Programmer Culture and the God Complex

I recently volunteered at a mock interview night for a great company here in Chicago called i.c.stars (link here), and both of the budding programmers I ‘interviewed’ asked me questions along the lines of ‘do I enjoy being a programmer/developer?’ and ‘what are some things you don’t like about the profession.’ Pretty generic questions in themselves, but it got me thinkin’, and at the end of all this thinkin’ I was left with a rather sour taste in my brain; I love what I do, but there is a seeping underbelly of programmer/developer culture that I hate (and I use that word with due consideration for its meaning) – the God Complex.

At this point I could give a scathing expletive filled rant about having to deal with Tech Jocks, geniuses in various boxes, and ‘rock start developers’ a la Spider Jerusalem (see Transmetropolitan for reference) – but I think we’ll go another way. Let’s have a conversation instead – GASP.

Note – If you don’t know what I’m referring to or have not had any interactions with persons of the previously described natures, then congratulations. You are very, very lucky. Go about your business of hunting gummy bears while riding a unicorn made of chocolate.

Firstly, let’s make a common sense observation – with all the ‘Learn to Code’ and ‘Everyone Should Learn to Code’ dime-a-dozen endorsements we are seeing so much of, wouldn’t you think developers with the aforementioned complex be a bit more humble? Just a little bit more self-aware? Even if the majority of incoming programmers riding the ‘Learn to Code’ waves aren’t good enough yet to take your job, wouldn’t it give you pause? Just some food for thought.

If you want a great read about the state of the ‘Learn to Code’ movements we are currently seeing, look no further than a wonderful article by my good friend Basel Farag.

Anyway, onwards and back to my original point. Let’s debug this problem by first writing out some assertions to check ourselves against. One, the software development community is largely responsible for itself, the comportment of its members, and most importantly its future. Two, if we hold the first assertion as true, then the developer community can enact change from moment to moment. Three, we (as a collective) could then decide to stop accepting the God Complex as a necessary part of our industry.

So how do we do this? Not to hit the nail to hard on the nose, but we need to be ‘raising’ better programmers. We need to put more emphasis on leading others in our everyday lives, and have the continued humility to BE LEAD. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a great nugget I got from a Surge talk by Bryan Cantrill (watch it here).

Walking the walk is far more important than talking the talk in software development. The continued acceptance, passive or otherwise, of the programmer genius complex is entirely our own fault. Positive, passive, and apathetic reinforcement has gotten us to this point. So the next time you are forced to work with a developer like this, spank them. I’m not kidding, give them a good Javascript whoopin’, or a Swift switch across the bum. They’re too far gone for anything else to work. And for those of you mentors out there that see this behavior budding in your mentees, snip it quick.

We are the technical makers and breakers of tomorrow, but don’t get it twisted, that doesn’t make us better or more deserving than anyone else. You are not God’s hipster gift to programming. If you disagree, get the f#*k out, the industry doesn’t need you. A good team is better than a solitary genius everyday of the week, and twice on Sundays.

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