What makes you satisfied with a job?
Don't overthink the question. The answer is simple.
You are satisfied with a job when you thoroughly enjoy it.
So, what are the enjoyable aspects of being a software developer?
Without getting too much into the weeds, I will provide 5 aspects to consider that make a software development job enjoyable.
All of these aspects should be present in an ideal role. However, some aspects are more appealing to some than others.
You should consider which of these 5 aspects really makes you tick. This will help you either bring out the most of your current role (where you have influence) or step into a more ideal role.
What makes software development so exciting is the ability to create.
By learning the skills required to develop software, you are able to create solutions to improve the lives of other humans via a product.
All products intend to solve a common problem for a niche of other humans.
Each team that creates a product ought to strive together to make their product the best it can be for their end users.
Part of the satisfaction of being a software developer is to create something that improves the lives of others and seeing the reaction of those lives that are improved.
A team that wants to incentivize developers should emphasize:
1) The purpose of the product being developed
2) The uniqueness of the product being developed
3) The impact of the product being developed
4) The reactions of the delivered product
A good team will not only make developers feel that they are on a good and grand mission but validate the success of their mission (via surfacing customer reactions/testimonials).
Additionally, a good team will make developers an active part of the product-making progress, allowing them to influence the direction of the product.
Developers can leverage their technical expertise to suggest ideas that product-exclusive team members and customers may not realize as a possibility.
Software development is a trade, and like all trades, there is satisfaction in becoming as technically sound in your trade as possible.
This complements other enjoyments of software development. For example, the better skilled you are, the better you can help create a product that solves the needs of others.
However, crafting your trade is something that is satisfying in and of itself.
Developers should be encouraged that their enjoyment of crafting their trade is taken seriously and accounted for.
Here are some ways teams can allow developers in crafting their trade:
1) Allocating time for writing high quality code (instead of forcing scrappy code due to ambitious deadlines)
2) Prioritizing times for addressing tech debt
3) Encouraging technical conversations/knowledge transfer between developers in informal and formal ways
4) Allow developers to craft technical skills in other areas besides the product they work on (i.e. open source software, side projects, blogging, contributing to a specialized, technical team)
Poor compensation will exasperate gaps in satisfying the needs of developers. Good compensation provides peace of mind and a greater ability to be patient through periods of adjustment.
Developers are often in the grind of coding. Of course, there is a certain enjoyment that developers can find in that.
But, humans are human, and it is only human to enjoy rich and fun interactions with other humans.
That means that developers should be stimulated with opportunities to be casual with other co-workers, get to know each other better, have fun together, collaborate together, etc.
A rich culture in a team can really make work more enjoyable.
This is similar to allowing developers to craft their trade, however, developers also need outside influence to be guided towards an enjoyable career.
A good team will be comprised of leaders who can recognize what satisfies a developer and try to maximize the enjoyment in the role (or a future role) for said developer.
These leaders come in the form of technical leads and managers.
Technical leads and manages can help train less-experienced developers how to craft their trade. They can "go to bat" for developers to make sure that their priorities and needs are accounted for. They can serve as mentors that can be talked to in times of adversity, whether in work or life.
A system of support through technical leads and managers is incredibly satisfying.
Now that you have these various aspects to consider, you should prioritize these aspects and do all that you can to make your role the most satisfying. This will always require a tricky-but-achievable balance of taking initiative to fill in gaps yourself, bring up suggestions to others, or look for better fits.