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10 Things About Computer Programming You May Not Agree With

Are you a computer programmer? Here is what Half Sigma thinks about your profession:

  1. Computer programming is a low prestige profession.
  2. As you get older, your desire to completely relearn everything decreases, so you are likely to succumb to the temptation of staying with the familiar technology for too long.
  3. Whatever your position is, as a Computer Science person, you are socially classified as a geek.
  4. The computer programming industry within the United States is an industry with a shrinking number of jobs (because of outsourcing).
  5. Computer programming and IT in general is now seen as the foreigner’s industry and not a proper profession for upwardly mobile white Americans.
  6. Computer programmers face the need to move up to management or likely wind up as underemployed fifty-year-olds, only suitable for lower paying IT jobs.
  7. This trend, in which people without computer programming experience manage computer programming projects, is a result of the low prestige of computer programming.
  8. If you look forward to one day having your own private office, then computer programming sure isn’t the way to go.
  9. Computer programmers are cubicle employees, not considered important enough to be given nice workspaces.
  10. If you can’t get into a Top 14 law school or a top graduate business school, then public accounting probably provides a better career path than computer programming.

So, if you are a computer programmer, maybe you should change your career and become a database administrator. After all, database administration is one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States.

I believe that no matter what your profession is, keeping up to date with the “what’s new” in your industry/technology is very essential to career development.


Filed in Interesting, Technology on 14 Mar 07 | Tags:


Reader's Comments

  1. |

    Interesting. A few things, however, they’ve neglected to mention:

    (1) If you’re good enough, you’ll earn more as an IT Consultant before you’re ‘washed up at 50′ than the majority of the population. In Europe, at least.

    (2) It’s been proven that the majority of women rated ‘Angelina Jolie’ or above, secretly fantasize about Computer Science majors.

    (3) Outsourcing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and a lot of large corporations have been bitten in the ass by it. Expect a backswing some time soon.

    (4) The asshole who says us older coders can’t move on… he better watch his bank accounts ‘cos I’m writing a mean COBOL script that’s gonna eat it up… just 232 cards left to punch then he’s my bitch!

  2. |

    ROFLMAO, Jamie.

  3. |

    I actually agree with most of those.

    Every place I’ve worked I’ve seen the same thing. The IT floor is cram-packed with cubicles, and lot of evening and week-end work. We’ve got the best DBA I’ve seen in my life, with over 30 years experience, sitting in a crappy cubicle nowhere near a window.

    Meanwhile, on other floors, we’ve got fresh graduates (and even people with no post-secondary education at all) with gorgeous window offices.

    IT people are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole, no question.

    However, they do make the big bucks. And, if smart, they generally achieve financial independence long before other professions.

  4. |

    I think there are two kinds of programmers. First are those who undertake it as a career choice, because there’s good money in it, or whatever. All of those points apply to them, and they should definitely choose accounting instead. Then there are those who are driven to it. If they couldn’t find a programming job, they’d work at MacDonalds and program every spare minute of their day anyway. If you are mentally able to choose whether or not to be a programmer, choose no. If you can’t, it’s a moot point.

  5. |

    I agree, Keith. Unfortunately that reinforces the ‘Geek’ characterization pretty firmly doesn’t it ? Bad news for us, worse news for Brad!

  6. |

    Pretty interesting. Most of the points in there apply also for Argentina (hey, for the americans who can’t distinguish between countries (Argentina) and regions (Latin America) … please grab a map and study some Geography!). We have no cubicles, but desks and we’re all packed in the same office. You’re pretty much old at 35 or so (can’t believe it! as if youth comes with experience and knowledge… ) But, salaries are not that bad as in a lot of other profesions…

  7. |

    I believe ROFLMAO means: Rolling On Floor Laughing My A$$ Off.

    If computer programming is a low prestige but a high income profession, does this mean that there is a inverse relationship between prestige and income?

    I have never had my own private office. I have never worn a suit and a tie to work. I’m 36 years old. I love what I do (most of the time). I do what I love and make a good living. I’m an old geek-man. But, what’s wrong with that?

  8. |

    1) It is our fault that IT is a low prestige position. IT needs to do a better job of marketing ourselves as strategic business function, not just an expense item.

