Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Company's VP Code, should I be proud?

There was a time in India when software job was the coolest job (believe me now its not despite whatever your aunty describes your job as to your prospective father in law).

If you are in software you were considered the best brain around. People used to code in html and earn millions. And anybody and everybody was thought to be making a software or was considered a programmer.

The thing was computers were not that prevalent at that time (not that it is to be found everywhere right now, but still it has invaded in our lives a lot). So if you did a small time course or a degree course and you get lucky then you used to come in contact with computer and for that duration of your working.

Hardly anyone other than you (and may be the person assigning you the job) knew what you were doing. So when you walked out of that office you could just pretend to have changed the world for better in there and people would believe.

Then came a revolution in software which brought the computers to a lot many hands. You have computers in banks, offices, homes, reservations, even in grocery stores.
The narrow mindedness about computers got a severe jolt.
I still remember the day when like 7-8 years back someone asked me, you are in computers, right? I replied a confident "Yes". And that guy said can you look into the computer in our shop, it is not working since many days?
That was a googly for me, after asking some normal questions about what went wrong and what you did and trying some hands on that desktop, I told him this is out of my knowledge, you would need to call a hardware engineer.
And that person looked at me like I just murdered someone. He ranted about what have I been doing in computers for so many years and after spending so much money on computer courses that i can't fix a small problem in his computer. I was sure he had the impression before i walked out of his place that i didn't want to help him.
You still might find a few people like that around but by and large people now appreciate the difference between software and hardware and have started to understand that there can be multiple careers in computers (at least people who want to make career are getting aware).

So carrying this impression i was living my life happily and one fine day i got dragged in a conversation between few software professionals. And my interest hasn't aroused until that guy mentioned these words "VP of my company codes man". And said it in such a manner like Dan Brown about to reveal in his novel what the holy grail really is.
And then the discussion went that way, oh really? Regularly or sometimes? How does he gets time to code? What all he can code? etc. etc.

This was not the first time i have heard such a statement, there are people who boasts that they are still coding while managing. Software companies would recruit 10+ years managers who can 'code'. Vice Presidents and Presidents of the companies would sometimes boast within the company about their coding skills. And how they still can find defects in a developers code.
Project Managers who would do the code review and would do testing.

Someone recently mentioned this to me which is very correct with respect to the situation of the software industry today in India. He said, "Indian software industry today is nothing more than a code churning factory".
So very true. I don't remember seeing advertisements for project managers but for PMs with experience in Java or dotnet or python, etc.

Do people seriously still consider that coding or being a programmer is still such a cool job? Whereas in India most of the software fraternity belongs to Microsoft, which with every passing year is introducing new coding framework and languages and technologies which has reduced real coding to literally nothing more than 'googling-copying-pasting' or at best referring to MSDN.

And in a country like India where today every other person who graduates is a computer science engineer and there are thousands and thousands of computer institutes in every nook and corner, do we really think that we would ever stop at producing such people who can do just that (googling-copying-pasting) at least.

I am in no way saying that every person who is coding is doing just that or that coding is not a good job. But for sure programmers today (at least the Microsoft genre) who are doing just the regular business application development (and no product development or work with open source) should not consider themselves out of the universe.

And if the VP or President or the PM of my company codes and is displaying those skills in the company or trying to get on the developers nerves by showing those skills then its time the company hire a different VP or PM. Because the developers would any time cost a fraction of the big man. If the person is so hell bent on coding then make him a coder, his dream would be realized as well as your company can in turn hire a better manager.

What we lack today in our software industry is good managers, good visionaries, good product developers. Till when we will continue to work on the products developed outside the country despite having the biggest software workforce in the world.

Why in the last 35-40 years of software in India we have failed to produce a Microsoft or a Google or a Yahoo? These are the questions that we have to ask ourselves,these are the questions organizations like NASSCOM will have to think about if we want to be a product developer any time soon.
Software Projects doesn't only mean 'Coding' and there could be Project Managers who can manage the project without knowing the technology. We should come to terms with these universal truths for our own benefit.

So if the VP of my company codes, should I be proud of it?
Then I should rather start managing the company affairs, I am sure I can teach him a lesson or two about management.