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Deep thoughts on Software
Whats makes a developer professional?
Excerpted from angryCoder.com

So you've been working in the IT field for five or more years, with numerous completed successful projects under your belt, but when it comes time to look for your next job/contract, you are riding in the same boat as those with less experience who are willing to take a lower rate. Whether you get that next job depends a lot on your professionalism. It is one of the major factors in what sets you apart from the crowd and makes a prospective client choose you even though you may be charging a higher rate than your competition.

So what do we mean by professional? Here is a dictionary definition:
Somebody whose occupation requires extensive education or specialized training
Somebody who is engaged in an occupation as a paid job rather than as a hobby Somebody who shows a high degree of skill or competence
An expert player of a sport who is employed by a golf or other sports club to teach its members
I know that the first three definitely apply to software developers. The fourth could apply depending on whether you consider coding a sport?. The definition does not really get into the specifics of what professional behavior is. That is what I would like to focus on today.

There seems to be such a large range of professionalism in this field and thus the widely ranging rates. When we consider some other professional occupations, we see that rates for those professions do not vary widely until one moves to specialization. For instance, an account makes about 10-15K/PM in most situations in the begining. Similarly, an electrical engineer or doctor makes between 12-20/PM at beginning. Wouldn't it be nice to have a set rate for a software developer? After all, I believe we are professionals too. We just have to prove it.

We normally do not question the credentials of doctors, engineers, lawyers, or pilots. It is simply accepted that they are professionals and we treat them as such. At least until they prove that assumption wrong. When they look for their next position, they know they will make the going rate which incidentally does not fluctuate nearly as much in economic turns as our field does. But all of these professions started the same way as our industry. They each learned the technology or knowledge (or their craft) and eventually became accepted as a professional in their field. Remember that doctors originated from medicine men.

We on the other hand are treated very differently. We are definitely professionals -- all with high degrees of education and detailed knowledge. But do we act as professionals in our day-to-day tasks? Many times I think not! And what defines that professionalism?

Similar to the other professions I named, we are responsible for maintaining our knowledge (actually in many cases more so). So why are we treated as a commodity by many companies and recruiters? We can't simply blame the recruiting agencies for our lack of credibility.

In many cases, we write the software that the doctors & engineers rely on to complete their jobs. And many of us are more directly responsible for the safety of lives than these other professions. Imagine the results of a poorly written program in a nuclear facility or a navigation system on an airplane or an EKG. Some of the systems we write are very complex and make or break the business running them. So is our profession any less professional than others?

Until software developers begin acting consistently in a professional manner, how can we expect our clients to treat us as professionals? Where are the standards in our industry? What objective professional organizations exist, that we can join, which are not run by Paki software giants like Techlogix, Netsol, LMKR, etc. It is up to you and I to elevate our status and differentiate ourselves from the folks who are just in this gig for the money. For us professionals, software development is a chosen career, not a job that we are in until we can make enough money to get out. Or something switched to because a past profession went bad. I can't speak for all developers, but I love what I do. And I would gladly write code and solve problems, rather than be an engineer.

Being professional to me, means overcoming unconstructive circumstances to produce the best results. Being part of the solution, not part of the problem. Keeping the big picture in mind and working towards that end. Keeping personal feelings out of the way of objective decision-making. Treating people with integrity and respect no matter who they are.

A true professional will always strive to be the absolute best at what he/she does. It is not about satisfying your customer, but rather, satisfying yourself at the end of the day. One of the best feelings in the world is completing a piece of code right and to the best of your ability. We see this same craftsmanship in professions such as carpenters, and yes, even the fellow who mows your lawn every week.

Here are some of the traits I believe define a professional software developer:
Communication skills (written, spoken, and most importantly, listening)
This is just a short list of qualities that embody a professional. We also have to present a professional image to our clients. This property is present in our business cards, invoices, web site, office/cubicle, desk, presentations, the way we dress and present ourselves etc.
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2005 12:54 AM by developer


Yousuf BaqirT said:

well... may be... but lot of things here i dont agree to. Like im a total jeans t-shirt no-socks guy!... plus there are other reasons why i think software developers arnt taken seriously.

Firstly since the demand of developers rose lot of students started focusing on this area. Some came in with out any professional education at all and were very cheap to aquire.

Secondly the companies getting into IT business were it self faced with all to geather a new ball game since there was nothing like it ever before. Coupled with lack of knowledge on clients behalf no one cared for quality of product. The attitide was 'as long as the code works its good to go'.

But lately the trend is shifting... or atleast in good companies.
# May 1, 2005 10:45 AM
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