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Terry Keeney
Terry Keeney

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Just A Developer

The explosion of languages, frameworks and platforms in the software development world has created a bit of a double edged sword for those fancying themselves as technical generalists capable of doing just about anything. On the one hand it's created a world of ever more shiny new things offering a limitless supply of new toys to experiment with. On the other it's highlighted the stark difference between what I'll classify as coders and developers - making interactions with recruiters and other technical-interfacing leypersons increasingly more infuriating.

In my grossly generalized world the Coder can be identified by their battling cry: "That's a problem, I'm a developer". The Coder is characterized by his proficiency in a narrow range of chosen skills. The Coder will progresses and becomes better in his niche by sheer practice and repetition alone.

By contrast the Developer's single greatest skill is in being an applied learner. Quite simply the Developer has a knack for grokking new [languages|frameworks|platforms] and becoming proficient very quickly. There is no problem beyond their reach for they enjoy building at any level stack.

So, before you ask again ... NO I AM NOT A:
... back-end developer
... front-end developer
... java developer
... React developer
... developer...

for my fundamental understanding of the underlying principles and my willingness and propensity to learn whatever is asked of me means ...

I am JUST a Developer

This was originally posted on my own site back in January. A confluence of events this week has fueled the same rage that inspired that post so I share here again.

Top comments (10)

ecurtin profile image
Emily Curtin

I see your point about not getting pigeon-holed into specific technologies, but you do have to define your area of expertise at least a little because computing is getting to be vast.

Saying I'm a software engineer, with no further specification, is a little like saying I'm a "scientist" or an "artist." Well if I'm a scientist, am I a biologist? Physicist? Chemist? Medical researcher? Yeah they're all science, but you don't want a biologist running your large hadron collider. Similarly, if you're an artist, are you a painter? Sculptor? Filmmaker? Pianist? Tap dancer? Painters make crappy tap dancers, you know.

So I dispute that you're "just a developer" because I dispute that there is such a thing; that there's one person who's just as comfortable hacking the Linux kernel as they are programming embedded devices in industrial robots or designing ADA compliant interfaces for voting machines or implementing a machine learning algorithm straight out of a paper written half in Greek symbols.

It seems like from the few techs you've listed that, in fact, you're not "just a developer," you're instead "just a web developer," and I wouldn't hire you to debug my FORTRAN or administrate my HIPAA compliant database or crank performance out of my VR ray tracing engine, etc. etc. etc.

forrestthewoods profile image
Forrest Smith

I dunno.

Are you a graphics programmer?
A gameplay programmer?
A machine vision programmer?
A networking programmer?
A game programmer?

I work in games. A games developer vs non-games developer are pretty different. Maybe "developer" is a good catch all within the context of games. But I'd say there are useful classifications beyond just "developer".

Also, I can't help but notice your website says "mobile and web developer". As opposed to just "developer". ;)

tomas_ehrlich profile image
Tomáš Ehrlich

I guess there's a difference between " developer" and " developer". Unless the technology is very complex that it creates its own domain, it's usually irrelevant.

As you said, the domain says a lot, e.g (game|web|mobile) developer. I would personally describe myself as a full-stack web developer, rather than ansible/python/javascript/react/html/css/(list goes on) developer.

chainq profile image
Károly Balogh

This post resonates with me so much.

I'm writing code since I was eight. That was some time ago already. (~3 decades.) During those years, I wrote low level VGA card hacks in assembly. I wrote a music player engine for Sound Blaster and Gravis Ultrasound (who remembers them?) cards in Pascal. I wrote web interface for a database system in PHP. I wrote games in C for Nintendo GBA and DS. I also did games for S60 J2ME handsets, and later heavyweight applications (remote control, video streaming) for BlackBerry in Java. I did an automated testing framework for iOS in Objective C. I worked on a router firmware and related tools in Object Pascal. Nowadays I'm an embedded developer in C++, but did some hardware testing code in Python. I developed some hobby stuff in languages you probably never even heard of. I'm also hacking on an open source compiler and other projects. I wrote (production) code for Commodore 64 (and other 8 bits), MS-DOS, Amiga, Atari, OS/2 Warp, PalmOS, Windows, Linux (and Unices in general), macOS, iOS, Android. Also bare iron and RTOS code for embedded projects. I was also doing sysadmin stuff, a bit of devops stuff, CI/CD, and whatnot. Also probably a bunch of other things I forgot already.

... now it's actually a trouble to figure out what am I going to do next. I would actually love to learn designing hardware, but so far I wasn't given the chance. I think as time progresses in one's career, most people enthusiastic about their job actually pick up a wide range of skills anyway. It's a must, as technology changes fast anyway. Then I'm asked if I'm a Java Developer and do I know the latest fancy framework, communication protocol or whatever. No, I'm not. No I don't but give me 2 weeks, and I'll be able to deliver well tested production quality code in whatever technology you want.

Am I a Developer? Honestly, no idea. Some say, I'm a hacker.

danielscarvalho profile image
Daniel de Souza Carvalho

Nowadays, the RH recruiting requests for developers sounds like:

Looking for:

Gynecologist with experience in lobotomy!
An oncologist with experience in root canal treatment!
An ophthalmologist with experience in wild animals toraxis surgery!

ben profile image
Ben Halpern

At some point in the future my job, responsibilities and technologies will be entirely different from today, and I'm excited for that future unknown. 😊

fedejsoren profile image
Federico Sörenson

You are right in most of what you say, but see, I find it good to say "I am a back-end developer" because I don't want to / I am not interested / I am bad at front-end technologies or user experience.

It allow us to try to fit there were we are more comfortable. How would you express to "outsiders" (like a recruiter) that "you don't feel comfortable with front-end technologies as you do with back-end ones"?

The "I am a java developer" point of view is sad and I agree with you. If you know how to develop, you will do that in any language, maybe faster or slower depending on how much you master the language, but you will do it.

grumpysview profile image
Grumpys view • Edited

So what do i write down? Started in basic, created a program to calculate and order ceiling tiles after you entered the floorplan. Created travel registration and ticket software based on DBaseI II II IV and later Clipper. Worked on a ticket system in Cobol. Build and wrote software for the first VRS systems in pascal. Did assembler for some chips to recognize the pulse-dialers on rotary phones. Build chat software for the web in Perl, PhP, C++. Currently writing front and backend software for access tracking in buildings. Plus another 100 smaller and bigger projects.

dakoon2003 profile image
Derrick Koon

Reminds me of the Mason and the Bricklayer, a mason can tell you about the stone and mold it to whatever he needs it to be. He can do this because he has taken the time to really understand the medium and its limits and the techniques that are needed to build a solid structure. A bricklayer can tell you how long it will take, how many bricks are still in the pile and can replicate whatever wall you want. Each is needed, but the skill, expertise and price is the key difference.

juan profile image
Juan Jiménez

I do get your point.
I wrote something similar a while ago.
Not sure if you'd like but I thought I'd share anyway.