Any good developer or system administrator is largely invisible, working behind the scenes, quietly delivering value without fanfare or ceremony. If you get noticed, chances are that something went wrong.
You need a particularly special mindset to survive in such an environment. You have to be self motivated and strive for quality in yourself. There may be others in your team, but if you want praise from the customer for a job well done, you’ll likely be disappointed, even when everything goes to plan. In a recent report comparing the system I’m leading to similar systems elsewhere, the biggest praise we got was only having a couple of lines describing the system in a report full of challenges and recommendations for the other systems.
So, don’t look at what you’re doing as work, you have to have passion and pride in your abilities. Ultimately you develop software because it rewards you directly. It gives you the chance to learn, to explore, and gives you the satisfaction of solving problems.
So, how can you be more resilient to customer feedback? Once you understand that 95% of the users ignore you because the system is good enough (although, if you start shadowing them, you may find improvements), what do you do with the 5% who tell you it doesn’t work?
Be fair. Understand that it is a real problem for them. The thing that isn’t working is causing them pain. Listen with patience and humility. Don’t feel pressure to fix it straight away. Software is complex, and their problem might not be the highest priority. Go away and think about it, reflect before you answer. With practice, you’ll be able to do this on the spot, but make time to reflect your default position.
Jack of all trades
You’re a developer, that doesn’t mean you’re able to work the fancy cooker your parents just bought, it doesn’t mean you’re an expert psychologist who can understand what’s happening in your user’s mind. It doesn’t mean you’re an expert designer who can make everything as pretty as a sunset. But you’ll be asked to do all these things.
Have an armchair view of everything, but be ready to delegate knowledge.
If everything was working perfectly, you’d be out of a job, so embrace the cracks, the complaints and the quibbles. That’s where we improve.