Dawning horror tinged with self-loathing crept slowly over the face of claims adjuster Robert Pettlebaum, 42, as he described his job and by extension his life to others during a seemingly innocuous Tuesday lunch meeting. “Mostly what I do is I seek out discrepancies in the property appraisal versus the claimant’s estimate of worth and then I…then I defer outpays…with…oh, God…,
Let’s try this:
I am a lead web applications developer. My job is to read my customer’s mind to figure out what she really wants, which is usually different from both what she wrote in the email and what she told my boss she wanted. I then decide the proper course of action to deliver as close as possible to the request, well knowing that since my boss was told a different story, I will have to convince him that I am not retarded and that I am actually doing what the customer wants. Then I have to show it to the customer and convince her that this is what she wanted me to do and that yes, we can make that font bigger if needed. I will then spend the next 70% of my budget on providing the right functionality, only to be pushed on a side track because my customer’s boss didn’t like the look and feel and the whole thing has to be redesigned, regardless of how well the functionality actually performs. Finally, I have to orchestrate the transition from the current product to the new one, a comedy of horrors that involves a week of planning, dry runs, lots of CYA and about 15 minutes of pure horror.
And that is assuming that I am the only one doing the programming.
If there is more than one programmer, then it gets interesting. I have to worry about my own work, plus I have to worry that the right information is delivered to my coworkers so they can do their job, while at the same time making sure that the customer doesn’t confuse/annoy either my boss or my coworkers.
I also have to worry about blending all this work together, which thanks God is not that big of a deal because all of the programmers know what the hell they are doing, so it is mostly a traffic management exercise. Some of my peers at other companies don’t enjoy this luxury, so this step of the process is usually described as “herding cats.”
Many years ago I was told that in a software programming project, no more than 20% of the effort is spent writing code. I thought that was bullshit but now I know better. Am I horrified? No, but I know people elsewhere that are not going to make it long in this field simply because they can’t grasp this idea.