I’ve been reflecting lately on the lies we tell ourselves as an industry. The software development industry has and will continue to grow at an astonishing rate, and yet we continue to deceive those who are entering this industry with catastrophic untruths. These lies that we tell ourselves, and those we train, are told for all sorts of reason, most are for wishful thinking, others are ways to continue to enforce the shape and/or behaviors of the community, and in the end, the greatest truth is, we are lying to ourselves, not to employers. So what are these great lies? What are the ugly truths which we must dispel? Well here are some that come to mind for me:
Lie #1 : A developers greatest asset is their technical knowledge
This is the granddaddy of all other lies in our industry, no other lie is more pervasive, or evil than this one. The reason why this lie is so evil is it affects how we orient our industry as a whole. We are, and have been for a long time, oriented towards believing that the cleverness of our technical solutions define how successful we are. If you figure out how to sort something faster, decide something faster, or do something we’ve never been able to do before, then that is greatest success.
In reality, while technical skill is important, our greatest asset as developers is our ability to understand what our users need, to create solutions which sufficiently meet those needs today, and help them do new things they want to do in the future. Developers should be focused on value to the business, not clever technical solutions.
Because of this we don’t take credit for our business value wins, and instead are happy claiming our technical wins. And because of that, we are not valued financially at the level of impact we actually have on the business. We let others, who manage us, to claim the laurels we’ve left on the ground as we ran of to chase the next technical win.
Lie #2 : Developers are a monolithic group
Despite what some people would like, developers are not a monolithic group, which all act and behave a certain way. We are a diverse group which is largely working to increase that diversity. We are pretty amazingly diverse in:
- Passions & Interests (we are not all “geeks”)
We are less diverse, but trying to improve our diversity in:
- Sexual Orientation
Lie #3 : Developers are bad at interpersonal communications
I’m sure right about now you’re thinking … “wait that isn’t a lie!”. But you’re wrong. It is a lie. Many developers are actually pretty darned good at interpersonal communications. But what they are bad at is communicating about things which they do not think is interesting. Want to talk about Captain America, then many developers will be excited about that.
But we are slower to want to talk about things we don’t put value into.
Because we primarily value technical things (see Lie #1), we are quick to talk about those things. But we can, and should, be willing to engage with people on other levels, talking about business value, about our families, our interests and make honest real human connections which are not just shallow connections purely about technology, or even just about work.
We as an industry need to stop lying about these things. I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. Just today I’ve assumed a co-worker would be going to the movies over the weekend to see Captain America : Civil War, and I’ve talked about how developers are bad at communicating up the corporate hierarchy, before correcting myself to speak about what types of things many, but not all developers, struggle with.