How ISO Standards Became My Unlikely Career Cheat Code: A Tech Odyssey

From cowboy coding to ISO disciple - discovering the unseen forces shaping work, while striving for value, not 'unique snowflake' status.

16-bit Nintendo image of a white house briefing
"There are unknown unknowns, known unknowns...you get the idea.


It might seem like the drabbest thing on earth, but these standards worked like career caffeine for my tech journey.

The wise words of Donald Rumsfeld ring true in his legendary 20-second soundbite about the known unknowns. Listen, then let's resume.

Mind-blowing.

It would take another 14 years before this Eureka moment hit me - recognizing the existence of unseen factors influencing my work. A fascinating headspace to be in.

Being the CTO of a medical software startup gave me an unexpected reality check. It taught me my previous approach to software development was somewhat whimsical:

  • A dash of talent
  • A ladle of luck
  • And a hogshead of cowboy coding

My process comprehension was pitifully narrow, fixated solely on WHAT I was building, with little thought spared for HOW or WHY.

But for those who are open to learn and absorb, these ISO standards represent wisdom accumulated from the best. It's the battlefield wisdom encapsulated in cliches like scar tissue, muscle memory, and more.

Using these standards as a framework is akin to unlocking the cheat codes of life. It's like having a ghost mentor by your side when no one else is around.

You don't have to be a hardcore adherent to each guideline; consider them as the compass guiding your journey. Absorb them with grace and understand the preferred playbook of the industry.

Sure, you're a unique snowflake with a more-special-than-most infrastructure. But for the rest of us mere mortals, we're just aiming to deliver value to our customers and our industry, without setting off any figurative fires - be it our data centers, personal relationships, or customer bonds.

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