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Davyd McColl
Davyd McColl

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Be a catalyst for change

Sometimes you'll look at an existing situation, system, or even a single code file and recognise that it needs to change. It's not working as well as it could, and it probably makes it more difficult to move forward in other areas.

Sometimes that situation is one set up by people -- discrimination in the workplace, undertones of brogrammer culture which make it difficult for anyone who isn't a Chad to get anywhere. Sometimes it's that one piece of legacy code protected by the golden boy of the office. Everyone knows it's broken, but no-one wants to fix it and face the wrath of Captain Important.

The Pragmatic Programmer book brings up the story of stone soup, from which two lessons are drawn. I'm just going to focus on the first today:

Be a catalyst for change

It's all to easy, when we see something wrong in the world, to just face it with apathy -- we're too small, too junior, we can't do all of that, we're not the superhuman Greta Thunberg -- we could never even dream of sailing across the Atlantic to protest inaction against climate change in another country.

And you know what? That may be true to some extent. There are people in this world who are mightier than we are. It doesn't mean that we can't make change though -- because a lot of little changes adds up really quickly.

So when you see the dudebros at your work engaging in exclusive behavior, when you see the elitist gate-keepers at work, when you even just see one code file which could be improved: then take the smallest step. Make the smallest change and move onward from there. Challenge the dudebros to be better men. Add tests around that elitist's code and then refactor it to be better. The little changes you make empower you (and others) to make more changes, to move forward instead of stagnating in the quagmire that has always been.

And when you see someone else trying to make incremental improvements, back them up. When someone fixes that legacy code, give them a kudos. When someone stands up to the brogrammers, stand with them. Now you're part of empowering positive change in the world.

You don't have to fix the world, just make the little part you're in right now a little better, and, when we all do this, the world is in a better state overall.

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