Are Software Developers Respected by “Business People”?

In the Hacker News thread for my last blog post, there were a couple of comments that really got me thinking about the role respect plays in bad office design.

Is it time to get depressed yet? This has been a topic for such a long time. It was in Peopleware in 1987. I thought I discovered the topic when Joel (On Software) wrote about it in 2000. While a few people seem to enjoy open offices, the overwhelming majority of developers I know, or who chime in on HN, value a quiet place to work and dislike open offices.

And yet, not only has nothing changed, it seems to be getting worse. It couldn't be more clear to me that developers, at least on this issue, simply have no clout as a profession. There may be a few individuals who can make demands, but on the balance, these are decisions imposed on us, as a group, and we are apparently unable to do anything about it.

-- geebee

In a response to the above comment:

30 years ago programmers were highly respected. We were mysterious to others and we were able to influence things like office layouts and the like.

At some point over that time period, things shifted. Programmers became seen as "geeks" who didn't really understand business and "business guys" took over.

They have no concept that we might know what we're talking about because "office space is the realm of business."

We're not capable of decision making and we have no understanding beyond our weird obsession with those stupid computers. -- that's how they see us. They'll lie and say otherwise, but deep down and a fundamental level, that's how non-technical people see us.

-- MCRed

Is this true? Are software developers “geeks” that lack clout and respect with the “business people”?

If so, why is that? Have we earned our lack of clout/respect? I have some thoughts on this that I’ll explore in a future post.

In the meantime, let me leave you with this question: If you believed that an employee of yours did extraordinarily challenging mental work, which required extreme concentration, would you put them here to do that work?

Classic open plan office


Anonymous said...

I'm sure the answer varies from company to company, but I think most people know the answer at their own. My employer has a vague sense for what my department does, and certainly the level of focus required to do it. Given that assumption, the only explanation I can come up with, while seated between two different conference calls, is that my company hates me.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunate but true.. the business world sees s/w technical folks as not much more than expendable or replaceable commodities. Management mostly has little understanding of the level of mental application and skill that coding requires. I have seen this to be not just true for software techs, but for technical people from other specializations as well. Sadly the power to make rules is vested in people (executives/administrators) rather than people who actually produce. Hence you will have an MBA who can create fancy presentations calling the shots over a PhD who can create original research/knowledge. The trend seems to be getting worse as capital is increasingly being concentrated in mega corporations or ultra wealthy individuals.