Sometimes, being successful as a software developer has zero to do with having great talent.
Sometimes, being successful is simply being lucky. Being in the right place, at the right time. Having skills and talents that are needed at just that moment. Knowing the right people. Getting in early.
But most times, it involves you recognizing opportunity when it is staring you right in the face.
If I had to choose something (aside from being conventionally handsome, naturally) to have as a career skill, it would be to have an innate ability to recognize opportunity – and the courage to act upon that opportunity – at all times.
This is silly, of course – because it presupposes that recognition has no basis, other than having some sort of Eureka! moment, without having any context whatsoever.
The ability to recognize opportunity is actually possessing mastery over multiple domains; and, understanding how those domains may be applied in new, and useful, ways.
Technology innovation sometimes drives opportunity recognition. But without mastery over the problem set being solved, there is no there, there – technology innovation is mostly a necessary, but not sufficient, precondition of successfully acting upon opportunity.
Today, the technology land grab is in wearables (Apple Watch, FitBit, Pebble), Mobile, and the Internet of Things. New platforms are the seedbeds of opportunity. But, without a clear understanding of how these technologies may be successfully staged to solve a real world problem, you’re at less than zero.
And even when you have the skills, and the recognition, to act first – and act fast – success is still not guaranteed.
RadioShack was the first retailer to broadly market personal computers and cell phones. They are now bankrupt. Palm was the first – and initially most successful – maker of personal digital devices. Now dust. Microsoft marketed one of the first smartphones – currently an also-ran in the mobile space.
It’s not enough to recognize opportunity. You have to be committed to do something with that knowledge.
Go, and be you.