I Used To Code
Work in software development long enough, and one day, you too will hear this phrase uttered by someone, “I used to code.” While the intention may be one of empathy or solicitation, as the identification of the supposed, shared, past is meant to build bonds. Inevitably, this utterance almost always forms a divisive line between those who write software and those who’ve stopped writing software to perform another role. The simple observation is this: developers seem to not respect careers paths past the immediate creation of code, while management — be it project, or product, or even executive — usually resort to this declaration, as some form of critique on effort, resourcefulness and most likely, timeliness of delivery.
Imagine the same conversation occurring in a slightly different setting, between say Joël Robuchon [culinary extraordinaire] and a guy who’ve made excellent French toast for weekend brunches at home — pointing out flaws to a celebrated chef and restaurateur, because our guy cracked an egg here and there. It’s comical, and it’s ludicrous. Actually, that conversation would never take place. Because in real life, people recognize those specialized skills and respect strength of performance, and would hesitate to disagree with an artisan on their craft. Yet this conversation of ex-developer vs. current-developer routinely occurs in our industry, within many companies and many meetings, reviews and other contentious gatherings. I’ve observed this, and so have you.
It’s a cynical view. The implication trivializes code creation, as the task must be simple. It also suggests a lack of trust, of the effort and commitment required for designing/implementing a quality solution to solve the problem at hand. It may even be an avoidance of accountability, as the responsibility is shifted away from everything else, except those actions associated with software development — surely, the project plan is immaculate, the business requirements a state of perfection and all other components paragon of flawless execution. The wrench is thrown in the general direction of the software team because that’s the source of all things evil. Please, think twice before this escape from your throat. Trust me on this… I used to code.