Finding Joy in Visible Plumbing

What I came to understand a few years ago: when it comes to writing software, I love creating “visible plumbing”. Let me explain.

When I talk about software development, I use the term “plumbing” to describe backend systems, all the usually invisible infrastructure stuff that makes things work. Sexy headline stuff? No. Important? Absolutely.

“Visible plumbing” is the stuff that helps people achieve their goals and do their jobs, like personal automation. (Ex:

It may not be shiny, but it’s useful.

And that theme, over the years, has come back to me again and again. Helping my co-workers and people get through their day, building automation for/with them, making the machine that was our company hum a little nicer - that’s my jam.

As its CTO (= resident nerd), I built a shitload (most?) of RECUP’s early digital infrastructure and tools, and I was happy with that, even though I knew it was important, but not something that was visible to people outside the company. I never made the cover of a business magazine or gave any interviews about it. But I knew I was doing important work, and that made me happy.

Or go back even further, about 20 years: I ran a community site for an MMORPG (kids, ask your parents) that focused on in-game “news” and markets. I was that thing that made it easier for others to tell their in-game stories, achieve their goals, have fun. To them, it was useful, and that gave me energy.

Anyway, my point is: I found my “passion” (🤮), I realized what gave me joy and what made me tick. I will never be super-rich or super-famous or super-important, and that’s quite alright, because I am content with what I do.

As a software developer or entrepreneur or freelancer, you don’t have to chase the shiny shit, the VC, you don’t have to revolutionize the Whatever, you don’t have to go global, you don’t need to “make it big”. Find an area that’s important to you, big or small (don’t overlook the small things!) and then go do your thing in that area. In my experience, that’s a recipe for getting the most joy out of your work.

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Carlo Zottmann @czottmann