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The myth of the solo developer

Lokulus' Head of Engineering, Ciaran Jessup, speaks to Prolific North to dispel the myths about coders and developers, and explain their real value.

Industry Insight

It’s National Coding Week (September 14th – 20th). Lokulus‘ Head of Engineering, Ciaran Jessup, is here to dispel the myths about coders, and explain their real value.

“What do you think of when you think of a software developer?” I asked this question to a sample of my friends and non-technical colleagues.

“Anorak? NHS glasses? An unbridled love of trains?”, “The ultimate job where you don’t need to talk to  people,” “The opposite of my idea of enjoyable work,” and “a job that involves the brain, but little communication or creativity.” These were just some of the responses I received, so apparently this is what at least some of my friends and family really think of me!

But I don’t blame them. A common view often reinforced in the media is that most developers are male gamers sitting alone in the dark, with hoodies up and headphones on, sipping coffee, and working through the night crunching mathematical formulae to produce the latest games or apps for your phone.

The preconception is that coding is the perfect job for the antisocial techie – however the reality is very different, as there are many skills needed to be an effective coder.

Left to your own devices?

Perhaps there was a time that this preconception was at least partly true. If I reflect back to almost 20 years ago when I graduated, the interview for my first role consisted mostly of me sitting alone in a room for an hour while I designed a file system from scratch on a piece of graph paper.

This was for a company which, at the time, was considered to be progressive and open to new ideas! I still remember my first month – assigned a project in a room with three others, I was very much left to my own devices. Across from me sat someone who might fit the previously mentioned mould – and every time someone came in to speak to him, he’d huff and puff until one day he threw his monitor across the desk and onto the floor.

As a fresh-faced graduate I was shocked by this prominent display of anger and when I spoke to my other colleagues about it, they just shrugged and said words to the effect of “That’s just how he is, we usually just leave him alone to code!”

But the industry was changing. That very same year had seen the ‘Agile Manifesto’ published – a set of four values and 12 principles that changed the industry forever. This manifesto made clear that the process of producing effective software was intrinsically linked with ensuring effective communication between all of the stakeholders involved: Among the developers themselves, the business they work within, and the end users of their software.

No longer was it acceptable, desirable or even tolerable to have someone sit alone in the corner writing code in isolation.

Read the full article via Prolific North.

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