I've been interning at a place where my manager believes that if you are in a,

  • product company, then you generally spend time tweaking the product and sometimes adding some features, or
  • service company, then you keep doing repetitive things

which makes me feel industry is no place for someone who likes to do create news things and solve difficult problems.

So is the industry not a place for a passionate programmer? Does this change from country to country?

Update to clear some things that can be understood differently than what they were meant.

Tweaking here is making sure your product has tables with the number of rows and columns the client wants, etc. Customize it for the customer.

New "feature" isn't new functionality here. Just aesthetic-level changes. And it's sometimes.

I'm not sure what he meant by repetitive though. He was like, you have to make the UI again and again every time. (I see no repetition there though. If a different UI is needed then a different UI needs to be designed. If you can use the old one then you don't need to do much anyway.)

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    @which country are u in...?
    – rgksugan
    Mar 22, 2011 at 10:13
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    Surely, some people working in a product company tweak the product and some people in a service company do repetitive tasks. But then, someone must build the product first.
    – user281377
    Mar 22, 2011 at 10:15
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    @Sugan: India @ammoQ: He meant building it would be a repetitive task. Same thing over and over. Mar 22, 2011 at 10:23
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    @Jungle Hunter, I'd disagree - certainly there is a place for passion. I've been lucky to always be bound to solving complex problems and creating new things - even if it were a pure product support, the deeply hidden ancient bugs in a 30 years old legacy code gave me enough fun. And I always had to create new things, due to a lack of the proper tools for solving specific tricky problems.
    – SK-logic
    Mar 22, 2011 at 10:43
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    @Jungle Hunter: I work for a small services company (websites, yay!). Most of the guys here are doing exactly as you describe, but I've been pushing my manager to let me work internally to the company, and they agreed. Now I'm working on automation and streamlining our system, both topics that bring me great joy and should help ease the repetitive side for everyone else besides. There's always room for someone who's passionate, but sometimes you need to push a little. And sometimes you need to find somewhere new. Mar 22, 2011 at 12:29

12 Answers 12


Your manager needs a shrink ;) Or you need to be aware of tiny frogs.

There once was a bunch of tiny frogs,... … who arranged a running competition.

The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.

A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants…

The race began…

Honestly: No one in the crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower.

You heard statements such as: “Oh, WAY too difficult!! They will NEVER make it to the top.”


“Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!”

The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one… ... Except for those who in a fresh tempo were climbing higher and higher…

The crowd continued to yell “It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!”

More tiny frogs got tired and gave up…

...But ONE continued higher and higher and higher… This one wouldn’t give up!

At the end everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog who after a big effort was the only one who reached the top!

THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?

A contestant asked the tiny frog how the one who succeeded had found the strength to reach the goal?

It turned out… That the winner was DEAF!!!!

The wisdom of this story is:

Never listen to other people’s tendencies to be negative or pessimistic… …cause they take your most wonderful dreams and wishes away from you.

The ones you have in your heart!

Always think of the power words have. Because everything you hear and read will affect your actions!




And above all:

Be DEAF when people tell YOU that YOU can not fulfil YOUR dreams! Always think:

I can do this!

That version of this well known story can be found here in its context.


To me, "adding some features" can be creative. For service, you have be passionate if you want to keep the customers happy. In either company, you will face a lot of problems and some of them will be difficult to solve.

I've been working in the States, Canada, China and Hong Kong. In my personal experience, no matter which type of company you are working for, there is no lack of challenges, the need for creatively, and you have to be passionate if you want to do a good job and deliver good software.

