Software Programmers - A Different Breed

April 21, 2006
Rajiv Renganathan
...A programmer is most productive with a quiet private office, a great computer, unlimited beverages, an ambient temperature between 68 and 72 degrees (F), no glare on the screen, a chair that's so comfortable you don't feel it, an administrator that brings them their mail and orders manuals and books, a system administrator who makes the Internet as available as oxygen, a tester to find the bugs they just can't see, a graphic designer to make their screens beautiful, a team of marketing people to make the masses want their products, a team of sales people to make sure the masses can get these products, some patient tech support saints who help customers get the product working and help the programmers understand what problems are generating the tech support calls...

Joel Spolsky writes in his blog titled The Development Abstraction Layer about what it takes to bring out the best in programmers to build great software. At a time when attrition rates are soaring and companies are toying with various ideas of doing "everything possible" for its employees, these may not contribute largely to reducing attrition.

However, Joel's points have great potential to make the work day better for developers. That means a productive and fruitful day of good software production for the company to sell. For instance, a colleague to whom a bad lunch demotivates him. My wife, to whom no internet at work means less breathing space. To me, a far-from-home office resulting in frustrations of traffic and time wasted every morning and evening.

My boss makes a statement, "Employees don't quit companies, and they quit managers". Managers balance on a thin string between the management and developers. They play a tough role of managing not just the people but also the expectations senior management has of its developers. In my experience, I have noticed bad managers (from an developer's point of view and not necessarily "bad" for the management) go overboard in setting and meeting expectations of the management, thereby squeezing the developers.

There are many characteristics of such managers which lead to employees quitting them (more on these characteristics sometime later). I do not have a good enough insight to comment on bad managers in the opposite direction- good from an team's point of view, however management see them as "incapable".

Treading the path between the two communities is never easy. But then when has success been easy! One factor which helps me is putting myself in the shoes of the team members. Also, never forget those moments when you felt some things that your manager did not do right or could have done better.

What puts you down at work? What is your wishlist to make it a better work day for you?

Rajiv Renganathan is the founder of DealMaadi.com that helps shoppers find and share the best shopping deals across India. He blogs at rajspace.net.
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The Hissing Saint
May 3, 2006
10:23 AM

Could there really be a generic, fits all kind of motivation strategy. Every individual would differ in what is important to him and as such the tools for motivation too would differ from individual to individual.

Of course there are needs and things that would be generic like a good working environment, decent pay, fair appraisals etc but if the company would like to really hold on to its talent I guess they would need to look deeper.

February 9, 2007
12:45 AM

Isn't there 2 states of a programmer ? Here, I am referring to good programmers, not the posers.

State 1 is being in the ZONE, where a problem consumes his/her being. The solution to the problem is elusive, but available. The mind churns possibilities and rejects them until the 'a-ha' moment, when the solution becomes clear. That single moment, when the programmer sees the solution in his/her mind's eye, where the architecture of the implementation is projected on to a large canvas is a feeling the good programmer lives for. Then the challenge of implementing this solution (programming, debugging, testing..) takes over until the software is released.

State 2. The programmer is free, so s/he is now aware of the external surroundings and inputs. So now s/he starts noticing stuff like the ac, the chair, the lighting, the ambient temperature, the 5 minute delay in getting coffee at the machine, the fact s/he was not mentioned in the best performer list, the fact s/he has a manager who knows nothing about prgramming.....
Short answer: Keep throwing challenges at the good programmer, pay him/her well.

April 24, 2007
07:59 PM

"What puts you down at work?"


"What is your wishlist to make it a better work day for you?"

Managers who don't think they have a secret to managing people.

May 25, 2007
10:10 AM

for more info click to budda

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