Monday, May 16, 2011

Programmers vs Non-Programmers

{Imported from my post in Vstretch blog}

Buzz words, like: business logic, analytics diagrams, project estimation, cloud computing.. are ones that business people build their career on, managers try to use in most of the applicable and not so much circumstances and programmers try to run as far and hide.. Hide when possible to avoid being trapped into committing to finalization of development phase within certain period of time. Programmers do realize that estimating far ahead of time, committing to the project, that relies on other code you have never seen before is a trap.

All the hot-shot "young" programmers believe that given some time, they would re-implement the buggy modules given, rather than spend tedious hours debugging and trying to make sense of project components, that your managers have bought the sales pitch for. With years of programming comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes realization that you will never be able to sell your top-notch perfect solution that you enjoyed every second developing... Your so-perfect solution with never be able to compete with competitors solutions, since with the really ugly interface and much more uglier back-end they were able to bind a couple of open source projects together, reuse some other components, and within fraction of your development and deployment time, and fraction of the man-hours spent on the project release their solution to the market with the fraction of your price.

Relatively early in my career, Graduate Student Research Assistant was my title. Given freedom to choose what project I want to work on, what results I was pursuing, it seemed I had all the time in the world to convert my dreams into C# lines of code. Armed with resources as time, caffeine and Internet, and thrown into the dark woods of exploring the great and grand world of Artificial Intelligence. Overwhelmed with all the possibilities, I worked on the interface for displaying the algorithms for five months, writing polished and re-usable code, and re-thinking every detail of the project. Needless to say, I never quite finalized the project, although parts and pieces of it were perfection, the time came to move to a "real" job, where everything is much better structured, and my dream project was left unfinished.

Looking back, and analyzing the value of the re-usable and clean code I used to cherish so dearly, I conclude - the experience was a great exercise, and made great "code sample" asked at some interviews. However what counts is, that nobody ever re-used a single module from that code, and the project was left undone. Comparing this with the model of successful small to medium scale software companies, comes the realization of fact that marketing folks [that announce worldwide about non-existence features of your product], sales folks [that hide the truth from your customers about pricing going up], support [that tell your customers that feature they requested will be soon added, although from engineering perspective it is near-impossible], project management [that forces developers like yourself to commit to deadline, which seems unrealistic], are so very important for the success of your company, for generating the revenue and keeping you employed.

They will never understand the pure joy of writing beautiful code, the importance of scientific discoveries you are about to make, but this collaboration, often disagreements and compromised between engineering and non-technical stuff is what keeps your product revenue and sales high, and keeps the balance ensuring all the effort is utilized optimally.

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