I think what we make can define us. I say “can” because we can choose not to let it. I’ve become acutely aware of this choice.
When I worked for 18 months at 500px, I let myself become defined by the iOS app, and I was happy to do so. When I was considering leaving, one of the biggest reasons I didn’t want to go was because I was so associated with the product.
It wasn’t that I felt the product wouldn’t go on without me – I left it in some very capable hands – it was that I was afraid people wouldn’t care who I was anymore if I wasn’t associated directly with such a well-known thing.
I spoke with my friend John about this problem and he suggested that all young developers go through this stage. He said eventually you stop conflating your self-identity with your work.
I think John’s right, but that’s not the whole picture. I don’t want the things I produce to be what defines me; rather, I want the higher-level aspects of what I produce to. I want my name associated with the quality and craftsmanship in the produces I make instead of the products themselves.
After leaving, I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to change my thinking to affect my own perception of who I am. I’m not the 500px iOS guy anymore, and I don’t want to move forward to become the “(insert cool project here) guy”, either. I want to be “that cool dude who knows a shit tonne about Objective-C”, to myself and others.