IT firms want business-smart coders? What a shocker.

An article on today says that IT firms are hiring, but they're looking for code monkeys that understand the business. What a shocker.

Since fully transitioning into a programmer year in '99, I've found it to be very surprising that the stereotypical programmer is ill-equipped to understand the business implications of the software that they write. The "Give me requirements, will code," attitude seems to be the standard in corporate America.

At the last contract gig I did, at a huge insurance company, one of my teammates (from India, and very business savvy) theorized that it wasn't so much a reflection of programmers, but of American education. He felt that people in general were not trained to understand business unless that's specifically what they went to school for. I agree to an extent, but would add that an ongoing lack of interest in the business around them doesn't help.

My theory is more along the lines of personality types. I think the programming side of the hall is filled with nerds (and I mean that in an affectionate way, they're my people), many of which never acquired the social skills to thrive. I'm not saying that it's all programmers, but a good portion of them. Naturally they don't play nice with the business people at the other end of the building, which is generally composed of socially outgoing types that were popular in high school.

One thing that does seem to get around this phenomenon in corporate America is XP and agile development environments. In these cases you're forced to work with other people, and if it's done right, it includes people right up through the chain including managers and sales types. Personality conflicts surface, but in my experience the quality of the software is better.

1 Comment

  • I think there's one more thing you did not mention.

    I think that for many coders that understand "the business" - also understand there's much more $$ to be made by being an independant contractor/consultant than to be an employee. Thus, they go out on their own, start their own consulting practice, etc. rather than staying with those continually "looking for a job" whether it's at IBM, Microsoft or some lesser-known ISV.

    Some coders are content being employees and likely won't ever grasp the importance of knowledge outside the realm of coding, databases, and what not. Then there are those that have career goals much higher than that, which is where you get book authors, successful consultants, conference speakers, ISV owners, IT management, etc.

    it's probably just the difference between being an INTJ and an ENTJ, some might say.

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