Sunday, March 5, 2017

on not being hated

"Most tech company execs will do anything to keep their engineers happy."

Anil Dash is talking about what SF techies could do to stop being hated.

I came to AD via Joel Spolsky (whom I have been following for years); Dash is the new CEO of Fog Creek.  The idea that companies want to attract and keep good software engineers is a familiar theme in the annals of Spolsky.  It's bad and good for me to look over the fence.

Not to be unkind, I'd like you to imagine translating this sentence to a different sphere.

"Most publishers will do anything to keep their writers happy."

This is not that world.

Writers sometimes get asked whether someone who wants to be a writer should persevere, and they tend to sound rather curmudgeonly in their replies.  It sounds churlish to say something like "If you have to do it, you'll do it. Don't do it if it's not impossible to do anything else."  It sounds like the lucky few depressing the aspirations of the young and hopeful.

It's not really like that.  Writers know they don't live in a world where company execs, or, indeed, the lowliest intern, will do anything to keep writers happy.  They don't even live in a world where agents, or, indeed, the lowliest intern, will do anything to keep writers happy.  So they live in a world where the odds are heavily stacked against doing their best work, and actually, if you have a choice, you're probably better off being a dev.

It's not that devs don't live in a world where people drive them crazy.  Recruiters drive them crazy.  Management drives them crazy.  Open plan offices drive them crazy.  People calling them on the PHONE drive them crazy.  They may be required to write code in PHP when every fiber of their being revolts. (There are many languages which may prompt every fiber of their being to revolt.) But -- well, for example, they are not asked to wait months for a program to be debugged by someone who is not a programmer.

I was probably going to say more, but I think I'll stop now.


Ted Lemon said...

Ah. Fond memories of having all of the clever verb tenses I used in my writing (technical book) being changed to the present tense, so that non-english readers would not be confused. The dev editor of course did not understand what was being said, so I had to review every sentence in careful detail to tease out the cases where they had exactly reversed the meaning by changing the tense, and also every case where they had changed something that basically meant "you should consider doing X" to "you should always do X." Good times.

Kweku said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kweku said...

You know, what actually drives me crazy the most in the software engineering world is the rampant BSing that happens. Management, claiming you're too "technical" to understand a particular business choice, will handwave their point through, and then brush you aside. Fellow engineers, thinking you're too dumb to understand their (questionable) reasons for picking this or that solution will handwave, and then brush you aside. You have to learn to pick your fights, which is a most irritating aspect of how one grows their career in this business.

The choice of programming language, however, never really bothered me all that much, to be honest. But then I read this, and thought about it. Never really had a problem with either PHP or Javascript, the latter actually being my favorite language, but what would actually drive me crazy would be being asked to program in C++. Oh yes. You might as well go ahead and electrocute me with your office power supply instead. What I can do in less than 5 lines in JavaScript (storing stuff in a hash, for example) will take me at least 15 minutes in C++, and a lot of prayerful consulting of StackOverFlow.

(Sorry for deleted comment above: There seems to be no other way to edit...)