Code that Matters

Written by Yael Villanueva

August 20th, 2021

Software Development is an interesting line of work. Often called “the work of the future” by media outlets, this profession is surrounded by an aura of grandeur. It’s not uncommon to see the news filled to a brim with articles talking about the boom of cryptocurrencies and the new wave of millionaires. If you jump into the finance section, you can also find a plethora of stories about young entrepreneurs and their “Unicorn Apps”, a term that refers to those Phone Apps that happen to generate an income so big, they are “unbelievable”.

The current state of the world is quite interesting. With investors injecting billions of euros betting on the next “TikTok” or the next “Tinder”, more and more youngsters feel attracted to the fashionista lifestyle of a Software Developer.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. After some bittersweet teenage years, and an eternal struggle with self-esteem, I spent several years of my youth trying to demonstrate to the world (and myself) that I was capable of achieving success in life. Back in 2017, I was in the last year of my college life, pursuing the Degree of Software Engineer. Things had turned out all right for me. I managed to graduate with honours, with the best grades out of my generation.

With that as my presentation card towards the laboral world, expectations surrounding my future could not have been higher. Where there are very high expectations, there’s also a lot of pressure, and where there’s a lot of pressure, every fall feels like a major failure. How come, a successful student like myself, not land a job in one of the top Tech companies in the world? How could I not pass the filters from Microsoft, Google, or Oracle?

While I was questioning the veracity of my achievements, I was scouted by Ruben, my Artificial Intelligence course professor in college, who happened to be one of the owners of FireServiceRota. I took the opportunity without hesitation.

Explaining to friends and family why you would choose to join a small company instead of pursuing a safe and fruitful career in a large corporation was harder than it looks like. “Sounds like a nice entry point, but how long will you stay there?”, “When are you going to apply to another big company?”, “What do you do again?”, “You didn’t land a job in Microsoft? Where do you work again?”. The cultural pressure for sacrifice in my country, Mexico, doesn’t help much to the cause either. We have historically struggled with a culture where life should be about sacrificing everything you can, your free time, your passions, to guarantee your patrimony and that you may only ever enjoy the fruits of your labor during your final years.

The truth is, I do not owe explanations to anyone.

As soon as I met my soon-to-be crewmates, I knew that FireServiceRota was the right place for me. I still remember my first interview with a bunch of smiling folks asking me questions about the things I like and the kind of human I am, instead of asking me to draft an algorithm inverting the order of a balanced binary tree (Developer interviews often consist of programming challenges). It’s weird, in an industry such as software’s, full of people looking for the optimal money making career path, to see a bunch of multicultural people so passionate about a product that targets a niche market, such as Fire & Rescue Services. Once I started working here, I understood why.

FireServiceRota is not just another tech company looking to become the next “Unicorn” of the industry. FireServiceRota is an idea: improving the lives of people through software. We are just a group of people making use of our talents and expertise to make the world a safer place. I just happen to be skilled at software development, and FireServiceRota has given me the chance to use those skills for something I deem important. The very simple truth is that I’m happy where I am because the code I write actually matters. To me, success looks like a father who is able to spend more time with his children thanks to our scheduling, or a child who was trapped in a fire and is now able to grow thanks to a quick response from the Fire Brigade. Knowing that my work saves lives is what I value the most, and what motivates me to wake up every day early in the morning.

This way of life is not for everyone. I would lie if I didn’t tell you that my decision to do something I love instead of what others expect hasn’t required sacrifices, and has not cost me relationships. But at the end of the day, life is about living it for yourself, not for others. I love what Simone Biles did during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where she decided not to participate in a competition where she had a guaranteed medal, because she didn’t feel ready. With all the pressure from an entire country in her back, she took a stance for her own happiness and mental health. I don’t have the pressure of an entire country on my back, but I also took a stance when I decided to work in FireServiceRota, and decided to continue my career together with the people I consider close friends, the FSR crew. Like Simone, I’m all the more happy for it, and wouldn’t change the way things went.

In January 2022, my fourth anniversary with FireServiceRota will take place. My journey as a software developer is just beginning and there are a lot of learnings and adventures ahead of me. One thing is for sure, I will no longer aspire for anything less than writing code that matters.

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