Software Development is a Strange Profession

Software development is similar to other creative professions in many ways. For example, working with buildings as an architect involves planning, recognition and application of well-known patterns, problem solving and so forth. But software development is different from most other professions in one very important way.

Imagine you are a painter, an architect or a musician looking for a job. What kind of information would you supply in your job application? Obviously, you would show proof of your skills (photographs of paintings or buildings or recordings of music). As a software developer, what do you show? An application?

Assume it’s a very nice application (or a very bad one). Sure, you can draw some conclusions from the externally observable quality and behavior of an application. But development is normally a team effort, your code might be perfect while other’s isn’t and vice versa… Showing an application also assumes it can be shown. Your stuff might be a deeply integrated in a backend server somewhere, or worse.

A friend of mine brought up the example of an electrician. After a job well done, the wiring is normally not visible, somewhat like the programmer’s. Nevertheless, the electrician can still take photos before walls cover up their work. Unfortunately, the code you write is normally a well-kept secret of the company you work for (and might be off-limits in terms of photography :). The problem is, as a software developer you have nothing to show! This is not only a problem for you, but also for people trying to hire you.

As I’ve said before, your CV does not say much, since experience is not really an indicator of quality code. Admittedly, there are ways to prove your skills: doing a test task, participating in open source software development, creating a portfolio of sample code to show etc. But this doesn’t change the fact that software development is a strange profession. Can you think of a profession that has the same problem?

3 thoughts on “Software Development is a Strange Profession

  1. I’m working mainly with backend programming in web applications. When I spend a month on a background integration that really improves the efficiency for the customer’s work someone may say “Well done!” at the most.

    When I add a Facebook Like button on their site they say “Fantastic work!”.

    :)

    • Maybe they have applied the old “what you see is what you get” to the wrong context. “No new button? What am I paying for?” :)

  2. If it is about praising the work and the developer it is not enough. If the client is satisfied it will surely praise the work and the person as well but after that you will not be there when the application developed by you will be being used by someone else. It will be used and will cause several advantages to the person purchasing it but there will be no name of the developer.

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