Are coders worth it? Hell yeah!

Arcus Global

Arcus Global
June 13, 2013

I’d like to talk about whether or not coders are worth it? My Dad was a structural engineer for his working life, he worked for various local governments around Yorkshire and worked very hard! He didn’t have a degree but he was ever so experienced and was often given the role of mentor to newly qualified structural engineers. He’d take these young people with freshly minted degrees and mould them into structural engineers.

Structural engineers are, or at least my Dad was, those people who check the drawing that architects make of new buildings – or alterations to existing structures – and make sure that they don’t fall down. They make sure that they don’t fall down in strong winds or with lots of people inside, they are brilliant people but not particularly well known. That school, office or house you’re in shouldn’t fall down with you in it thanks to structural engineers checking that the architects cunning plan of creating a wall out of tissue-paper didn’t pass muster…

Structural engineers are worth it! They save lives in their own quiet and unassuming way.

There’s a fascinating joke about Psychiatrist that’s close to my heart, it goes like this:

Philosophers build castles in the air.
Psychotics live in them,
and Psychiatrists charge the rent.

I guess that’s a little like what structural engineers do. They make sure that the castles that are dreamt up by architects down fall down on anyone else.

They take a virtual building, one that used to be represented by lines on paper but is more and more represented by pixels on the screen, and make sure that it works as it should.

I code. I code as a job and as a hobby. I code applications that make sure that the correct taxes get paid, that local government officers can check their progress against national standards, that make the job of taking orders over the phone at take away restaurants easier, applications that allows residents of a ward within an administrative boundary to check crime figures and the location of polling stations, that allow anyone to check spending within an administrative boundary, that show the proper action of a canal lock, that show the river levels over a period of time… and many many other things. Goodness I code!

I shuffle bits of data around in my head in order to correctly model the shuffling of bits within a lump of silicone which is, quite frankly, beyond my ken.

My Dad didn’t build the buildings he checked the calcs on. He didn’t get his hands dirty making the things he helped to make safe. I do build the things I shuffle in my head but there’s nothing physical to show for all that shuffling.

I don’t know how I feel about that – I think coding is cool! I think it’s one of the best things anyone can do. It stretches my mind! I’m not Mensa material but I do love what I do. I’ve done my fair share of affecting the physical world in the past. I’ve volunteered as a carer for those with physical disabilities and nursed those with mental illnesses. I don’t want recognition for those things – they were things I knew I had to do in order to pay off some of the debt I owe a society that has nurtured me and mine and, at the age of 40, allowed me to do the thing that I love doing. But the things I make require a whole infrastructure to exist in order for them to even appear before you. I can’t point to a concrete thing and say I made that. My dad could, I can’t.

I’m not paid an exceptional amount – not a pittance mind you – not as much as I have been paid in the past as a nurse. But I don’t work unsocial hours (unless I want to that is). I do get to do what I want most of the time and work with cool new things (when they work in early versions of IE). I work alongside people who’re cool and understand what I’m saying most of the time. But the things we make aren’t physical. I know they have an effect on people but saving a local government a shed load of money that they can put into important services isn’t as cool as pointing to a building and saying – I helped make that.

I guess it’ll do though and I think I’m worth it!