Saturday, March 22, 2008

You Weren't Meant to Have a Boss

Paul Graham wrote a great article on why working for (or better yet founding) a small company is a much more natural and satisfying environment for programmers to exist in then a large organization is. Having worked in both environments I completely agree. Of course who wouldn't find appealing an article titled "You Weren't Meant to Have a Boss".

I was talking recently to a founder who considered starting a startup right out of college, but went to work for Google instead because he thought he'd learn more there. He didn't learn as much as he expected. Programmers learn by doing, and most of the things he wanted to do, he couldn't—sometimes because the company wouldn't let him, but often because the company's code wouldn't let him. Between the drag of legacy code, the overhead of doing development in such a large organization, and the restrictions imposed by interfaces owned by other groups, he could only try a fraction of the things he would have liked to. He said he has learned much more in his own startup, despite the fact that he has to do all the company's errands as well as programming, because at least when he's programming he can do whatever he wants.

An obstacle downstream propagates upstream. If you're not allowed to implement new ideas, you stop having them. And vice versa: when you can do whatever you want, you have more ideas about what to do. So working for yourself makes your brain more powerful in the same way a low-restriction exhaust system makes an engine more powerful.

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