Why I’m a Programmer

I tried googling this question, and was surprised by how infrequently it’s actually addressed. Most of the results are for one-off jokes. The only significant post I found that was actually trying to answer the question in detail was a post by Anne Epstein. That post, however, focused more on the “how I became and thus now am a programmer” interpretation of the question.

The version I want to explore┬áis “why I remain a programmer” – what my motivations are for doing what I do. I think it’s an important version of the question to consider, because it’s the one that others are really going to want to know about when they’re choosing a career path. It’s the one that avoids propagating a sense of technical entitlement. Lastly, it’s probably the one that I, as the author, can actually get the most use out of considering on an ongoing basis.

So why am I (still) a programmer? The trivial answer would be “because I enjoy it,” but that’s a cop-out answer which is useful to no one. So let’s go a bit deeper. Why do I enjoy it? There are a few reasons.

First, I enjoy problem solving – both on a micro and macro scale. Programming involves copious amounts of both. Figuring out the most efficient way to implement a feature or tracking down a bug in existing code are examples of small-scale problems that programmers solve. Figuring out software solutions for problems like hurricane disaster relief coordination, personal bookkeeping, or project funding are examples of the larger scale. Whatever project I wind up working on, it winds up having interesting challenges.

Second, I enjoy creating. Programming is wonderful for this: it’s a medium that, unlike many others, allows me to create something out of nothing. I’m not limited to physical constraints; if I can imagine it, I can create it (with enough thought and effort). Programming lets me create things that tie into the rest of my life and improve it, whether for fun (e.g. addons for a game), productivity (say, automating parts of my daily routine), or profit (work, modeling my personal finances, et cetera).

Third, it’s a career. It’s an area that has a lot of demand and probably will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future. As such, it’s also an area that pays well. This does contribute to my enjoyment of programming. While I don’t tend to be frivolous with my finances, having a solid income makes staying in the black a lot simpler, and allows me to save and invest for the future, whether that be good times or bad. As someone who eventually plans to raise at least one child, I feel an obligation to help make that child’s financial future reasonably secure.

Despite my gripes about some areas, the tech industry has become one of the better and more progressive industries in many of the areas where it matters. My employer’s healthcare benefits are amazing. Flexible schedules, liberal parental leave policies, and other such benefits are commonplace. Sure, there are some bad apples, but demand is high enough you can usually shop around. Having this kind of work environment and social support structure improves my overall quality of life.

Posted on November 9, 2012, in Personal, Women in Tech. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Why does everyone feel like they need to have a reason to justify everything. Not everyone needs a reason to start programming, be a programmer, or remain a programmer. That’s a bit like there must be a DEEP MEANING behind why I choose to turn on the TV. I watch TV because I enjoy shows or because I want to relax. Similarly, I program because I enjoy it and continue to do so. There doesn’t need to be PARAGRAPHS and MULTIPLE BLOG POSTS and opinions making this whole subject and all the variation of it (including why people should learn, why education should include programming, etc etc…)

    Some things make sense to address, most don’t. Lets just leave it at that and focus on what really matters, a better end goal than justifying this crap over and over again, like solving problems or helping those that want to learn, learn FOR ANY REASON. Sorry for the rant of a comment but I just find this plain stupid. And yes, I got linkbait into reading all of this, and responding like a troll.

    • Reasons don’t have to be “deep”. In fact, you listed two reasons for why you turn on the TV.

      One of the reasons why there do exist blog posts is because not everyone “just starts programming”. Some people aren’t sure whether programming is for them, and can use the little extra impetus to get them to try it. Others find it a little fun but aren’t sure whether it’s a good career for them to pursue.

      So while you might find this stupid, perhaps consider that there are others for whom it can actually be of use.

  2. Those reasons align pretty well with mine. In addition I like to learn new things, which there is a lot of :)

  1. Pingback: OTR Links 11/11/2012 « doug – off the record

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