instead of hogging the spotlight. We ought to be focused on building things that will last instead of being a one-hit wonder. We ought to focus on how we can continue to innovate instead of relying on what has worked in the past.

I know that pop culture elevates rock stars as ideals to aspire to. But pop culture is often more like a culture where bacteria grows than a culture that elevates great art. We should aspire to be more like Steve Wozniak than Axel Rose. As developers, we should aspire to build great things, solving real problems with solutions that will stand the test of time.


Download The 6 Qualities of Successful Scrum Teams


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Eric Potter
Eric is a Microsoft MVP and Software Architect for Aptera Software in Fort Wayne Indiana, working primarily in the .Net platform. He has been developing high quality custom software solutions since 2001. He is also an adjunct professor of computer science at Indiana Tech. He loves to dabble in new and exciting technologies.
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