6 good things about being a programmer

Even this jaded former coder can find some things he liked about the job

bull_rider-600x450_0.jpgImage credit: REUTERS/Patrick Price
One thing I liked about programming: the chances of getting thrown from a bull were small

No doubt about it, I’m a glass-is-half-empty kind of person. Ask my wife, ask my kids, ask my friends and they’ll tell you that I love to complain. It’s one of my favorite hobbies and, dare I say, skills. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is agreat song, but advice that I’ve never chosen to follow. Nothing beats a good bitch session, I say.

Not surprisingly, then, when I look back on my career as a programmer, I focus on the negatives. That leads me to write posts like the one I wrote last week, 7 frustrating things about being a programmer. It’s the annoying things that I remember most.

As they say, though, it’s never too late to change, right? So, in effort to be one of those eternally positive people (the ones most of us want to throttle), at least for a few minutes, I thought I’d follow up last week’s post with one that focuses on some of the things about being programmer that I actually liked (yes, there were some such things):

Good compensation - As is pretty well known, programmers tend to get compensated well, and I certainly didn’t complain about the money I was paid. It wasn’t doctor, lawyer or weak-hitting Major League Baseball utilityman money, certainly, but it was always more than enough to get by.

Getting to do lots of (non-code) writing - If you like to write, and I mean with words not just code, programming can, believe it or not, give you lots of opportunities to channel your inner wordsmith. You won’t be writing the next great American novel, but there’s usually no end of specification documents, user documentation, white papers, technical opinions, etc. that you can be called on to compose. This part of the job I really liked. Of course, whether anybody will read your documentation is another matter.

Ability to work in almost any industry - Just about every business needs programmers these days, whether to build a web site or an app or some internal software. So, if you like finance or education or gambling or whatever, you could usually find a programming job in that industry, and not have to be stuck in an industry that you didn’t like. Me, I liked working for media companies, from print to online to broadcasting, which is where I spent almost my entire 15 year programming career.

Working with a wide range of people - Whether it was working for a vendor or an agency or for a single organization, I always got to work with people in many different roles. From designers and other creatives to business and sales folks to management there was regular contact with all sorts of people with different skills and interests which I really enjoyed. As many good programmer friends as I made, I never wanted to be confined to only working with other programmers. Programming was, actually, a great way to come into contact with people in all sorts of different jobs.

Perl - Yes, I’m showing my age. Perl, as they say, really is the Swiss Army Knife of programming. When in doubt, I could always (well, often times) fall back on it to get done what I needed to get done. It’ll always have a soft spot in my programming heart (what’s left of it).

Small chance of being killed or injured - Computer programming usually ranks pretty low in the rankings of dangerous jobs. Aside from a little carpal tunnel syndrome, some eye strain or the occasional migraine, the threats to life and limb were thankfully minimal. The Dealiest Catch it ain't.

Since I'm now clearly scraping to come up with the things I liked about programming, let's leave it at that.

What about you? What is it about programming that you like the best? Let us all know in the comments.

Read more of Phil Johnson's #Tech blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Phil on Twitter at @itwphiljohnson. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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