JustaProgrammer is an early C2 wiki page. Its an interesting mix of fear (I don’t want to be called ‘just a programmer’), bravado (I wear the ‘just a programmer’ badge with pride), straight-back-atcha condescension (I don’t need a manager to deliver good software, what can a manager do without me?), aspiration (I prefer Software Engineer to ‘just a programmer’) and even Feldman/Law style snobbery (“In my mind a coder is the guy who does just the implementation, while a programmer takes on the whole job”). In short its a distillation of many of the fears of techies about how they can excel at what they have a talent for without getting stuck at the bottom of the corporate ladder, or having to ‘sell out’ and become a, whisper it, manager.
I see something similar in the way we adopt terminology and concepts from other disciplines in the hopes it will convey some of their respectability/maturity/excitement on our immature discipline. We don’t design systems, we architect them, we don’t do programming exercises, we have coding kata (conducted in a programming dojo), we’re not coders we’re engineers. When I wrote about the problem with the use of Shu-Ha-Ri to teach Agile disciplines, the author of this post said
“let people compare their lives and their jobs to whatever they want. If it inspires and motivates them, makes them feel good about their lives and their work – and makes them feel like warriors, achievers, believers, fighters, winners”
Fair point, why shouldn’t people borrow from what inspires them if it makes them feel good about what they do?
On the other hand, why isn’t being JustAProgrammer inspiring in itself? As a programmer, working with one relatively simple tool (a computer), connected to a much less simple tool (the Internet), I can almost literally conjure something business-valueable out of nothing. I can help businesses save money and I can help them make more money. Hell, if I have the right idea, I can even create a brand new business myself. All with nothing more than a bit of thinking and a bit of time (and maybe a bit of cash to pay for the tools, although even that’s becoming a vanishingly small factor). What’s more, people like me who are wired slightly differently can use the same tools to create art, entertainment, education or combinations of all of these.
With nothing more than a bit of thinking and a bit of time.
Compared to that, a sweaty room full of people performing punches and kicks and counting up to ten in Japanese looks a bit, well, mundane and people who draw technical specs of houses for other people to go and build look a bit, well, limited. And engineers? I am an engineer by training at least and all I can say is I’m glad i don’t have to deal with all that nasty, messy, inflexible, intransigent physical stuff like these guys did.
I often reference Kent Beck’s Software is Software talk from OT99. Perhaps its time for an update that talks about not just the software and the way we build it but the people who do the building and what’s unique about them: JustaProgrammer Revisited?