Let me start with this a true, personal anecdote…
Many years ago, I was at a party chitchatting with a young lady, when the inevitable “what do you do for a living” question came up.
The following ensued (with some embellishments):
- Her: what do you do for a living?
- Me: why don’t you guess? (I was so cool, back then)
- Her: Are you a chef?
- Me: Non. (keeping it cool but seriously thinking, can you be any more cliché!?)
- Her: A musician maybe?
- Me: No. (I had longish hair then)
- Her: do you work in the clothing industry?
- Me: no (back to the French theme)
- Her: The movie industry?! As a director or writer maybe?
- Me: Nope
- Her: alright, I give up.
- Me: Ok, I’m a software engineer.
- Her (barely masking her disappointment): REALLY!? I thought that you were more of the “creative type”! (She probably did the air-quotes with her fingers)
- Me (Trying to ignore her disappointment): Why would you think that I can’t be both a software engineer and also creative?!
And this is really what’s at the heart of this post: Can one really be a software engineer and be creative too?
Can one really be a software engineer and be creative too?
Talking on behalf of my software development brethren, my answer is a resounding, heck yes!
Of course, for the uninitiated eye (like the person in the dialog above), software engineering/development might look more clerical than intellectual, and more structured than imaginative. But for anyone who’s worked in the field, it should be apparent that our work is more governed by ideas and possibilities than the monotony and tedium of routine tasks.
Surely in recent years, the hundreds of companies and thousands of applications (for iOS/Android) created by software engineers are a very clear and visible testimony that software engineers are a creative bunch.
One might say that the coding, the testing, the debugging are probably not what comes at the top of the list of exciting things to do. But can’t they? Who among us never felt the touch of divine inspiration when coming up with a genius way of coding or testing something? That “aha” moment when the idea that makes all the difference comes to you.
How about “being in the zone” when the code seems to write itself and designs, made of one clever idea after another, comes alive before your very eyes.
To me (and I’m not a musician), it seems very much like what composers must experience when they create music: breathing life out of nothing (bytes vs. notes)
As a software engineer, if you don’t feel that you are creative, maybe you never tried to picture yourself as a creative person and maybe it’s time to come out of the “creative closet”.
On the other hand, if you feel that you are actually very creative and full of ideas but your creativity and ideas haven’t been acknowledged by your peers, by your boss and by your company in general, then you need to wake them up.
I could go on but hopefully you get idea.
So, you the teacher, the QA analyst, the engineer, the equity trader, and you who’s always been labeled as “non creative”, do feel that you are the “creative type”?
Share you thoughts/frustrations/inspirations in the comment section below.