I spent a week in Nicaragua helping my dad do plumbing at a small school some missionaries had built. The school stands in the middle of one of the poorest areas in the western hemisphere. In a place where most houses consist of ten square feet of metal siding the school provides a glimmer of possibility.
I spent my week digging ditches, learning that water flows downhill, and pushing a wheelbarrow round and round the concrete circuit. The guys I worked with did this work every day and so their lives were clearly a little different than mine. To me, this week was a nice change of pace from the hours I spend in front of a laptop. Something good for the soul. For them it was just another day on the job.
The interesting thing to me wasn’t the differences. It was the similarities that really stuck out. As I listened to my dad’s explanations it became clear to me that there was a right and a wrong way to go about our task. Technically, you just need pipes to get from one place to the other and you have Plumbing, but there’s a big difference between a bathroom where you’re allowed to flush the toilet paper and one where you aren’t.
The pitch of the pipes, their circumference, the material they’re made out of in relation to what they’re carrying. All relevant, measurably so, in the endeavor of installing a sink. It’s in these places that I saw the connections to what I do each day.
When you’re worried about whether or not your app is dropping frames.
When you decide to go back and refactor your code so that the next person has an easier time.
When you write some unit tests instead of fighting fires that pop up in production.
You are pursuing Quality and though you can’t fully define what Quality is, you know you’re heading in the right direction.