Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, June 2, 2014

No BS, Why people are software developers.

We don't write the software for the money.
Software developers are and odd breed of people.  We work long hours and view the world through the lenses of code.  Why do they do it? I have been thinking about it for some time and I wanted to share with you why software developers do what they do.  This week on the blog what drives software developers.

One of my favorite books on the subject of software development comes from the Bill Pfleging and Minda Zetlin called “The Geek Gap”.  The principle thesis of the book is that software and engineering professionals are motivated by building things that work.  Business people are motivated by influencing others to get work done.  Often these to world views come into conflict.  This is because business people are motivated by schedules and business needs while technical professionals are motivated by building systems that work and our easy to maintain.

I have experienced that conflict first hand as developers have argued with management about unrealistic deadlines and management has looked at the creative process involved in software development and groaned in frustration.  This is one of the reasons why agile software development has been so successful.  The role of Business owner has acted as a “go-between” role between business people and the technology staff and it has helped smooth out the rough edges between the two different tribe of business groups.

That still does not answer the question of why software developers do what they do.  David Graeber, a professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics wrote a provocative essay “Bullshit Jobs” in the article he argues about the growth of jobs which seem to do nothing more than being involved in meetings, filing reports and administrative support to the business.  Software development is the antithesis of the “bullshit job” because we are building actual things which people use- software.  Granted it is not the great American novel or a cure for the myriad kinds of cancer that exist, but every phone app, web page and application you use in business was created by hand in the mind of a software developer.

This creative process of wrestling code into something that people will actually use is pretty awesome when you experience it.  Four or five hours can drift by and it can seem like five minutes.  You are in a state that developers often refer to as flow.  When you are in flow, I compare the experience to having the hand of the creator guiding your mind toward a better solution.  It is one of the most sublime experiences that I know.

This is one of the reasons I founded my own software company.  I wanted to share that sublime experience with others and help them do better business.  Give us a call and we will show you how.

Software developers are an odd breed of people but by understanding that we are a building things people use and are not involved in “bullshit jobs”; it is one of the best professions to be involved in.

Until next time.