Monday, May 15, 2006

How do you spend your coder day?


Growing up and looking at jobs, I figured that being a programmer was all about speaking to the computer and making it do it's magic. Well either times change or it never was that for some programmers.

Nowadays, myself and other programmers I know have become trouble shooters, secretaries, and one shotters. No longer is there a group of elite coders whipping out cool, exciting, powerful, or even overly useful code. The day of the wild coder is dead.

Average programmer day where I work , speaking about the AS/400 groups I see:

Code - 2 hour
Meetings - 1 hour
Admin - 1.5 hours
Chatter - 1
Support - 1
Breaks/lunch - 1 hour
Analysis - 1/2 hours
spread around the remainder on whatever...now I'm not saying that all programmers are this sort of busy, but by golly, I can walk by just about any cube in our neighborhood during the day and rarely see someone coding. If they are in code, it's likely because of a problem as much as a project.

So why is this? (My opinion only.) The coders are too smart and too talented for the projects. We have a huge backlog of requests that never seems to end, yet we can't seem to keep a coder busier with the actual coding part of his or her job more than a few hours in a day. The rest somehow drags over into answer phone calls from users, recording our hours for the day, and meetings. Of course I'm including Google News, Yahoo picture viewing, and Ebay shopping in that miscillaneous category and admin. Not that I do any of those things, but hey, more folks check stocks and ebay in our area than I would have thought.

So who is to blame? The coders? The managers? The big bad company? I think everyone is to blame. The coders need to shoulder a large part of the blame too. Too many times, in my opinion(no formal study), folks get settled into a position/job and never feel pressure from inside or out to drive for anything but just doing their job. I see folks sitting in the same basic spot since they joined the company many years ago. Still making code updates, running small projects, and attending meetings. Still working on the same software day after day, year after year, and finally in yawn mode most of the time.
So you say, what can they do? Get off their tushes and speak up! Tell management, 'Hey! I'm bored and underworked!'. Of course we know folks don't do this, and this is where management comes in.

Management is least worried about its programmers and most worried about deadlines and project tracking and recording hours and making sure they don't get dinged on the paperwork. Well someone has to worry about those things, they are so darn complicated these days. But in managing the system, the programmers become just cogs or resources instead of people. They are no longer seen as individuals unless they are known personally, but as replaceable and of limited value and interest. And do you think they really want a coder to tell them that he's bored? That the work is too easy? They can't seem to fathom that as being possible with a work backlog, and hours to be juggled, and resources to alot. They can't seem to jump on the idea of finding tougher things to tackle or giving more programming work to the coder. Instead they focus on this individual's poor attitude, average performance, and lack of team spirit. COME ON ALREADY!!! Can't they seem that the programmers are on their team. Heck would you drive a Mazarati around the track at 55mph? Heck no!!!! You wouldn't dream of it, so why do we drive our prime code heads through things like they were entry level goonies?

Finally, it's all about the total atmosphere that programmers and their teams work in. Does the company place value in their IS department? The national average for the percent of budget for IT is over 4%. It should be obvious where priorities are if your budget for it is under 2%! HELLO! And then those hours are microrecorded and managed, and by who else, but the coders themselves. ARGH!! RANT!! ARGH!!

Can you tell I'm a bit rattled and fired up? Is this the type of place you work in? Are you a coder? A manager? Part of the corporate leadership? What are your values? What value do you feel drawn to add to the company? Your team? Your peers? Your direct reports?

Can you say, get up off of that thing and get interested in what your programmers are doing, how they are doing, and what they have to say about it. Programmers, get off your tails and don't sit waiting for more to do, or more interesting things to get into, go talk to your managers, to your peers, to the corporate folks! And direct managers, show that leadership courage folks are always hearing about. Put your coders to work in real and meaningful ways. Cut down their clutter and junk, and get them solving the problems and removing that backlog!

Everyone together now....GO!

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