  • What about India? Mar 22, 2011 at 10:34
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    @Jungle Hunter: India seems to be something of a special case. You might find this an interesting read Mar 22, 2011 at 12:36
  • @Jungle Hunter: I do not have experience in India. Besides a day job, a programmer can place his/her passion beyond a country's border. Coming from the old days of selling Palm shareware on PalmGear 10+ years ago, now I can sell apps on the huge AppStore for iOS devices. If you are not after profit, sharing codes on github brings new friends and recognitions. A huge playground out there, cheers!
    – ohho
    Mar 22, 2011 at 14:27
  • @Matthew: That's a very interesting read. Mar 23, 2011 at 6:32
  • Thanks for that tip. I'm trying to find passionate programmers I can collaborate with in my area. =) Mar 23, 2011 at 6:33

Here are some interviews with 9 people who work for all different companies all over the world. None work for Microsoft though the interviews took place in a Microsoft building and the interviewer is a Microsoft employee. I think you can hear the passion everyone (including Charles, the interviewer) has for their work. Some make large apps, some small, and some offer services. C++ is a common thread but that's just how I happen to have links to all these.

People who love what they do, go far. You seem to have met a boss without much passion. That's fine, for your boss. As you already know, you can find inspiration in more places than just the boss' office.

  • That can be the best evidence that my manager is wrong. :D Mar 23, 2011 at 6:34

I think you're looking at the topic incorrectly.

Businesses have the job of making their owners money. That can take a lot of forms, but for most software companies it involves growing a market to be acquired or being profitable in its primary endeavor.

The descriptions for product and service companies are a bit shallow, but that doesn't mean they are wrong. Services groups tend to do repetitive work because of market choice and optimization to get the most money for a job. Product groups make and enhance products. Once they are mature, they tend to mostly maintain and perform limited enhancements. That doesn't mean all of the jobs are the same, but there are patterns in those types of companies you can find.

I've been on both sides of the ProServer and product dev side of the business. I prefer the latter for a variety of reasons, but neither side limited my creativity or passion. Creativity and passion is more about what you bring to the position. Not something the company gives to you. That said, corporate culture can have a big impact on an individual's happiness.

If you want to always be working on something new and 'exciting' write code for your own fun projects. Business projects aren't always cool and exciting.


Passion is nice, but you also need to know when to let go, when enough's enough and it's time to close things up and get the product shipped. If you're too passionate, you can't ever let go, it's never quite polished enough, never quite done, and the product never will ship.

I've seen more than one project go under because of that. People set the wrong priorities, wanted things to be perfect rather than good enough, wanted everything under the sun when the budget only allowed for a drink with a very small cherry. and of course they went way over time and budget before anything was ready to deliver to the customer.

  • Not just a question of shipping. This is product company with a 15 years old product. Which they keep tweaking and sometimes add features. Main job, customize it for the customer. Mar 22, 2011 at 10:31
  • same thing. If they take too long tweaking each update...
    – jwenting
    Mar 22, 2011 at 10:49
  • Of course, shipping is important. My comment meant not just a question of shipping. Mar 22, 2011 at 10:53

You can be passionate and creative and work as a developer. PERIOD.

If you're current role doesn't allow for this, and you're not enjoying it, move on - there is always something else out there that you can be passionate about. You need to understand for yourself what you are passionate about and find a role that meets most of those requirements (be a little pragmatic about it though...)

  • Nice to know @Nim, that you think it's the company not the industry. =) Mar 22, 2011 at 10:37

The whole purpose of computers is to do repetitive tasks for us. If you're a a developer and you keep doing repetitive tasks, you're doing it wrong. You have to distill repetitive tasks into a higher, non-repetitive abstraction. That way you're not only creative, you also produce more business value and can make more money.


Your boss has made some wrong presumptions

  • Product companies always have dedicated to create innovations, so that they have an edge in the market. It all depends on the company you are in. Some companies expect all of their employees to be passionate enough to innovate (e.g. Google's 20% time). Some product companies hire guys and girls with Phd's to create ideas and give them a team to implement them. I've found up that in every company has a team where all the bright kids hang out together.

  • Service companies now have been changing their model (due to the recent recession). They now take a stake in the profit instead of service/development fees. Therefore they have to innovate or else their profit will suffer.

Sadly it kind of does matter on the country. Since you are from India, I've seen that product companies 'offshore' the boring work to India. So that they can focus on innovating. Because its cheaper and lets face it, there are very few instances of innovative 'products' coming out of India (compared to USA or japan). Probably because creativity is pretty much killed at school. The scene is changing I admit but not as fast as it should.

