I didn’t go to school to be a software developer. In fact, I started my undergrad degree as a mechanical engineering major with grand plans to work on the fuselages of tomorrow’s aircraft. When I fell out of love with the major, I was two years deep into school and didn’t want another four. I’d grown up around computers and loved using them, so I figured I’d work with computers in some capacity. My (mis)conception of computer science was having my ankle chained to a desk while I wrote lines of code for long hours and never saw another person during daylight. So I chose “information systems” for my plan B.
Somehow, because of one semester’s database class, I landed an internship as a PL/SQL developer at a state agency during my last year of school. The internship led to my first job as, again, a PL/SQL developer. Now this was hardly real software development. Writing and fixing a few stored procedures and performing a schload of ad hoc queries doesn’t really count, in my book. I learned a lot, and worked with a bunch of good folks, and I even tried to see if software was something I could get in to recreationally. After the 3rd try at Ruby on Rails, I was done. Zero motivation.
A few years ago I switched jobs because I realized that I couldn’t take being even a watered-down software developer. It’s not because I couldn’t handle the work. But my apathy for that side of software certainly affected the quality of my work. I changed gears and took a job as a “business analyst” – a vague, super-business-y term that means “I HAVE PEOPLE SKILLS”.
You see, I still love software. I love finding and learning to use new programs. I don’t have automatic updates enabled on any of my platforms because I like to read the release notes and manually manage the installation process. I always RTFM because I like to know what an app can do. Even working for a software consultancy, I often find my self helping my coworkers with keyboard shortcuts and obscure menu items.
I don’t want to assemble the software, but because I love it and use it all the time, I sure do want to help make it better, and help make it easier for everybody else to use.