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I make the things that does the stuff that solves your problems(tm?)

July 6, 2007

I’m, currently, the solo ‘designer’ in our organization with the noted title of ‘Web Designer’.  However, we’re experiencing a paradigm shift as many of our Oracle Forms systems move to web platforms, whether J2EE or .NET and other developers are wanting to take the plunge.  A fellow programmer, extremely bright, more experience than I’ve been alive (and I mean that in a good way) asked me with eager anticipation:

“I want code so I can do what you do?”

“Ehh.  Umm.  What kind of code, what are you making?”

“Just whatever… just code, it’ll tell me what it is you do.”

So, we’ll just stop here because, from what I’ve discussed with others in the field, this isn’t a unique discussion we’re having.  But, unfortunately, “the code I do” isn’t really linear, it’s object oriented with classes, methods, and such.  It contains multiple different languages (HTML, JavaScript, C#, TSQL, CSS, XML, etc).  It contains open-source applications and tools, such as the Enterprise Library, NAnt, and other tools.  It contains unit tests.  Things that are ALL foreign to these individuals, but that they want to consume all at once.  I’m very happy they want to learn, but honestly, not sure where to start when they’re unwilling to “start somewhere”.  Osmosis doesn’t work to my knowledge (and if it does, please, tell me how… that’ll really help cut down on the stack of books I want to get read).

I turned over my code and promised to answer questions, but, none-the-less, it’s an odd conversation to have. I don’t think of what I do in terms of code, I think of it in terms of “things done”.  I don’t solve every problem with a web site, but commonly create custom console applications, winforms apps, or whatever the job needs.  Thankfully, the .NET platform is generous enough to provide these different mediums to meet my needs.

Personally, I’m a demonstrator—I explain by showing and by helping others do, so showing “what I do” by handing over some code seems… void to me.  I’m HUGE into whiteboards, markers and just doodling out ideas and concepts (and, even better, handing over the markers and letting others try to explain and build from there).  But, in the end, I’m not sure I can simply doodle out what I do.  I sit around all day (and all night) making things that does stuff that solves my customers problems.  Whether it’s a complex, multi-tiered web site connecting to enterprise database clusters, web services… or a little console app I jotted together in Notepad and compiled… it’s all the same—problem solving.

On a similar conversation, I had a customer ask me a similar question:

“Our old product was an Access database, what do we call this?  Web site seems so common.”

So, I have a new goal of finding a marketing-hip name for a web site.  Stellar, my goals and evaluations are coming up this Monday and I needed something to put down.  “Come up with new stunningly cool name for web site.” 

Beyond the rhetorical conversation, I do have a point as I’m interested: how do you answer these questions?  Regarding the first progarmmer-to-programmer discussion, is it less of a change in technology and more in a change in methodology?  How do you convey that to linear programmers “in 5 easy steps” or can you?  For our customers, do we even have “names” for our technology?  I can’t fathom actually explaining “well, this is an LDAP authetnicated, Oracle-based web application”… it’s simply “your problem’s solution.”

Though, truly, I wish I got to customize my business cards (I curse the horridly ugly standard cards we have and must use) as I’d put that phrase on the card.   I could officially point out that I “make things” and leave the rest up to my imagination.

Categories: Politics, Standards
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