The shame of being a non-passionate developer

A topic that has bothered me a few weeks ago: programmers who only code at work. I was missing an offtopic post, so here we go.

Seems to me that most of people from the “tech crew” has a huge obsession on being passionate about coding. They are always trying to program out of their jobs, running side projects and looking for tech events. Particularlly, I think this is great. Enjoy free time doing stuff you like is good. And if you are really having fun while becoming a better professional: good to you!

While chatting with some friends and making reflections about this frenetic way of life, I started wondering: is it really bad to be a programmer who only code at work?

I’ll be straight to the point: I don’t think so.

The many faces of a good developer

During my time as a developer, I have worked with a broad variety of programmers. A significant part of them used their programming skills just for work, they didn’t care to indulge out of business hours. Instead of programming or doing something related, they used their time to play guitar, run, raise a family, etc. Some of them are tech leads, software architects, some are juniors. The fact is that some of the best technical minds I have worked with have been perfect at separating their work and home life.

I’m not trying to stifle anyone’s passion here. If you love to code, do it at every opportunity you get! My point here is: I don’t think you should judge developers skills, growth and development, by looking at their level of passion.

I noticed while dealing with programmers on many different situations that 40 hours a week is enough for a standart developer to improve his skills and evolve as a professional. Companies should be offering a decent environment for programmers to grow their personal and professional attributes. There’s a constant and subtle pressure on developers to be coding, reading, writing and meetup-ing 24/7 in their lifes.

The idea that the only way you can avoid stagnation is to let your work consume your life is perverse. Personal growth matters. This kind of thought often comes from employers who can’t (or simply don’t want to) give us the minimum required for being professional software developers.

Working with mentally healthy people is much better than dealing with sick geniuses. I know some brilliant guys who make me feel exhausted when dealing with them and it sucks! It just feels terrible to imagine myself becoming a high skilled developer with no sense of peopleware stuff. It gets even more sad and tragic when these sick people reach management roles or become responsible for hiring (it happens often). That’s exactly where this sense of “you need to be passionate” comes from: people without a healthy social life occupying key management positions.

It doesn’t need to be binary: you can be passionate about coding and still have a life. This misunderstanding of what well fits to your lifestyle may make you feel amiss (that’s a really bad sensation). IMHO there’s nothing wrong with thinking “I love to program at work, but I am SO TIRED when I get home that I won’t do it here”, just find your own way to improve your skills at work and don’t get stagnated.

So what’s your opinion on programmers who are not passionate about programming, have no side projects and only program at their jobs?