You are not just a (Insert language here) programmer

This is probably be one of those rant posts, so beware. I was listening to one
of the podcasts I try to regularly listen, and heard a good description of a
web developer. I like to call myself many names, and one of them is my
linkedin title Junior Shark Trainer, one of them is web developer, which
could be more precise (or broad) title than ruby on rails programmer.

If you do web development, or desktop application development (do those people
still exist, hello? :)), you are required to know a couple more things than
just wielding your programming language like a light saber, and slashing your
enemies with it. Here is an example, in the past 4 months, excluding the
text editors I work with, and explored, on the tasks involving web
I used:

  • bash (to write server creation and management scripts and various other
    little things)
  • sed (google it, it will blow your mind)
  • ruby (duh!)
  • javascript (and coffeescript)
  • html (plus erb, haml, handlebars)
  • css (sass, scss)
  • sql (yes it still exists, even if you are working with rails)
  • regular expressions
  • centos linux distribution

And probably a lot of other things that I can’t even remember but went into
web development process. OK, if your job title is Systems Programmer II
then you are probably only expected to know how to fire up your editor, and
crunch out code. I’m happy I never had to work at a company where someone else
had to set up my development environment for me each time I got a new
computer. I made a reference to being able to craft your own light saber in a
post called Importance of installing your own development machine
from more than two years ago, and I still hold that reference true. If you
consider yourself a developer, you should be able to set up the thing you are
going to develop. I’m not talking about knowing everything about anything. As
you don’t have to know how to set up reverse proxy and make your
infrastructure able to scale vertically and horizontally, on the click of a
button. But if you, let’s say, want to bootstrap your startup, all of those things can be
of use, before you can delegate them to employees.

Not my job syndrome also comes to mind, and I’ve had it before. Nowadays I
look at it differently. It’s not my job to design and improve existing UX
interfaces, but I’ve gotten interested in doing it at the moment. Or writing
copy, marketing, trying to increase conversion, or basic design, none of it
was my job a year ago. If I think about it, even web development was not my
job seven years ago. I was a back-end database (oracle) programmer, the SQL
skills are really useful even to this day.

So, embrace every learning opportunity, learn something from it, and do try
everything. Even the ugly marketing/business/sales side of things, which is
the hell on earth for an average developer, but if you are a freelancer, I
won’t break this to you gently. YOU ARE ALREADY RUNNING A BUSINESS, a
business of one that is, but still a business.

I might change my title to Thought Leader in training, whatever that might
be. I just hope I’ll never get to be Programmer Level III anywhere. Who would say,
it’s not that big of a rant after all.

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