Are there too many future programmers?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 10, 2020 05:19 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 10, 2020 05:20 AM


I angsted about answering this question for a couple of reasons.

Pretty much anyone who attends a coding bootcamp, or had an Atari ST back in 1981 and played around with programming it for a year or so and hasn’t touched an editor or compiler in 35 years, tends to call themselves a “programmer”, as soon as they are out of work
Being a programmer, per se, is a pretty useless thing in my opinion
First, let me draw some distinctions:

Programmer — someone who takes someone else’s problem solutions and turns them into machine instructions, but who can’t solve problems themselves
Software engineer — someone who can solve a problem using a computer; usually, this also involves being pretty good at programming
Computer scientist — someone who can solve a complex problem by thinking the way a computer thinks; usually, this involves some programming, but really they are usually not very good at it without a couple of years of experience because all they ever learned was Java or Python
Computer Engineer — a type of electrical engineer that can build computers; notable for their inability to do analog or RF engineering as well, and their opinion that they can program better than a programmer because they built the hardware — but really, they are really bad at coding
I’m going to skip over DevOps, IT, and other disciplines related to computers; just be aware they are there.

The profession of programming is largely dependent on the division of labor between a designer, who does the designing but can’t implement, and an implementor, who translates designs into machine instructions, but who can’t do the designing themselves.

Unless you are D-Fens (William Foster, Michael Douglas’ character in the movie Falling Down), and sporting a crewcut from the 1950’s defense industry — the separation of design and implementation is largely imaginary these days.

We typically do not design things, and then farm out the implementation — although there is an entire job-shop industry in India aimed squarely at that right now.

That’s really old school … or, should I say, new school.

Mostly, students who are more interested in a diploma than learning, and have some money, use these services to do their homework for them.

When that’s not the case, the farm-out is because there’s a front-person who is a bad programmer outsourcing the work, and mostly doing client contact and sales.

Today, we have coding bootcamps, and so on, which (mostly) turn out lots of bad programmers.

That’s currently OK, because there’s a lot of bad programming to be done, mostly in web design and simple web back ends for businesses that never scale above maybe a few hundred customers actually buying in a given day, so they don’t strain anything.

Most bad programming gets thrown away and replaced as soon as someone gets a “we need to redesign the site!” bug up their butt.

I think supply is definitely set to exceed demand, because I think most programmers are bad programmers.

Mostly, this is down to where and how they learn about computers, and taking shortcuts — like coding bootcamps — where they learn the absolute minimum to BS their way in the door, and to do a half-assed job.

Their customers only ever see the web page, and they don’t see the spit and bailing wire holding things together behind the curtain.

Be aware, that it’s easy to get a job in a large company whose primary product is not dependent on internal systems not being crappy, or the web site portal facing customers is an afterthought.

These people are thought of as overhead by management, and they are considered a cost center, not producing revenue, even if there are substantial sales on the web site.

These jobs are going away.

Not immediately, but they will be going away.

And these programmers will not be able to grow into other roles.

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