Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't Call Yourself A Programmer, And Other Career Advice

Good software development career advice from Patrick McKenzie, who blogs about the business aspects of running a software company. Wish I had this 20 years ago!

Some points I like:
Most software is not sold in boxes, available on the Internet, or downloaded from the App Store. Most software is boring one-off applications in corporations, under-girding every imaginable facet of the global economy. It tracks expenses, it optimizes shipping costs, it assists the accounting department in preparing projections, it helps design new widgets, it prices insurance policies, it flags orders for manual review by the fraud department, etc etc. Software solves business problems...despite being soul-crushingly boring and of minimal technical only matters that [the software] either saves the company costs or generates additional revenue.
Businesses do things for irrational and political reasons all the time, but in the main they converge on doing things which increase revenue or reduce costs.
The person who has decided to bring on one more engineer is not doing it because they love having a geek around the room, they are doing it because adding the geek allows them to complete a project (or projects) which will add revenue or decrease costs. Producing beautiful software is not a goal. Solving complex technical problems is not a goal. Writing bug-free code is not a goal. Using sexy programming languages is not a goal. Add revenue. Reduce costs. Those are your only goals.
...describe yourself by what you have accomplished for previously employers vis-a-vis increasing revenues or reducing costs. If you have not had the opportunity to do this yet, describe things which suggest you have the ability to increase revenue or reduce costs, or ideas to do so.

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