We all love being iWorkers. As a Schedule K-1 worker, I have the financial obligations and reporting that W2 workers are not concerned about, but I also have a lot of freedom to chart my own course and the real benefit to being independent is the iWorker cultural benefits; let me explain.
In addition to freedom and independence, iWorkers have common traits that bonds us together a community. We work hard, we deliver results, we focus on value. This is why our customers love us. Being an independent technologist myself, I’ve been thinking about the power that programmers have, yet there are no ethics written down. Medical professionals have the Hippocratic Oath to guide them to practice and other professions have oaths as well, or perhaps they’re just guiding principles and good intentions. I’m really not sure how serious people take oaths and vows anymore, but that’s a blog for another day. I think that when iWorkers consider their career, they should adopt their own code-of-ethics.
Paul's "PLIST" of iWorker Ethics (I love lists, a common trait of iWorkers.
Everything is PERSONAL. A famous man once said "It's not personal. It's strictly business." OK, it was Michael Corleone in the GodFather but I still disagree. To me everything is personal and I don't differentiate between business and my personal ethics.
PRINCIPLES. I stick to my moral principles in everything I do. I find that most iWorkers are the same. I don’t care what they are, but be true to yourself. Think about what guides your life, be it spiritual, ethical or whatever. My advice is don’t trade money or security for your principals, it’s not worth it. I once designed some code that turned out to be ‘not quite ethical’ (the system has not been in production in decades). I was working on well-defined specs and didn’t realize the implication. I ended up ‘technically redeeming myself’ by creating a reversed-engineered version of the code that looked for ‘non-ethical’ transactions for a company that had to handle the processing of the original system.
Purpose. By working with a purpose, choose projects that are meaningful to you. Do you really want to be working on a non-value project, or do you want to work on great projects? It’s up to you. I prefer to work on projects that truly deliver something valuable.
Problem-solving . This goes along with #3, except for me it’s specific to working on code that tackles a problem and simplifies a complex process. This also goes with job satisfaction, since doing thought-experiments , working on puzzles, and coding all day is fun! (for me).
Intellectual Property. Do you own the work result you produced? If not, is it legally licensed and properly attributed? Always be honest.
Avoid Patents. OK, this is purely personal. I understand patents for defensive purposes, especially in a large company, but in a start-up, I’d avoid them like the plague; move fast and let the trolls chase me. If your customer requires you to submit patents, think about the value of the time it takes to do so, and whether or not having your name on a patent really has some stature. I’m happy to say that I’ve avoided having my name listed on any patents, yet I have produced some really cool stuff. Think I’m violating your patent? I’ve invested my expertise in understand decades of ‘prior art’, so bring it! Agree to disagree on this, it's just that, to me, the effort takes time that I don't have.
Be Proficient. Know your craft, try to constantly get better. You will never know everything, but learn something every day. Focus on quality results.
Be Prolific. Get into a cadence that allows you to produce a lot. Think about good literary writers. They are very disciplined and use their routine to produce on a daily basis. Find quiet time, whether it’s early in the morning (like me) or late at night (like everybody else) to grind out deliverables.
Patience. Let the solutions come to you. We’ve all had that experience of solving our problem while showering or driving. There’s enough work to put something aside and let your brain solve it at it’s own pace. This is the essence of good problem-solving.
Performance. Maybe this should be #1. Always think about performance when iWorking. In my early days I was forced to write performant code because hardware resources were scarce and I had to deal with a lot in the ISO Stack. Things are much easier at the hardware level these days but there are a lot more opportunities to write bad, non-performing code these days. Educate yourself on best-practices in your craft, use every tool available and, most importantly, give yourself the time to deliver results that perform.
People. Computers are our friends, people are jerks. No, be nice, as your parents taught you. Have respect for your peers, empathy for your customers, mentor younger professionals, be empowered, but realize that everybody all have their roles to play in project success. I know it’s hard, but be especially nice to your Salesfolks. I love sales professionals; they’re fun and they give you a direct line into understanding the value you provide to customers.
Professional. I hate to break this to you, but YOU ARE NOT A ROCK-STAR! Rock stars are rock stars and I know a few, iWorkers are nicer, have longer careers and (eventually) have more money and fun!
Pride. I love work environments where the best idea wins and we all rally around it. That’s real teamwork, not “let’s try every idea” or “your idea stinks and I hate you”. Learn how to objectively analyze proposed ideas and how to negotiate. Because if another person’s idea doesn’t work, you’ll quickly figure it out during your next sprint and pivot to something better, maybe your idea! Sometimes you have to swallow your pride but always be proud of what you do every day!
About: Paul Czarnik problem-solves with code.
Paul is iWorker CTO where he focuses on developing solutions for Independent Workers. Paul served as Compuware CTO, using his technical expertise for product development, software excellence, M&A due-diligence, and Compuware Ventures investments. Paul lives on a 'connected farm' in Ortonville, Michigan.
Next Blog - Data, Data Everywhere and Not a Thought to Think.