I think it’s time that I admit something: I’ve been a geek for many years now. Not your mere common-or-garden variety geek mind you, more a sort of geek-of-the world. A geek of many faces if you will. Sure, I can cut code, and I enjoy tearing the innards out of PCs, but I also geek-out at things like home modification, R/C aeromodelling, and (not so lately) tabletop wargaming (although Stu puts me to shame on this front). I think this renaissance in my nerdiness has become so much clearer since I started at Datacom last monday. I feel a kinship. I feel at home. Perhaps it has something to do with the Matrix screensavers not only installed on some PCs, but available at a handy network location, right there beside the CounterStrike 1.5 install files. Perhaps it is the diversity of PDAs and smartphones swinging from hip holsters. Or is it the lava lamps, high-powered laptops, and walls full of books touting “Mastering Language X“, and “The Complete API Y Reference”
You see, until last week, my six-year career has involved computer-wrangling, but that wrangling has either been for myself, or for banking and investment companies. It’s a strange world being a software developer in a non-software company. Sure, it is a common conundrum, but one that involves continuously battling for recognition of the power of IT, and one’s own skills. Take my example: in the world of high finance and investment banking, the brokers and traders are the lions, the managers are elephants, and the coders are (as always) monkeys. The lions strut around like they own the place, and the elephants rumble along the corporate 5-year trail, trampling anything in their way, leaving the monkeys to clean up the shit. I of course argue that the monkeys are more intelligent, they use tools, and they could tear a lion’s eyes out in the right situation. For some reason that never went down too well.
But now, I’ve found the monkey tree. There are monkeys everywhere: little capuchins on work experience from high school; howler monkeys recently graduated; spider monkeys, beavering away feverishly in the heydey of their code-cutting careers; and the large, slow, but immensly intelligent orangutangs, wandering gently between cubicles, half-smiling faces quietly contradicting the possession of an underlying power to tear the arms clean off a VB6-coding graduate. And there! What’s that!? My gods: a real-life silver-backed unix gorilla. I never knew they existed in the wild.
Being a coder in a large IT company is a different world. My credentials mean something. When I regail others with stories of implementing agile processes and bringing old-school coders around to the benefits of an automated build server, not only do they know what the hell I’m talking about, they can actually comprehend the relative difficulty of the task and the related benefits. Conversely, I also cannot bullshit people. In the finance world, if a monkey says “it can be done, but it will take a long time because the back-sorting won’t be able to con-coagulate with the collated index”, the lions nod sagely, and report the delays to their elephants. However, if I were to spout that pile of unadulterated nonsense to a room full of monkeys, the screaming would be deafening, and I’d be lucky to escape with more than a couple of limbs.
It is a different world. But it feels like my world.