    2) “Survey shows” that the older IT workers are MORE willing to learn new technologies and stretch their experiences.

    3) OK, can’t argue

    4) “Survey shows” Computer Programming is still a growing profession. It is not growing quickly and some of the growth is absorbed overseas but it is growing. ERP has had more of an influence on job growth than offshoring has.

    5) I have never encountered that attitude. McDonalds Order Takers are also going “best shore”. IT is a crucial part of American Business and IT needs to market that concept better.

    6) As a 50+ yo Programmer, I see jobs available. Experience and the ability to communicate with users still counts for something.

    7) IT must be a business driven portion of your company. Business people managing IT will work IF they respect the jobs performed and communicate with their people.

    8) The company Controller here is in a cubicle. Offices are rarer all over now, and not as much a perceived perk as it once was. I find that an office isolates me from the other workers and gets in the way of the “Team”. Personally, I don’t like offices, but I’m just that way.

    9) sigh. The accounting clerks get better cubes, space, vending machines, etc. Again, market ourselves as strategic to the business, not just another expense.

    10) Accountants do not make as much money, nor are perceived as higher prestige, than IT.

    And, heaven help me if ever I find myself as a DBA. shudder. (I love my DBAs, I just don’t want to become one)

  9. |

    Well, I’m in my (ahem) mid-forties and I’ve just started a new a job that I’m actually pretty excited about, so I don’t think this “bored, 50 and washed up” scenario is the way it always has to be.

  10. |

    As a #6 (“underemployed” 50-year-old programmer) I gotta say, it’s all relative. I prefer DBA work, but there’s ten times as much programming work for an old-timer like me who is better at solving problems than emitting OCP answers in an interview. I have explicitly never wanted a management job (they’re too much like work!). So oddly enough, I wind up in a crappy cubicle surrounded by unhappy accounting folk who of course know how much they are paying me, and people fight over my hours like I’m Angelina Jolie at a high school prom. But of course, someone needs to do the DBA work and I’m the only one who knows how, so at least there is some fun. And I get pretty much the same dollars as when I was an official DBA, so who cares?

    Of course, you can make your own prestige. Marry a doctor!

  11. |

    “If you look forward to one day having your own private office, then computer programming sure isn’t the way to go.”

    LOL… I like this one!

    Thanks for the enlightment

  12. |

    interesting post. I love “I have never worn a suit and a tie to work.”

    I too wanna be like this…not 36 yrs old yet though ;)

    Sidhu

  13. |

    All depends on the size of the company you work for and whether it is private or public sector.

  14. |

    Re the comments on the Window seat: Not 10 minutes ago I just had a conversation with someone about that.

    I have had more than 1 opportunity for a window seat, and have always passed on it. The area near a window tends to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter. No thanks. If I want to enjoy the view, I go outside.

    Re the article: It is rather telling that the 2nd paragraphs starts like this: “Even though I haven’t been working in computer programming all that long”

    uh-huh. I never would have guessed.

    Now for a few comments, point by point.

    1. Computer programming is a low prestige profession.

    It all depends on who you wish to impress. Or even if you care to impress anyone. The only person that you need to impress is your boss.

    1. As you get older, your desire to completely relearn everything decreases, so you are likely to succumb to the temptation of staying with the familiar technology for too long.

    Relearn everything? Some technologies change, but that doesn’t mean the older stuff is going in the trash. How old is Java now?

    1. Whatever your position is, as a Computer Science person, you are socially classified as a geek.

    Yup. That one really stings. Oh, ouch, the pain is unbearable. Please excuse my laughing on the way to the bank.

    1. The computer programming industry within the United States is an industry with a shrinking number of jobs (because of outsourcing).

    Really?! How does our young master explain the IT employee shortage in the US?

    1. Computer programming and IT in general is now seen as the foreigner’s industry and not a proper profession for upwardly mobile white Americans.

    Please see the answer to number 3. Also, I don’t care to associate with anyone with such biased views.

    1. Computer programmers face the need to move up to management or likely wind up as underemployed fifty-year-olds, only suitable for lower paying IT jobs.

    Gee, this underemployed fifty year doesn’t seem to have enough time to do everything he would like to at work, and has no desire to be in management.

    Also, see the answer to number 3.

