Your office job probably isn’t “heroic” but that’s fine!

Programming isn’t a spectator sport.
But wait until the proverbial excrement hits the fan!
Then everyone who believes he has a stake or interest in the emergency is summoned by some arcane force.
Then they all gather around the guy who needs to fix the problem, and they swarm around him like flies on a fresh cow turd!
Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the epic “hacking scenes” from a movie.
There’s only stress.

Software and systems emergencies remind me of the times when you needed to find a plumber over the weekend.
While the plumber is fixing the leak or declogging the sewerage you’ll also see everyone standing around.
They’re not watching in awe though, but more out of morbid interest— Secretly being glad they don’t need to do the job but also irritated by having to pay for someone to invade their sanctum on a weekend.
I think many white-collar office emergencies fall in the category where management is just relieved someone pitched up to find an accounting error, incorrect booking or whatever other glitch showed up on a monitoring screen.

Yeah, alright then— Perhaps you’ll get the courtesy nod of approval if you fixed the error timeously.
Just don’t think for a minute there’s a medal in it for you.
After having worked a dozen jobs I very seldom received more than a cursory “thanks dude” for fixing “leaks.”
It seems that inadvertently the boss easily perceives a glitch as an inconvenience.
Perhaps he was lounging by the pool when the crisis was reported.
On some level, he equates the problem with you, because irrespective of whether you caused it, he needs someone to personify the irritation he feels at losing some leisure time!
If you’re working for a cool boss he might appreciate your efforts, just don’t assume it will improve his happiness, well-being or anything for that matter.
Getting you to do the job—That’s the job for him, and you’re part of the job.

If I come across as being overly cynical then so be it, these are my experiences.
Even a crucial cog within a mess of gears is still only part of the system.
Of course, you’ll say they value you.
But I’m not talking about receiving half-assed awards for service at the end of the year either!
Drop me a line and tell me I’m wrong if you’ve experienced stellar teamwork, sincere respect for your work and proper rewards and recognition for selflessly sacrificing large chunks of your life to the corporate machine.

Who are the heroes then?
Even the most daring economist, stockbroker or brazen ad-agency executive still feed the shareholders of the company more than anything else!
He makes money for them and he is useful for as long as his “winning streak” lasts!
He might be a Wolf, and he might be on Wall Street, but he sure ain’t no hero of mine!

In my opinion, many doctors, teachers, welfare workers, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and military personnel can be heroic.
Sure there are many others, these just spring to mind.
I would like to believe some people don’t work in order to service any money-making conglomerates!
Earning a big income seldom seems to be a factor for those who are earning a living by serving the greater community.
My perception is that those whose job description includes “serving others” find it easier to clock out for the day knowing they at least attempted to make a difference where it matters— Within the lives of other people.

People who essentially dedicate their lives to the wellbeing of people can work under harsh unforgiving circumstances.
I’m a realist, I don’t visualize utopian jobs just yet!
This train of thought is perhaps nothing more than an attempt at defining “purpose” within the office.

Don’t quit your office job just yet.
But do recognize the fact that it might not be your purpose in life.
Recognize it for what it is.
Learn to think about colleagues as humans.
Be the good guy in a crisis — That’s heroic.
Perhaps nobody will notice.
Heroism is a tough game, and often an unthankful one!

Whenever I think that my job doesn’t benefit anyone directly it doesn’t make me despondent, it gives me focus to find alternative avenues towards fulfillment and purpose.

In the interim, whatever you decide for your future, also remember to take care of yourself!
Enjoy your job whenever possible, but don’t simply succumb to the illusion that you are being a “workplace hero” because you work long and hard hours.
Be aware that you are still human, you have human needs, and you also matter!
You’re not just the job!