written by Alain Veuve MD, Switzerland
Are you a developer?
Are you a developer?
About author Alain Veuve Alain Veuve MD, Switzerland

In 2006, when I was just a newbie visiting the TYPO3 Conference, I made the mistake of wearing a dress shirt – I was one of five out of the 600 attendees to do so. I quickly noticed people looking at me funnily and, while I was walking from one hall to another, I overheard two conference participants saying: “I wonder where this all will lead to if those suits keep invading the industry.” This year, nine years later, I have seen more suits at this event than ever before. A symbol for the new way in which we handle software.

Though I have to add, the general dress code at this year’s TYPO3 Conference did play a role as well. Fair enough.

Any developer with self-respect becomes a “non-developer”

During a casual cigarette break, the question came up: “Who is a developer?” The result was an awkward silence with virtually everybody negating; someone added: “Well, I used to be a developer but then I started my own company.” The outcome: merely out of the eight people in the group actually identified himself as a developer. Had the question been: “Who can code?”, I would probably have been the only one to say no. One can conclude that it is primarily a question of self-perception.

I have made the observation that, more and more, people who used to identify themselves as developers, are nowadays team leaders or involved in architecture. They do not see themselves as mere developers anymore whose only aim is to develop nice, slim, fast and intelligent code.

Is the developer becoming extinct?

In my opinion, this trend is a good one. As it is, the significance of software solutions has increased immensely within the last ten years. As a consequence, the significance of developers and developing as such has risen as well.

Therefore, the self-image of a developer has changed from a specialist with tunnel vision (“I don’t care what you need this for, just tell me what to do”) towards a digital expert specializing in software programming.

This is a very positive trend because it fosters better teamwork and thus ultimately allows for better solutions.

Is business taking over nerdiness or vice versa?

The fear that suits are overrunning techies has turned out to be complete nonsense. Actually, the opposite is the case.

We see more suits and ties because techies are about to take over the business. Not the other way around.
Alain Veuve

In fact, they are not only taking over business but the whole world. A world that is consumed by software is practically elevating developers to spheres of the highest caste of the workforce of human progress. I am aware that this may sound exaggerated but take a moment to think about it. Each period in time had its trades and professions that defined the era – in our day it’s software developers and architects.

Techies are taking over

It is thus no coincidence that the extremely popular TV show The Big Bang Theory revolves around nerds and their lives. From a techie point of view, there are many aspects on the show that are not even that outlandish but – when you subtract the exaggerations and the extremes – simply constitute everyday thinking.

Yes, it is funny when the show’s protagonist, Sheldon Cooper, tries to help analyze his neighbor’s relationship troubles by applying the thought experiment “Schrödinger’s cat” to the situation at hand.

But it is also brilliant insofar as it provides educational content, namely central concepts (even if they are presented in a rather superficial way), for an audience that would otherwise never concern itself with the subject. Thereby the show increases the acceptance of scientific concepts which, in turn, advances the social adaption of technology as a whole.

Don’t learn Chinese, learn a programming language

All that is left to do, really, is to tell the young: “Don’t learn Chinese, learn a programming language.” And I say that with conviction. I don’t mean that everybody has to start programming; I just feel that an integral understanding of how software is conceived, created, maintained and developed should be part of the know-how of every decision-maker.

Because this is mostly not the case yet, a lot of companies still struggle tremendously with accepting the customers’ shift towards digital transformation on a business level.

But it’s only a matter of time. And it’s getting better – one step at a time. Meanwhile, our world as we know it is being consumed by software. And reinvented.