A Programmer? So you’re like a bricklayer

I’m not sure if my parents know exactly what I do for a living. For several years they thought I do something like technical support, so they call me every time that they need to replace the printer cartridge or get scared with some Windows blue-screen error message. I did the work gladly, but the idea that they don’t understand the skills that I get with the college education that they pay makes me uncomfortable.  So one day, I told them both:

I can fix your computer any time you want but that’s not what I do for a living. I’m a Web Programmer, so I use programming languages to build applications that work on the Internet.

My Dad -he’s a writer- wanted to know if he can write poems in that programming language that I know so well and my mom thought the Internet was some sort of gadget included in the PC. I tried to explain them each notion carefully but I get interrupted by my brother and his cool hospital histories. Doctors always get all the attention.

I’m pretty sure that my girlfriend doesn’t get my job either. She has an administration degree, and when I started talking about Java, IDE’s and Servers she stopped me right away and said:

In conclussion, you can build stuff like Facebook. Right?

This is a pretty close approximation of what a Web Programmer does, so I said “Yes” and she get that she wanted. At least, that’s what I thought.

It results that my girlfriend has a friend from high school that’s now in college trying to get a degree in Information Systems. When my girlfriend asks her what exactly a Web Programmer does, this friend elaborated this metaphor:

Imagine that Software is like a house, and you want to build a house.

First, you need an Architect that translates your needs into a design. In Software, the Architect is an Analyst. When I finished college, I want to be one of those.

With the Architect design, you need to hire a Civil Engineer that makes a Blueprint based on the Architect conception. In Software, that guy is a Software Architect.

Finally, there’s a need also of some Bricklayers that gets the building done. Those low-skill craftsmen in Software are called Programmers. That’s what your beloved Carlos does.

My girlfriend told me that and that day she offered to pay the dinner. And the movie tickets.

I don’t know why IT community looks downwards on programmers, like we were Second-Class citizens in the software world. Maybe it’s only a Peruvian thing, but almost every programmer that I know wants to quit programming in some years in advance. In fact, I know almost no programmer whose age is more than 35, because many of them have turned into Analysts or Project Managers.

Myself, I’m very proud of having the skill to turn ideas into working software. I enjoy writing elegant code and reading high-quality code from fellow programmers, and I feel I have a lot to learn to become really skillful in coding. I don’t want to become an Analyst (whose talent is to put requirements in a Word file) or a Project Manager (who is hired to play with MS Project). At least not yet.

Maybe I’m just being romantic. Or stupid.

PS: This is my first post in English, so any spell corrections will be welcome.