    1. This trend, in which people without computer programming experience manage computer programming projects, is a result of the low prestige of computer programming.

    This goes back the admittance of “I haven’t been doing this very long…” It has to do with business management, not programming. Most programmers that are any good do not want to be PM’s anyway.

    1. If you look forward to one day having your own private office, then computer programming sure isn’t the way to go.

    Maybe he should be a mortician. They have private offices, and very quiet and peaceful working conditions.

    1. Computer programmers are cubicle employees, not considered important enough to be given nice workspaces.

    The former CEO of Intel never had an office.

    1. If you can’t get into a Top 14 law school or a top graduate business school, then public accounting probably provides a better career path than computer programming.

    I guess that all depends on how you define ‘career’. My career path precludes the necessity of becoming intimately familiar with tax codes.

  15. |

    Your #7 really hit home yesterday: This trend, in which people without computer programming experience manage computer programming projects, is a result of the low prestige of computer programming.

    I learned of a friend who has never programmed a day in his life, but just accepted a job with a American University as the head of the IT dept!

    Since it is local to me, I am meeting up with him this week to see what they have going on – it may come in handy when I finish my (different school) next week, but the point of the matter is, that’s pretty scary stuff IMO.

    True programming and IT are too entirely different things, but his actual background is with networks. he was brought in to reshape the dept, and of course, keeps hitting walls because of their budget (I would hate his job!)

    He’s moving to Canada next year, so if I can get in the door first, what the heck.

  16. |

    That’s pretty funny. My business will always need good programmers and I will continue to pay them well and be really grateful for what they do. There will be no outsourcing for me either, I need the face to face time to make sure we’re on the same page.

  17. |

    In any occupation you do, you should have a passion for it and not just work there for the money. Working your life away for money will never make you happy, you’re really supposed to love your occupation. Me as a programmer… I wake up sometimes thinking about code especially when it comes to a tough challenge. Oh and by the way not ALL programmers are upwardly Whitey Americans like urself sir. I almost wish i hadn’t read that little comment.

  18. |
    Oh and by the way not ALL programmers are upwardly Whitey Americans like urself sir. I almost wish i hadn’t read that little comment.

    I think you are confused. That comment came from another site, and was quoted here.

  19. |

    The first sentence of my previous post was supposed to be quoted, but it didn’t appear that way.

  20. |

    apologies for pointing fingers, just felt that comment was unfair and biased.

  21. |

    Thanks for the clarification Jared. I have fixed the formatting of your comment.

  22. |

    Computer programming and IT in general is now seen as the foreigner’s industry

    I agree. It is very obvious that in most IT departments here in the USA you will find many non-American programmers (and I’m one of them).

    …and not a proper profession for upwardly mobile white Americans.

    I totally disagree with this part. I believe this is nothing but Half Sigma‘s opinion.

  23. |

    It’s interesting to see where Oracle goes when they want to hire software developers:

    http://www.dba-oracle.com/oracle_news/2006_11_20_oracle_hiring_ivy_colleges_universities.htm

    “According to the e-mail, Oracle recruits “top candidates” for product development from MIT, Stanford, CMU (likely Carnegie Mellon University), Princeton, Wisconsin, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Caltech, Berkeley, Harvard and Cornell.

    In addition, the e-mail continues, Oracle will consider “top candidates” from the University of Texas Austin, Duke, Penn, Georgia Institute of Technology (grad students) and “any top international schools,”

  24. |

    It’s also interesting to see the list of top 200 H-1B employers of 2006. Five of the top 10 were Indian outsourcers, Microsoft was number three, IBM number eight, and Oracle number nine.

  25. |

    Half Sigma you may think you are right because of your observations, but you may be wrong if you have not done any statistics on all your “10 Things…”.

    But I can tell you that it depends on what department that is bringing in the dough to company, that will be favoured more, why don’t you tell Microsoft & Borland to joke with programmers, or tell Disney, Pixer, Blue Sky Studios, Animal Logic, etc about rubbing programmers in the mud, see whether they will sell.

    If you don’t understand, use the latest MacOS or use Windows Vista or go and watch, Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Happy Feet or Spider Man. Make sure you have popcorn and a soft drink beside you, to enjoy programmers work.

