So today I had an interesting conversation at work. They filled me in about a new position they want to open for a front engineer and they would like me to take the role. Obviously the job interests me, but it interests me only for its technical appeal because it’s an architect job – and this is what I want to do. They were pretty confident for the technical part of the job and didn’t even mention it which was reassuring. However, their biggest concern was if I would be motivated enough to learn more about the actual activity of the company in order to create interfaces with all the business logic in mind. In other words I would need to have a pretty sharp knowledge of the business logic to do the job, I would need to interact with non technical teams and such, they said “We want the closest person to the application to know our business the best” – wow. This is new.
Until now, I have worked on the technical side knowing the business of course, but not knowing it in depth with all the rules it implies, it’s not my job. Here, I had been developing features on the back end, but it didn’t require some deep knowledge about the business. Also, it must be said that until now I have not been in highly complex businesses, I have been working in the media, so it was not some epic science to grasp. But here, their business is like high level coconut stuff, a lot of financial rules and very technical specific terms, you need to have studied it and have maybe a degree for it, you know it feels like…hum… a job for the grown ups!
Anyway, at the end of the conversation I realized something : I had just witnessed and experienced a new evolution in the role of the engineer. That’s what I felt like sharing today.
I have already reflected about this in A relic from the past that makes you gasp and marvel at the present, but what I witnessed today is something else. The first evolution is the “front” role. Until now the “front” role was always something on the side, always perceived as “decorating”, and “less sexy” than “real engineering” (I put quotes because these were the terms that were used by developers peers to describe my activity then – not cool but to debate later), now it’s the hot stuff, it’s a new role that gains in dimension. They realized it was a new function, both business related and technical and they are surprised that so few people fill, first the “front” profile (it’s still rare to find native front developers) and then the “business” profile.
So my hunch is, this is how it’s going to be in the future : sentient developers. I mean, in the near future you will probably have “journalist developer”, “writer developer”, “doctor developer”, “poet developer”, “teacher developer”, roles are going to merge with development. I found that it was very odd that I was asked to merge like that, it made me think. Do I really want to merge?
The Technique is not enough
I have been so focused on the technical aspects of things, completely bathed in the tech culture that I forgot there is a world of other things to see. Today, when they talked to me they clearly said “we don’t want you to be just technical, technical is good, but you need to also communicate with others and understand the global scope, can you?” it sounded like “hey! can you open your eyes? can you?” And today it hit me, all those hype companies like Twitter or Facebook driving the tech culture, what is their business? If their developers had to merge, what would they merge into? Those companies are always described as a paradise for developers, the hot tech place to be, but when I think about it, what do they do? And then I realized, not so much.
If I really think about it, very very few tech companies interest me for what they do, their business. The subject for tech companies is always about personal services, and very comfort related and shallow stuff. I don’t really like it. I love the technical side of things, but when I start looking beyond, I see nothing, sadly it’s all very shallow. Normally, the role merging also means a developer could practically work in any field, and the job would be interesting if the field has already done its tech revolution, this should be hopeful. But very few fields have had this revolution, the ones who had this revolution are the shallow ones. So very few options here to choose from, if I want to do something that matters or at least that I find fun and interesting. Actually, it is very ironical of the culture of billion of dollars familiar to the tech field because in essence most of them do nothing!
Anyway, my experience today made me realize I am quite incomplete, I can’t be just geek and I don’t want to be. Even if I have always prioritized the Technique above everything else like it was sacred, I have to admit, there is more to be, to know, to experience. Developers should think about this more. The Technique is good, but to what end really? Don’t you care? The Technique will always be applied to something, and that something is what matters in the end. I realized, I need to develop for something I care about now.
Sentient developer, enabled.
I don’t think I see myself becoming an expert of their business, it’s not my thing, but at least it got me thinking :
What do I want to merge into? It is my big pending question.