The Nice Programmer

I dislike the fact that many people think that computer programmers are hermits that like to live in little cubicles under the fluorescent lights. What does not help is that there are plenty of them that do think that computer users are just the enemy trying to break down the precious system.

The reality is that programming is something that requires concentration. To truly solve a problem with good logic you need to use your brain power to make sense of the steps that have to be taken. It sometimes takes time and then peace to be able to translate the thought into actual code.

Some programmers are always coding in their heads. I have actually woken up in the middle of the night with the solution to a problem and if I have remote access I log in and either solve the problem or send an email to myself. Trying to remember the next day is kind of difficult. Some programmers like to walk while they are solving some logic issue in their head so to other it looks like they are in a completely different world. I don’t pace when I think, however I do listen to music a little too loud and the more input the more I am able to work out a problem, but I am not the norm.

I think that this is where the problem with communicating with the mythical creature the programmer is comes from. You see a dude walking down the hall that does not acknowledge the world around him as a rude person. I think both sides feed off each other and the disconnect just becomes greater and greater. I have seen it in several organizations.

One of the most frustrating things as a person is to be ignored. While users would probably think that they are ignored the most on the equation, programmers are also only approached when they are needed for something. Like Milton in Office Space, they are the lasts ones to get the piece of cake if they even get any.

I will never forget the day that a user had a problem at one of my previous employers and I showed up at her desk. She was a middle age woman that I later found out was actually married to a programmer. When I said hi to her and asked her for more details on what was wrong with her report she looked almost scared. She then said, a programmer never talks to us. I later found out who the worse offender was in our department who even refused to talk to the help desk people.

I cannot solve the problem for everyone but I did find out how to make it better, at least for me. Start communication with people on a regular basis. I am not talking about full on water cooler talks with people but just saying hello in the morning when you walk in the office. I have observed that most people do not do this, or don’t like it. A good morning goes a long way into making you look more personable, specially for a programmer.

8 comments on “The Nice Programmer

  1. I like programmers. They can fix what I can’t, and sometimes they even tell me how they’re fixing something when I ask, which until you talked about it here, I didn’t realize that that was the look I was getting – the look of, “What? You’re interested in what I’m doing??”

    Treat people the way you’d like to be treated; maybe if people remembered this, the world would be a happier place.

  2. Being a part-time programmer myself, I can relate. It’s so hard to actually plow through a problem with people taking client phone calls on speaker phone in the cube next to you and the office gossips outside your cube talking about the previous day’s episode of Big Brother.
    As for the not speaking to people in the office…I’m just a grump in the morning. I hope people can live with that, but I’ll try to be more aware of my bitchiness. LOL

    -sending love from the old workplace

  3. Our IT desk is abysmal at communication. Just horrible, terrible, no good at it.

    And nothing is easy. Not a good combo.

  4. Our programmers (both still in house, and all those outsourced) do not talk to the end users. Ever. Most of the time their is a project manager, or in the case of outage/failure a customer point of contact. Often I get to translate between the 2.

    I am not saying that I haven’t known coders with people skills, but in this company, they are kept sequestered like some sacred idol.

    Personally I think in the ever changing IT world, anybody who doesn’t develop some “soft” skills is pushing themselves out of the job market.

  5. when i first started coding it was more of a social sport: outside of banks, insurance cos and a few other places, it was so new a concept that you had to be somewhat gregarious to get along. back then dinos ruled the world and the quiet accounting-looking guys with their boxes of punch cards were the rule, not the young kids writing A Basic on their shiny new Polymorphic 88s.

    it was the kids that moved on from Basic to creating arcade games with ASSEMBLER on PDP-11s using UCSD COBOL compliers to creating film/tv animation on analog computers that broke out of that IBM gray flannel suit mold. they had to; they were busy creating the world’s first ‘hacks’ and to do it -and do it well- meant sharing data and tricks across all boundaries.

    [it didn’t hurt that a lot of this seminal work occurred in the social context of the late sixties and early seventies.
    ; ‘ ) ]

    that has gone by the way, with coders becoming more and more specialized and needing to fit into an increasingly lock-stepped corporate environment driven -of late- by increasingly complex security requirements: web service security, specialized security appliance vendors, SOX auditing/compliance, stack security…it’s endless.

    to get an idea of how large the scope of this issue is, try here: Every American’s SSN has been compromised at least once in the last 3 years; the only reason we’re not more affected (yet) is that no one has figured out a safe, effective way to monitze that large a haul…

    Or simply look at the proliferation of Security Cons: RSA was in San Fran just last week, l33t 08 is there this week. SANS is perpetually booked, no matter where.

    it’s simply not possible for many coders to get an even break any more, much less time to do much more that run a quick integration test for the basic sql injection attacks before the code piles up in UAT waiting certification, before they are on to the next task.

    it may be different elsewhere, but that’s what i’ve seen over the last few years.

    thank thor i’m not a code monkey anymore….

  6. I think if you go into any IT dept anymore you’ll see less of the total nerd but more just normal average guys. Long gone are the days when only the really nerdy had computers, most you people today grew up with a computer in there homes. A lot of the animosity between users and Programmers come from them thinking something should be easy when in reality its not. Programmers tend to get moody too. when you’ve created a application that cures cancer or solves world hunger, and they complain about the button colors.

  7. You exhibited the qualities I think the best programmers need to do, namely, get out of your shell, go meet your clients and take it upon yourself to drive problems to solution.

    The problem with many programmers is that sit there and wait for requirements to be thrown over the wall. And until then, they won’t talk to anyone. By doing that, the programmers trained their clients to think of them as a commodity. Now we throw requirements halfway across the world. If the communication is bad before, now its nigh impossible.

    You handled the situation perfectly. Kudos!

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