The Importance of Having a Peer

I’ve been writing code for a long time. I don’t count the time in decades yet, but it’s way more than 1 and slightly less than 2. I’ve stuck with the places that make me feel valued, and where I thought I could have the most impact, and learn the most. I spent my first couple years back in the 1990s trying to prove I was good enough, and even though people saw my work and said “neat” or “cool”, I was never really sure. 

Then in 2000 I started working closely on a Product team for a CRM product called Maximizer. We had planning meetings, and we mapped out what we wanted to achieve. I was in charge of the “Web Client” portion of the product - which at the time was a bit of a novelty, but a huge differentiator in the industry. I found that I was coming in to the office supercharged and excited. Myself and other guy had started doing some pair programming, and we were feeding off each other’s energy, both of us building up the other’s skill set. We also challenged each other with problems, and I’d find myself thinking long into the night coming up with solutions to problems, and also trying to find the gaps in those solutions that I knew my friend at work would find if I was too lazy. 

I had a peer.

Compared to the 2 years previously, everything was different. Instead of wondering where I fit in, trying to “prove myself” I had another human who was talented and hardworking that respected me and my capabilities. We validated each other and kept each other growing week in and week out. By 2001 we were speaking at developer conferences to standing-room-only crowds roaring with laughter at our easy banter and showing how we worked. It wasn’t rocket science; we just told the story of how we came up with our ideas and how we worked through our problems.

It made a huge difference both in how I viewed my job (working for a company vs working with my peers) and in my own capabilities.

My advice? Be somebody's buddy. Take time out of your busy-ness and be there for someone. It could make all the difference.