Finding Fox Work

My last post suggested that it’s difficult to sell oneself as a fox in the software development sphere. People want hedgehogs.

So what’s a fox to do?

My ultimate answer is that I don’t know. I’ll let you know when/if I figure out a foolproof master plan for it. Don’t hold your breath.

But for now, I do have some speculative thoughts on the matter. I have a possibly-naïve answer in three steps.

  1. Hedge.
  2. Build foxy relationships.
  3. Expose yourself.


Be a hedgehog. Do hedgehog work. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be a fox. It means you should be T-shaped. Be a specialist and a generalist.

Find hedgehog work you’ll enjoy, so if you fail at foxhood, you will still have spent your time well.

Build Foxy Relationships

“The best way to get clients is to have clients.” – Gerald Weinberg

Can’t get clients? Make some. When smart people hire you as a hedgehog, gently be a fox, too: listen, learn, ask good questions, offer insights, repeat. Show those people your foxy goodness, find more smart people, repeat.

(Notice I say “smart people”. Let’s define “smart” as “appreciative of the free services of a fox”. Not everyone hiring you for hedgehog work will be so appreciative.)

Building those foxy relationships grows your reputation and your network. Get recommendations from that network, for your foxy work in particular. Social proof that you’re valued as a fox is the closest you’ll get to the hedgehog analog of a technical skill on a résumé.

Expose Yourself

Get exposure. Invest a serious amount of time in getting your name and your abilities out where potential clients can see them. The way you go about this should vary by what you’re good at, what you’re comfortable with, and what works. So experiment.

As a bonus, just about any way you try to gain exposure will inevitably lead to improvement of your fox skillset. A software engineer who also knows about writing, podcasting, screencast/video production, public speaking, or running an OSS project or a conference or a business… that’s someone who “knows many things”. Very foxy.