Joe Stump on How to Improve Code and Build a Programming Career

In Chapter 8 of 16, architect turned SimpleGeo co-founder Joe Stump shares advice for those seeking programming careers. First, Stump recommends openly putting one's work in the public domain so it can be seen, discussed, and refined. For programmers and coders, this means actively contributing to open source communities. Second, Stump advises following passion, not money or acclaim, as only cultivating passion leads to authentic purpose and fulfillment.


Erik Michielsen:  What is your advice to college students, college graduates seeking programming jobs in the Internet space? 

Joe Stump:  I think that my advice for programmers, specifically, is to get involved in open source communities because that gives you exposure to a lot of people that are doing good work.  It also gets your code out there.  IT is almost like if you are an artist, you want people to see your art.  If you are a coder, you should want people to see your code. 

So, we actually, at Digg, almost all the people we hired were active in open source communities.  What also helps with that is open source communities bring together a couple different things:  One you have to code, so I get to look at your code ahead of time.  Also, here are a lot of mailing lists, IRC channels, and things like that so you can get a good sense of how people interact with other people and how people work.

The other thing, too, is that I always tell people when I went to college there were a lot of people getting into computers for all the wrong reasons.   Basically, they heard if I learn how to code, then I can make $85,000 a year immediately out of college, which is true…if you are good at coding.  Normally you are not good at things you don’t like.  Gary Vaynerchuk talks about this all the time where you need to do what you are passionate about – it doesn’t matter what it is but you need to do that - because you suck at everything else. 

It is so true.  If you think about it, when you are doing something you don’t like, you want to get it over with as soon as possible.  Whenever you are doing something you want to get over with as soon as possible, you are going to cut corners, you are going to be sloppy, you are doing anything you can… Think about painting the shed when you were a kid.  The worst paint job ever.  Do it because you love it. 

For instance, a lot of the girls that I have dated say: “I can’t believe you work all the time”.  I’m like “I do something that I am so passionate about it is not work.  Even if I was a pizza delivery guy, I would come home and code all night anyway because I can’t separate those two things.  A lot of people have very separate outlooks – there is my personal life and there is my job and they are separate.  That is not me at all.  They are all intertwined. I am a coder, there is no way around that.