Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Why would a developer become a manager

A rant by a lady called Katie Lucas in a discussion thread ...

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"Why would you want a great developer to become a manager in the first

Well, this particular developer is becoming a manager for the
following reason:

Job requirements for engineers have an alphabet soup
attached to them. I've been rejected for jobs because the version of Sybase I
last used is too old, and this is for a role where SQL isn't even the core
requirement. The SQL standard hasn't changed, but agents can't figure that out -
they just want people who've used the latest version of Sybase.

I get
turned down for UNIX dev roles because the version of VB I've used isn't the
latest -- because they add a VB background to all the dev position requirements,
and it's got the be the latest version of VB.

I've just got bored of
having my technical skills outdated every six months. If I take my eye off the
ball and Microsoft announces a technology and I don't immediately ram it into my
CV or pick the wrong job, a year later I'm near unemployable.

I'm fed up
of my career being this bizarre stamp collecting exercise where I get judged on
how many of the acronyms I've been near lately and not whether I've gained any
deep experience in anything.

Frankly, I'm getting too old to play this
stupid game anymore. No-one wants to hire a software engineer with a decade of
experience to start work in C#. They'll train 2 year experienced people to use
C#, but if you've got more experience than that, you better show up with
experience in C# because any other experience you have is irrelevant.

tired of my entire experience being torn up and thrown away every couple of
years because agents and HR departments can't figure out that a developer who
can write C++ can also write C# and Java with very little training -- but what
can you expect? These are guys who think Visual C++ isn't the same language as

I looked at being a tech writer. I quite like writing -- I've
got a background in creative writing, it's something I quite like, and I've done
tech writing around IT projects before. Unfortunately, although I've written
stuff and studied writing and so on, I'm not qualified to be a tech writer
because the version of PageMaker I last used is too old... I suddenly have these
visions of people saying to a re-incarnated Dickens "Look, you've only used
quills. What the hell kind of writer are you? We're only considering people with
experience with Biros version 4 or above."

I've noticed that things like
"Project manager" experience doesn't get thrown away in the same way. No-one
says "Oh, but that was a year ago. We manage projects COMPLETELY differently
now. That experience doesn't count", whereas they do with, say, SQL. It's like
SQL is a whole new langauge with each version of Oracle.

being a successful software engineer currently means that you pick a tech, ram
some experience on your CV and then bail after a couple of years before that
becomes "old tech". Every couple of years you need to pick a technology (which
probably hasn't actually shipped at that stage) and bet on it. And you must bet
right every time.

You never gain deep experience because that would mean
missing an acronym off your CV and who knows when you'd need the

I've been offered two jobs; one will get me a PM background. One
will get me a bundle of technologies. The latter is a good role, but how can I
tell if those technologies will leave me employable in two years time? They
might be completely outdated by then and useless and irrelevant like my
experience with SQL on Oracle 8.

It'll get me a couple of years of Java,
for example. But how can I tell if Java will still be an employable skill in
2007? I mean, I've got Java at the moment, but no hope of a job using it,
because I don't also have J2EE and anyway the Java I did was 1.1 and everyone's
after people with experience in newer versions...

Apparently I have no
worthwhile experience to show for 10 years in the business because everything's
the wrong version or doesn't have the right condiments or is just a tool no-one
uses anymore. Any actual background I've got in things like "being an engineer
who gets software written" is irrelevant. It's like assessing a builder on
whether they've used Black and Decker tools and not on whether their houses are
still standing. Or like assessing Dickens' writing skills by the fact he used
quills and not biros.

Soft skills like PM don't get outdated by FUD
from Microsoft. They don't come with version numbers which can drift out of

Really, they're the only alternative if you're the sort of person
who can't assume you'll bet on the "right" technology every two years for the
rest of your life.

So this developer is becoming a manager just so that I
can start building an experience history to remain employable with, because I'm
fed up of fighting hard to keep even a couple of years of "relevant" background
on my CV.

[As a complete side note, reading the job pages in
the paper I came across an advert for a "housing policy officer". Now, bear in
mind 'm used to adverts which say "Reqd Skills; C++, UNIX, Windows, VB, MFC,
ASP, STL, ATL, Multithreaded, C#, .net, CVS, ClearCase <etc>"

one said "You should have a higher-second or first degree and  a track record of
generating effective housing policies."

Wow. Pay was pretty much a match
for being a software engineer.]

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Original post: Katie's rant

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