Software development is at its core a terribly frustrating profession. You get lured into with images of the lone hacker building a billion website overnight in his dorm and here about the excitement of building a new product or even embarking on a new project for a client. Only to later find out that most people who stay up all night hacking away on side projects never ship them or if they do never make dime and that most of your work is going to be about maintaining and updating code rather than writing your own from scratch. Eventually, your jump into some sort of coping mechanism such as the pomodoro technique or Agile or some other poor excuse for a made up solution to the fundamental problem of the profession. The problem is that the software development industry hates software developers. It really hates us and if you think about it that makes sense, since we can make a lot of demands on business types that others simply can’t.
Recently, the industry tried to curb our influence by outsourcing. It was thought that business could just higher 75% off their staff offshore for a third of the price and use that as downward price pressure in the domestic market. That hasn’t gone as well as some would have liked, but it certainly hasn’t failed completely. Still, the results were less than stellar and a lot business are hitting their pain points with foreign development and bringing their dev projects back home, but no one wants a 75% price increase over night, so what’s a slick talking but frugal business man to do?
Sell the lone hacker myth and hand out little bottles of the Facebook style startup Kool-Aide. After all, it turns out that a lot of young people have inflated sense of their abilities (especially young coders) and can be easily manipulated into working what amounts to unpaid overtime; unpaid, since only an idiot puts a young developer on hourly when he could give him a set salary with unrealistic deadlines to force the extra work out of every penny. Well look at that! It worked! They’ll work 50-60 hour weeks for your business and still promise to work harder next week. Better still, if they have a personal event or other issue they will apologize for that rare 40 hour week! Got to love kids! You must be so happy. Look at all the value you can show your investors and how modest the L side of your P&L is!
But wait something seems wrong. It’s been about a year and your dev is becoming a little harder to work with. He’s starting to mention things like vacation time…. Doesn’t he know that <insert random month here> is super important for <insert company name here> and it’s crunch time? Sure it was crunch time when you brought him on and pretty much every month after that but isn’t that just the business? Worse still he is out the door after his eight hour day – is he no longer committed?
Then it happens. Your dev up and bails on you. Maybe he gives you two weeks of notice maybe he doesn’t. Either way your down a dev and probably not sure why. Well, the answer varies based on the dev – it could be family, a better offer, or any other reason. But, there is a commonality in most of these cases: on some level the dev figures out that the economics just don’t make sense; at least not if he is to work the hours that you expected. Before wondering what happened ask yourself this: if that dev were a lawyer or CPA would you have expected the same type of “commitment”?
Let’s face it no business manager would think about asking for the level of commitment and self-sacrifice that is commonly asked of software developers of a lawyer or CPA. The reason is simple: most businessmen value lawyers and CPAs – they respect them and see them as professionals. The see them as professional adults where developers are just overgrown teens in their eyes. The sad part is that we allow this. We have created the youth culture around “hip” development technologies that allows this sort of age discrimination against more mature developer while simultaneously promotes the abuse of young developers. It’s time that we as software developers demand the same respect that other professionals get and end these age issues.
We are of course not blameless in this lack of respect. Whenever a dev shows up to a meeting in a hoodie or gaming tee, he sends the message that he is not a professional. So please give the hoodies to the Salvation Army and throw on a polo. Also, you are not a “rockstar”, “ninja”, or “code samurai”. You are, however, a “Software Developer”, Software Engineer”, or “Programmer”, so make sure your business card has one of the latter titles on it rather than the former and use the more professional title in conversations. One more thing. Keep your conference presentations PG13 and please don’t make sexual comments; that goes double for dongle jokes. If we can all act like professionals maybe we will be treated like professionals.