Funny, people ask me what I do pretty often as a part of small talk, and then it becomes difficult. I tell them my job title, Chief Technology Officer, and they give me the blank stare. I say I am responsible for all of the software development and technology hardware and software at my company, and they are still not quite there. I explain that per my schooling, I am a software engineer. Closer to understanding, but still not quite there. I am a computer programmer. Oh, a computer programmer!
After that, there is the suffering through them telling me about a computer they have that is not working and asking if I could take a look at it. I think I get the feeling a doctor gets telling someone what they do and the person saying “Can you take a look at this?”
One of the first questions I usually get from people when I tell them I am a programmer is “What programming language?”
There is an answer. I develop in Visual Studio, primarily in C#, and almost exclusively around the Microsoft family of products. Like I said, there is an answer, I just don’t like the question.
The question pigeon-holes a programmer. Judgments get made unnecessarily. Are you a Microsoft corporate slave? Are you some Linux geek living in your parent’s basement? Are you an Objective-C hipster? Are you some college-professor C nerd? PHP – oh, that person’s not a REAL programmer, just a web developer! Pish-posh!
I recently was tasked with replacing a VERY expensive enterprise-level software product that does statistical modeling of our customers’ data. Rhymes with ess-pee-ess-ess. We discovered that the best replacement would be a free one – Python’s many modeling libraries. A fellow member of the team here at my company has an affinity for Python – it was his first language. Cool. I took on the challenge of creating a modeling script in Python that would replace our enterprise product, and within two weeks, I had the skeleton of a working copy. (Full disclosure, it would take a further 2 months to refine it, but the idea was set after the first two weeks…) There. I had never coded a single line in Python, but I had learned it and created an enterprise-level product in the language in 2 weeks.
My compadre was ecstatic that I had joined the Python ranks. “Isn’t Python cool?”
You want me to build a house? Give me a hammer. “What brand? I like Estwing,” you say. I don’t care, just give me a damn hammer.
Programming languages are like hammers. Sure, they are different, but they are just different versions of the same tool. Don’t be intimidated by the language. Be a polyglot.