Also have a look that this presentation. Being passionate != wise innovation. You might just create the best product ever but no one uses it. That means a huge hole in your company's pocket. e.g Google wave, Windows CE and ahem Yahoo answers

  • I agree with whatever you say about India. Initially I thought I was crazy but I've met some ppl who know better. :) But then what will your advice be to someone who would like to work in an innovative environment. Get to the US? How? Mar 22, 2011 at 12:51
  • @JungleHunter Join or form a start-up. Its risky, but you will have all they freedom you want to be innovative. Finding the right guys to work with is key here.
    – Reno
    Mar 22, 2011 at 12:56

There's plenty of opportunities as an in-house software developer at all kinds of companies, in all sorts of industries. Many organizations prefer to hire a small team of developers to provide customized, proprietary solutions rather than spending money and effort administering licenses for generalized software. This allows them to focus on their own requirements, and gain a competitive edge on other companies all using the same tools.

There's plenty of room for passionate programmers (like myself) to produce new and original software from month to month with direct feedback from business users and a clear impact on productivity and revenue. It's a great place to be, just need to think a little more laterally when looking for job opportunities.

For example, I currently create disaster and financial modelling software for a company in the reinsurance industry. I previously worked for a waste to energy conversion start-up implementing mathematical, physical, and chemical models. All this has paid very well and been very conducive to my passion for programming and creativity.

Good Luck!

  • I agree completly with your view. You can be an in-house programmer in a non software organization and have a lot of way to show your creativity. I work in an industrial company as in-house programmer and we invent a lot of fun things. And they have to work.
    – Nikko
    Aug 31, 2011 at 10:44

He's not wrong, but you have to decide what perspective you want to look at development. You don't get to show up for work every day and create a new app. A new function or a better design can be an equally creative process.

Once you get past building some sort of prototype or beta, you're tweaking and adding new features.

If you're doing repetitive things as a programmer, then you are not taking advantage of programming.

"We're going to create a new website where people can log in and enter stuff that gets saved in a database and lets you upload files and share stuff with other people and comment on other stuff other people enter." Where's the creativity in that? I think there is plenty; it's all relative. You can either be someone who breaks rocks or builds cathedrals - the choice is yours.

Edit: If the work is limited to minimal cosmetic changes and you're not allowed to create a way to let the user customize this stuff, you may want to start some personal project that is more challenging.

  • Not about creating a new app. A new function or a better design can definitely be a creative process. But tweaking it to have the number of columns and rows the client has is no really new feature. That's what is happening here. Mar 22, 2011 at 17:21

What you describe are traditional corporations. There are still a lot of startups, mid-size companies, and new-technologies corporations. Many of which have more innovation oriented mindset.

  • So a newer generation company should be the way to go? Mar 22, 2011 at 10:35
  • @JH: yes, if you want innovation, you'd best off working for startup, although there are corporations like Google, that still have departments which do lot of innovation.
    – vartec
    Mar 22, 2011 at 10:48

The key problem here is YOU. You demand some "real task" that will let you "unleash your creativity" which implies that you can't do it until that task is given to you.

What is really needed is job done well - be it neatly arranged buttons in the UI, be it well-thought logging, be it the program recovering after a crash or whatever other thing that makes users feel better and avoid ffruustration (this one explains it best, sorry) and feeling dumb when using the program.

There is place for "passionate programmers", you just have to be more positive.

  • You think I haven't tried asking for real work? Oh, ironically, this is exactly what I was told when I did. Mar 23, 2011 at 6:39
  • @Jungle Hunter: And that's how it usually is - your job is more useful than you expect.
    – sharptooth
    Mar 23, 2011 at 6:41
  • Copy-paste screenshots and enter the values from them in Excel? Even when you have strong programming background? (BTW, I say strong because that's what the feedback was from the companies which have offered me full-time. This internship is institute arranged and I had no say in it.) Mar 23, 2011 at 6:45
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    @Jungle Hunter: If it is really is how you describe it - well, that happens, just pass the internship and get a job in another company where a software developer is needed.
    – sharptooth
    Mar 23, 2011 at 6:51
  • That's what the plan is. =) Mar 23, 2011 at 6:55

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