The Negatives of Software Engineering

Posted: May 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

I recently wrote a post about why software engineering is so great. This got me thinking about some of the negatives.

Perfection is necessary
Ever made a mistake? How about making thousands of somethings that you carefully designed? Now what if those somethings were responsible for moving millions in currency or reporting on sensitive data for strategic purposes? When designing and implementing software systems it’s absolutely necessary to not err. Errors have devastating consequences and nobody is terrible interested in being understanding when a missing comma or poorly constructed process has “lost their money” or put business on hold.

High reliance on others
As a software engineer you can only perform well if you have certain tools, the right information, the right budget, the right environment, the right user response and enough time. Those factors are of concern to managers, sponsors and business but you still rely on a lot outside of you just to do your job.

Lots of “shovel work”
In any job you may expect some “shovel work”. When I job shadowed programmer some ten years ago I saw very clearly that his particular job was not for me. He did the exact same thing every day. He built tiny web applications. As most of every application he worked on consisted of 6-10 patterns sitting together on a website, he would literally copy-paste, all day long. He hated his job and just watching almost put me to sleep. I likened his job to shoveling. Take dirt from here and put it there. Now every job has it’s “shovel work”. In building systems there can be a lot of this sometimes. No intelligence is required. One pattern is implemented a thousand times over. Almost copy-pasting. That’s not fun.

The changing space of software
While it’s great that we get to go on learning all the time and this keeps things interesting (see my previous past) it also means everything you build will be replaced, it will get old, it will get too slow or too something. Everything is going to be thrown out and something new will take its place. This is scary as people themselves age. I’ve seen some good developers I know almost refuse to embrace the changes coming to my particular space. Those who don’t adopt severely shorten their working lifetime.

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