A good career or fun programming: you can’t have both
Top tier management level roles now require less programming and more administration. Are big IT companies the only ones offering senior programming roles? Many in the IT sector are calling for change.
“The worst managers in my experience where the ones who stayed head down coding while the team fell apart due to conflict and miscommunication.”
This statement on stackexchange.com is interesting, but it runs in opposition to the general view that IT managers shouldn’t remove themselves too much from programming. Managers should be striving towards breaking down barriers between developers and the bureaucratic structures of the company.
Career or happiness?
The debate began when a developer reported about the situation in the company he works for. He found that the higher up the career ladder you climb the less you have to do with programming. But is it really impossible to have a high flying career and indulge your programming talent – i.e. the reason you got into the business to begin with?
A contributor on the thread who goes by the name of Telastyn, underlined this trend and stated that the problem is prevalent in most ‘bad’ corporate entities. Growing responsibilities mean the time which is allocated for programming at the top levels is becoming more and more limited.
In many cases this is understandable. For high-quality products there needs to be a team effort. It is usually extremely valuable to have someone who is capable of presenting a good design, who can coordinate the needs and resources of various stakeholders and mentor other team members. These skills are much less common than good programming skills, says Telastyn.
Does this leave the developer in the tragic situation of living on a modest paycheck while simultaneously having to do more and more organisational work?
IT specialist or application-babysitter?
One solution could be to specialise in different areas and different jobs that are not often found on the job market. Coders can then use their expertise as a bargaining point for a pay rise.
But here comes the catch again – most companies don’t need that many specialists. They need developers for monotonous tasks to piece the data together and build yet another function on yet another new website.
Perhaps this is different in “good” companies where IT plays a more important role. Maybe that is why so many talented programmers are flocking to IT giants like Google, Microsoft and SAP – the kinds of companies that offer the position of Senior Developer.
Or perhaps they even prefer to startups, where they are central to the companies goals, unlike in large IT departments where they will disappear among the masses of application babysitters and bug swatters.
Is this a familiar dilemma? What is your experience of this issue? Are you trying to make your way to the top of the IT career ladder, in the hope that you can still work as a programmer?