Monday, December 5, 2011

Is development for sissies?

I was reading the book "Tales to make boys out of men" (I have 2 young ferocious gorillas boys). It was filled with adventurous stories of courage and valor who fought battles in the jungle or trekked through the frost-bitten Antarctic. Then here am I, a software engineer, essentially doing a "desk job" in an air-conditioned office with free coffee.
Sometimes I see people who have two categories: "tough-guy" jobs like fighter pilot, football player, or astronaut,  and "sissy" jobs like software engineer sitting behind a desk. What do I tell my impressionable kids?
I see it like this. "Tough-guy" jobs are honorable, and you certainly need them. But don't dismiss a "desk job" as being a sissy. Many IT engineers need to work with the most ferocious, dangerous, lethal, destructive animal on the planet – other people.  People inevitably have competing demands and interests, there are ruthless sharks out there, and any job that must constantly deal with people cannot, by definition, be a sissy job.
Second, developers also must work with the most uncaring and cold-hearted beast ever to exist – the compiler. The compiler doesn't care if you've had a bad day, if your code should work, or if you've spent a hundred hours on a 5 minute task. It has no grace. Such an inhuman vacuum is not the field of sissies.
Furthermore, other people are depending on the IT engineer's work. You could have a million customers using your financial application, or a billion dollars of revenue flowing through your processing system. Hackers attack your system every day. And the system has got to work. To have that sort of responsibility is not sissy-like.
Lastly, software engineering is so complex that you inevitably make mistakes (sometimes really big ones) – and then need to own up to them. That takes courage.
Ok, it's still not Rambo, but software engineering is not for the weak.


  1. it is a weak heart vs weak body debate. the rambo jobs like fighter pilot brings out the real man in you their dealing with other people is entirely different and more dynamic than the IT guy dealing with people (clients, managers) and compilers. a sound mind best exists in a sound body. in the same way, a strong mind exists best in a strong body.
    admit it, the s/w IT job is, in nature, soft.
    i'm one of them too. :(

  2. I remember seeing a documentary on Discovery which said that 2 (or was it 3?) out of every 5 American soldiers who fought in Europe in WW2 never fired a single bullet. Cultures all over the world eulogise the bravery of the men in uniform. Fact is they are humans just like everyone else and can wimp out too.