How to Make It as a Mediocre Software Developer

If you’re in the software world, chances are you’ve felt overwhelmed with the amount of work and effort required to be competent and keep your skills up to date.

As a developer, this thought shouldn’t scare you. Making good software is hard. Humans make mistakes, and machines remind us of that. It’s all so unpleasant, you see.

Therefore, it completely makes sense that you wouldn’t want to spend the majority of your time on a never-ending struggle with a machine and would rather enjoy yourself more often than not.

And that is totally fine. Thousands of other developers are already doing just that.

What follows is my best advice on how to become a professional enterprise software developer and enjoy a comfortable career with minimal effort.

1. Don’t Ask Any Questions

The best people are the ones that ask the right questions. But forget that, being the best means working hard. And working hard means, well, working.

The best technique is to say nothing and nod confidently in understanding.

If someone attempts to pry, you can condescendingly reply with a nonchalant ‘I know what I’m doing’ or scoff at them with slight disbelief.

Doing so would get you into trouble if you were, say, a brain surgeon or an emergency anesthesiologist. But you’re a developer and you have three indispensable tools at your disposal which almost guarantee that you don’t really need to know what you’re doing:

  • Google
  • Stack Overflow
  • Ctrl + C / Ctrl + V.

Which is exactly why you should move on to the next point on this list.

2. Say ‘Yes’ to Everything Your Boss Says

Nobody likes saying the word ‘No’. But you know what people hate even more than that? Hearing the word ‘No’.

If there’s anything you should learn from politics is that naysayers stay at the bottom of the ladder. You want to be the Yes-man.

It doesn’t matter that the boss or client has no idea of what they want, or that there hasn’t been any product design planning made beyond a few minutes of conversation, or that nobody has any clue of the complexity of the problems that your team will be facing or even the tech stack that you’ll be handling.

Just say ‘Yes’ and smile. If it works for management it’ll work for you.

3. Let Your Teammates Handle It

A great asset for disguising your mediocrity is other people. You should always seek to work in the largest teams because as more people tend to work on a project it becomes harder for management to keep track of who is responsible for what.

And more people means you can use your flattery to extract help and hide behind the accomplishments of your teammates.

Whenever something goes wrong or you have no idea what to do, you can seek out one of the more competent people you’ve buttered up over the past couple of weeks and ask ‘what they would do in your position’ and steal their ideas for your own use.

Their poor social skills in most cases will work for you and you’ll be able to bill yourself on your résumé as a ‘strong team player’.

4. When in Doubt, Blame I.T.

As a developer, you know you’ve made it when you see one of the lowly I.T. “people” have to painstakingly deal with broken Windows upgrades or Hard Disk Drive failures while you sit in your comfy padded chair with your colorful IDE open and a few Reddit tabs on the background.

‘Heh’ you might say to yourself while you shrug and get back to “work”. But stop right there, for this situation presents a unique opportunity for the rare times when you are asked to explain yourself.

You can now blame the I.T. department.

From everything to data loss, password resets, hardware “failures”, administrator access, user permissions, and more. ‘Waiting on I.T.’ or ‘I.T. screwed up again’ is the perfect excuse to enjoy your lack of productivity at someone else’s expense.

5. Hide Your Development Tools

Development tools are designed to be efficient and save time. They are not your friends. If you can cut down on building or deployment time, that is time that you will be expected to be performing additional work.

This is of course, highly undesirable. However, with a little cunning you can make your laziness work for you. Perhaps make one of your co-workers help you write a script to automate some mind-numbing task or get on GitHub and find a gist that does what you need to skip some long repetitive work.

The key is to keep these tools and hacks hidden away from management. You can now enjoy the rest of the time that these tasks would regularly take and maybe even take some credit for finishing earlier than expected.

Oh, and definitely do not share your development tools with your co-workers. If they can’t keep quiet about them then they don’t deserve them.

6. Don’t Document Your Work

Documentation usually means that there is some sort of forethought or emphasis on the future at your company. You should absolutely be discouraging this sort of behavior from your employer. It is just completely unacceptable.

You should never write more than two lines of comments or a few words in your commit messages, or even follow standard design patterns or coding conventions.

Those are things for the lead engineers to worry about. You’re a professional and an adult, you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone and much less waste time worrying about how the system is going to scale, the maintainability and efficiency of your code, or other trivialities.

7. Spend All of Your Free Time on Entertainment

Finally, here is where you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor: a lifetime of choice entertainment, constant outings with ‘the boys’, a long string of drunk nights out, and enough stories to make the bigwigs over at lunch fall off of their seats with riotous laughter.

Or maybe you’re the more introverted type. In that case, you get to look forward to a big Steam library, terabytes of obscure Chinese cartoons, and Lord knows what else you might end up having lying under some AES-256 encryption in your SSD.

Don’t worry about reading technical books, contributing to open source software, listening to podcasts, taking online tech courses, or even having some personal passion project at home. Those things are for sweaty geniuses, autists, and future mass shooters.

You know better than that.

9 thoughts on “How to Make It as a Mediocre Software Developer

  1. Love it.

    I fully intend on following these principles. Caring and doing good work is hard and, in some companies, yeilds no rewards.


  2. Smug nonsense. Not everyone can be the mythical 10x coder and perhaps some people still do want to work in technology without being a ride or die 24/7 code junkie.


    1. Then we are in agreement, my friend.

      Perhaps you have misread me, but the point of this post is not to shift the reader from one extreme to the other, but to reconsider his position and act (or not) accordingly.


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