  26. |

    This is the most ignorant article I have ever read. The world is driven by technology. As a professional with a passion for programming I provide input to Fortune 500 companies that drive the business. if making $789K+ a year (I own a development firm) is of low prestige then I’ll be of low prestige while I drive my Porsche to the Bank. I’m not sure what is lower in prestige, the programmer that developed this blog, or the user that used this blog to write an article that really SUCKS!

  27. |

    “if making $789K+ a year”

    Gee, I’m impressed . . . .

    You know what they say about people with a compulsion to tell everyone how wealthy and successful they are . . .

    “I drive my Porsche to the Bank.”

    Ah yes, a Porsche, there we go . . .

    I’ll bet it’s a 911, a favorite for those with a need to compensate for a “shortcoming” . . .

    You are a business owner, not a programmer. Pay attention, Dude.

  28. |

    Wow, I am amazed at the number of folks that reply to this without first comprehending the context here.

    Half Sigma is not this site. It is another site. This article is simply looking for comments on it, prefacing it with the statement “You may not agree”.

    And yet several respondents fail to recognize that.

    Lots of knee-jerk reactions here.

  29. |

    Ahem, I am a programmer that happens to own a business, I never stated that $789K was my salary, I may have insinuated it to drive a point that this type of salary is anything but of low prestige, my vehicle is a Cayenne, and the only shortcoming I have is that I did not inform the readers that this was the response I gave to Half Sigma and not this site.

  30. |

    That was kind of depressing!

    I’d add that the last several doctors I’ve seen have been foreigners.

    I have quite figured out about DBAs, whenever I ask a question they’re never very helpful.

    I think the unsaid thing is that it’s very gratifying to get your stuff to work and to have other people use it.

  31. |

    “Survey shows”

    I just pasted that in from comment #9, I see an a with a circumflex, Euro sign, œthel, Survey shows, another a circumflex. Euro, then a box. Is something wrong with the page characterset? It used to look ok.

  32. |

    When I moved the blog/database to my current web host, the “ started to show up in place of (some) quotation marks. I have not yet been able to correct it.

  33. |

    Computer programmers face the need to move up to management or likely wind up as underemployed fifty-year-olds, only suitable for lower paying IT jobs.

    this is something that needs no arguement.

  34. |

    Regarding the need to move “up” to management:

    Sorry, there are far too many cases of very competent technical people that do not move to management, and have no desire to so. They remain quite valuable far past 50 years of age.

    I think the Peter principle probably comes into play here. That is, the less competent technical folks move into management. The really competent technical folk have the option of staying technical.

    No argument indeed.

  35. |

    @Jared – Your comment made me feel better. If old technicals are not underpaid I would always like to remain technical.

  36. |

    No, not usually underpaid.

    Sometimes the management at company wants to get rid of Sr. technical folk, as they are perceived as being overpaid.

    Never mind that they have a vast store of knowledge about how things work, and cannot actually be replaced. At least not with an equivalent. :)

  37. |

    >> Sometimes the management at company wants to get rid of Sr. technical folk, as they are perceived as being overpaid.

    Good point. It’s management myopia. A good technical person in their 40’s will easily earn double what a kid fresh from college will demand.

    Are they twice as productive? I think a senior technician can be 10x faster, but many managers disagree . . . .

  38. |

    The trouble with DB design and admin is that far too much of it these days is not for legitimate purposes but for the aim of privacy violation.

  39. |

    I have to agree with Jared about the Peter Principle.. In all my years as a programmer, the majority of people who gravitate to management are the unskilled lackies who couldn’t cut it as programmers..

    The most irritating thing about that is they earn more money than the programmers and do their best to keep you under their thumb..

    Yet, very few skilled programmers want to make the shift to management because they know when push comes to shove (and times get tough), they’ll have their jobs long after the administrators because the programmers have hard core job skills (that are hard to find), something the administrators are severely lacking in.

    Plus, the fact that no self respecting programmer could ever envision themself (or want to be) a pointy haired manager. There’s no respect in that.

    Most programmers I know, view the management types as constantly going out of their way to “make work” for themselves. I’d rather have a job (anyday) that I really enjoy. Plus, there’s always plenty of fun, challenging programming work to do..