But I just want to code!

Christopher Hawkins addresses a post from Joel On Software's discussion groups. The author isn't happy with his job because he's involved with technical sales, building proposals, and other non-coding activities. I tend to agree with Christopher's response on this. As nice as it might be some days to just put on some music and sling code, that task doesn't have the value in the market that it used to. Can you find that job? Sure, but there are fewer of them and the pay won't be what it could be if you're adding value elsewhere in the process also.

I liken to to mowing the lawn or raking leaves. I actually find those tasks to be enjoyable and relaxing (though not exactly stimulating). But how much are those tasks worth if I'm paying someone else to do them? Not much. On the other hand, what if you're a landscape designer who can come up with the whole yard's design, coordinate with various vendors to get the materials, and then execute on the design as part of a team? You've got more value and maybe every now and then you can pick up the rake. Meanwhile, your employer can find just about anyone to push the mower or rake the leaves. Note that this is not about the complexity or difficulty of yardwork versus writing code. It's about adding value to an entire process, instead of being one cog in one particular wheel in one part of the whole device.

And mostly, it's about employability. Add value in a way that someone else (and these days, someone somewhere else) can't and your job is no longer just a commodity. Show that you're a key part of the whole process. Get involved in figuring out what's being built. Get involved in the architecture and design work. Get involved in the sales support process. Be the "go-to" person. I can't remember where I read it, but someone earlier this year put it well in a blog post (paraphrasing from memory): Those programmers who want to sit in a cube, limiting themselves to just writing code, and waiting for a complete spec doc to get tossed over the wall, are going to be in for a surprise. They may come in and find that the doc was shipped overseas instead.