I want you to imagine a software engineer or a programmer.
Tell me, what do you see?
Someone with glasses perhaps; wearing a t-shirt with something programmer-related written on it, like “sudo”; most likely male, too, and hunched over a laptop. A bunch of geeks. Correct? Well, that seems to be the general consensus concerning programmers, and it is fortunately untrue.
Let me ask another question: what caught your attention most about Simple Programmer? What about John? What struck you most about him?
For me, the answer to the first question is John, and to the second, that he is a fitness buff. That’s right. A programmer who is a fitness buff.
That stayed with me a long time, because I honestly never imagined such a thing (yes, it’s pretty narrow-minded), and when I saw that this was someone who also wrote a book titled Soft Skills, I knew I had to listen to him. Essentially, he shattered my belief in the “geeky programmer” stereotype.
After that, I started paying attention to all the programmers I encountered. As it so happens, I didn’t have to look further than my class (I’m studying for a bachelor’s in computer science).
Fashionistas, sports people, business types, fitness buffs, music lovers, and art lovers are all people I’ve found who are also programmers. Some of these programmers even cringe when you mention Star Wars or Star Trek. Others aren’t really bothered that we found water on Mars, aren’t moved by the Surface Book’s engineering feats, and don’t know what Destiny: The Taken King is.
Hard to imagine what lured them to programming, but it could just be how results-oriented programming is, much like the way music, sports, art and design are.
In this very small class of mine, there’s a guy who, for all intents and purposes, is already a preacher and wants to become a pastor after this. Much in the vein of Reynald Adolphe, who John talks about in this post, there’s also someone in my class whose comedic timing is truly remarkable.
Follow the link to my blog at the end of this post, and you’ll find that almost all I talk about over there is movies. In one of my SP posts (Android vs Apple) a while back, a man commented saying that he was a tattoo artist before he learned programming. He still tattoos, but not as his day job.
And this is when I started paying attention.
What does this mean?
Growing the Programming Community
Well, it could mean a chance to grow the programming community. The stand-up comedy show by programmers is a truly awesome idea, for example, and one I wish I could attend. All of John’s articles about fitness are somehow more trustworthy coming from another programmer. It doesn’t need to end there, either; it could expand to anything.
I’d love to see something like a programmer’s guide to cooking or eating healthy (there has to be something better than midnight coffee), or a music group made up of programmers, or maybe even an art community that brings people together.
Develop More Intuitive Software
Last year, Microsoft opened their Build Developer Conference with David William Hearn.
He developed a music app, Staffpad, for the Surface tablet that could translate hand-written music to computer generated notes. Since he is a composer, he instinctively knows the little things that make it a great app, things he experiences by actually playing music himself.
That alone is a major plus for software development.
There’s also inspiration. If you actively do this hobby or pursue this interest, you’ll know what kind of problems that a piece of software may solve. Imagine a programmer who is a car enthusiast working for Tesla.
Boost Your Creativity
Kevin O’Shaughnessey’s post on the Necessity of Creativity says it all, really. While programmers tend to be more analytical, creativity is still important and in demand.
He also mentioned something vital: your contribution may be more than you think it is. Let me circle back to my classmates.
The guy who wants to be a pastor, for example. Whenever he really grasps a concept, no one can explain it better. He speaks clearly, makes it very simple to understand, and often uses metaphors. In addition, one of the guys who has a vested interest in design is an absolute master when it comes to UI. I’ve had a chance to work in the same group as him, and at no point was any group member even remotely concerned about the application’s look.
The Programming Community Going Forward
Even if your hobbies, or interests, have nothing whatsoever to do with programming, they could still offer an outlet where you can express yourself creatively, and take a break from the logically-inclined perspective of coding.
Best of all, though, is that having more programmers who aren’t “geeks” in the traditional sense could mean that aspiring programmers no longer feel like outsiders or oddballs. Anyone can become a programmer without feeling the need to be “geeky. Every programmer could bring his or her perspective and experience to the table, and would be free to express him or herself.
Perhaps it will produce interesting and unique ideas for software development, boost happiness, and foster that community feeling.
At the very least, it should make the workplace that much more interesting.
What “outsider” personalities and interests have you found in the programming community? How would you like to see those interests and skills implemented in your life? What cool things can YOU bring to the programming community that aren’t there yet?