So it all started a a while ago with a tweet from Gael
Saying they aren't developers 😏— gael (@gaelcolas) March 2, 2019
And I responded with
Oh look a hill I will die on! You are devs and this is a good thing! https://t.co/HonV7PlRLJ— Glenn Sarti (@GlennSarti) March 4, 2019
And apparently I hit a nerve … This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this reaction. But both Michael Bender and Sonia Cuff disagreed, which gave me pause. I regard Michael and Sonia as progressives in the Windows IT Pro space so why would they disagree with what seemed like an obvious, future looking opinion?
Actually, for those that don’t know me here’s some quick background. People have seen my talks, and chatted in person and on Slack, and they think I’m a Developer but I actually started my Software Development career at age 40. Prior to that I’ve been doing Windows Client Deployment Engineering (SOE) for 20 years (Now I feel old!). I still identify as an IT Pro, who is also a Developer.
So why wouldn’t IT Pros want to identify as developers? There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re perfectly normal human beings. I mean sure, just like any group of people there are some that are fantastic, and there are some that are … downright horrible. But I’m sure Devs say the same thing about IT Pros.
So perhaps that’s it? People in support roles, like IT Pros, tend to only see the bad things that happen. I know when I was fixing service requests and responding to incidents from developers I never once had a ticket saying “Thanks for doing a great job!”.
If all you see are complaints from Developers I can certainly understand why people wouldn’t want to associate themselves as one.
What is a developer anyway?
But what even is a “Developer” anyway? Just like in the IT Pro space, there are many types of developers. Application Developers, Frontend Developers, Backend Developers. We sometimes lump in Designers and Testers into the “Developer” bucket too. Let alone the rise of the Infrastructure Developer, or SRE/DevOps Engineers (Don’t get me started on those labels!) which bridge both disciplines.
But people have different views of what a developer is. Let’s say you think a developer is someone that makes mobile apps, then sure, of course an IT Pro will say “I’m not a Developer”. So I can also understand that an IT Pro won’t identify as a develper, given their definition of what a developer is.
Someone told me I’m not a developer
Gatekeeping. pic.twitter.com/1x5lnOrwPy— Tyler Leonhardt 🔌🐚 (@TylerLeonhardt) August 5, 2020
I often see comments like “PowerShell isn’t a real programming language, therefore you’re not a real developer” or “PowerShell is just a scripting language” or other variants. We see this kind of gatekeeping crop up, and it’s not restricted to IT Pros vs Developers. This behaviour is just … unkind and unnecessary.
And if IT Pros are told often enough that “they’re not really developers”, I can certainly understand why they wouldn’t identify as one!
Labels and titles are a projection, but not definitive
It’s been over a year since that original tweet from Gael and something Michael Bender said later (I wish I could find the tweet!) struck home. To paraphrase:
If I’m an IT Pro and a Developer, then I’m also an Architect, a Tech Writer and more
Why was this so profound to me? Michael really was all those things and he was right, he would have to identify as an Architect etc.. More importantly though, why did he choose to not identify as a developer. Because the labels we choose for ourselves are important to us.
Michael chose to identify as an IT Pro and not a Developer, and I should respect that decision. Who am I to judge what a Developer is or is not? But that does not mean Michael doesn’t or can’t do Developer-like or Architect-like tasks and functions. The label does not define what Michael can and can’t do.
How about we just get rid of the labels? It's not inclusive and it creates silos because of the stigma & years of baggage each one carries. We are working towards a world where the lines are blurred. Yet we still maintain the titles & mindsets that built the lines.— Michael Bender @ Home (@MichaelBender) August 31, 2018
The labels are just a projection. They’re visible, but not concrete.
So do I regret my initial tweet?, and I guess the answer is yes. Perhaps I should’ve tweeted something like:
IT Pros or users of PowerShell, don’t have to be Developers, but they can!
And this is what gets me excited about the future of the “IT Pro”.
But admins aren’t devs, whether those admins are coding or not. Administrative coding is very distinct from application development, although they obviously have big areas of intersection and overlap.
— Don Jones - https://donjones.com/2018/08/30/ama-a-plethora-of-career-advice/
IT Pros can learn from the good Software Developers. We can take the practices that they’ve tried and tested, and apply them to help us do our jobs better.
Even Sonia is learning git, which many think of as a developer only tool. Just today I was teaching network engineers, to use git and PowerShell to manage and deploy Azure Network Security Groups.
Ok I may be getting hooked on the satisfaction of committing a good day's work and sending the pull request link to my US project colleague.— Sonia Cuff (@SoniaCuff) August 14, 2020
You can be an IT Pro, who can also do developer things!