Dev

Every CEO should celebrate developers as much as Ballmer did

Image Credit: Jolie O'Dell/VentureBeat

“Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!”

Who doesn’t know the Ballmer cheer? Whether you were there in person or saw the YouTube remix, you remember the hollering, the sweating, the clapping, the running.

Maybe you found it awkward to watch. Maybe you laughed ironically.

But you know what? I wish every CEO had the guts to cheer for their own developers like that.

They build the product. When stuff breaks, they stay up late until it’s fixed. More than designers, more than sales, more than the “hustlers” and managers, developers are under huge amounts of pressure around the clock.


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And more than hustlers and managers, I’ve known developers to routinely¬†build up an incredibly difficult skill set. They invariably know more than one programming technology. They’re always learning something new. They hack in their spare time, and they often make huge sacrifices in personal relationships and lifestyle to do so.

This is admittedly painting with a very broad brush, but as much as we fetishize the hustlers, developers are the intellectual properties on which our industry runs.

It pisses me off when founders treat devs like disposable commodities to be worked into the ground and when they pay them peanuts and don’t turn over a little equity. When large companies treat developers like the very fact they got hired is a privilege, then proceed to treat them like code monkeys until the devs are forced to quit out of exhaustion, frustration, and boredom.

It infuriates me when founders, managers, and CEOs don’t take the time to learn even the most basic principles of programming, then ineptly struggle to communicate half-baked ideas for devs to iterate upon again and again. It’s even worse when the hustlers ask for things that are technologically impossible, then refuse to take “no” for an answer.

Ballmer wasn’t a perfect CEO, and like all CEOs, he wasn’t perfect in how he allowed developers to mature and be managed at Microsoft. But that one moment — the hilarious, uncalculated moment of unbridled developer-worship — makes me love the guy.

CEOs, founders, hustlers, managers: Celebrate developers. They’re not your serfs, no matter how much you pay them. They are not machines who speak in a different language. They are not universally lonely, nerdy white guys who live on darkness and Mountain Dew.

They are the backbone of our industry and our path to the future. Any great breakthroughs start with them.

Pay them fairly, cut them some slack, encourage them to innovate, and force them to take vacations. Cheer for them until you’re sweating and your hands hurt and your voice cracks.

Now, say it with me: “Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!”

We’ll miss you, Mr. Ballmer.


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