Thinker-doer



“Thinkers are rare; doers are rarer; and thinker-doers are rarest.” (Fred Brooks, “The Mythical Man Month”)

At the top of my CV there is a “Summary” section that starts with “I am a computer scientist, software architect, and thinker-doer.”

A few years ago I found this excerpt from an interview with Steve Jobs in which he’s asked about the ideal balance between thinking and doing:

“I’ve seen a lot of people make a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of people fail a lot of things. My point of view on this, my observation is that the doers are the major thinkers. The people that really create the things that change this industry are both the thinker-doer in one person.”

There’s a lot of truth to that, even for those of us who aren’t “major thinkers”. I want my work to require thought, but it’s also important to get into the messy and often tedious details. I refuse to be one of those computer scientists who responds to the messiness by saying, “That’s just engineering,” and moving on to the next conceptual problem. You can’t do truly impactful work if you consistently avoid getting into the weeds.