A recent episode of “The Good Wife” made me laugh out loud. (In case you didn’t know, “The Good Wife” is not a comedy.)
In the episode, the management at a (rather ill-defined) software development firm referred to their staff as “artists.” Yes, that’s right; we were supposed to believe that this firm not only believed that the job I do–variously titled Programmer, Developer, Coder–is highly creative in nature, but that this firm also chose to encourage that by building an atmosphere that was conducive to the artistic temperament.
It’s not that software development isn’t creative. It is.
I spend my day solving problems. As a software developer, you bring me a problem and I create a solution for it. That’s it in a nutshell. I create a solution. Oh, sure, there’s a bunch of other bushwa in there, like translating your problem from Business-talk into Tech-speak, like translating it from Tech-speak into something a machine will understand, like trying to break the solution through testing, but the kernel of this job is highly creative in nature.
What I found laughable is the idea that corporate management would recognize this. Anywhere.
To be fair, in the episode, the management did this only to encourage their “artists” to work 80-hour weeks (ignoring the fact that these people are intelligent enough to see through something as facile as that). And, when it was obvious that their “artists” weren’t going to toe the company line, they summarily fired the whole lot of them (because, as we know, “artists” are a dime-a-dozen, neh?)
The thing is, if management truly understood the creative nature of this job, would they place us in “Agile Towns”–essentially large bullpens with no walls and no privacy and nowhere to close out the noise so that we can think, design, and create? Would they deny that collaboration is fluid, and conversations and discussions can’t always be split into billable hours? Would they demand that I track my time, in 7.5 minute increments, to appropriate chargeable tasks?
There are times throughout my day–all of my day–where I’m thinking about a problem at work, mulling over the requirements, devising strategies, fitting together the pieces of this single-color jigsaw puzzle. It happens at home, in the garden, riding the bus, in the shower, doing the dishes. It’s the nature of the job. It’s the nature of the creative mind. I don’t track this time or charge anyone for it.
But maybe I should start.