Thursday, May 23, 2024

In Hard Times, Developers Need to Give Back

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Last week I got the news that my job was going to be converted to a consultancy and I would be given part time hours. It was rough news, but I’ll live. Being a developer has provided me with enough padding that if I go a few months only working part time I’ll be okay.

And looking at the industry it doesn’t seem like finding work will be a problem. There has been no pause in the incessant calls from recruiters, no end to the job postings.

A friend said he attributes this to the fact that we, as developers, put others out of work by automating their jobs. It’s a large part of the advancement of technology: before we know it, we’ll be writing the firmware to program the robots that will be bagging our groceries (The Fourth Rule of Robotics: No double coupons).

So what does it mean that there is now only one copy girl (or boy) needed at Staples instead of five because of their website that takes the orders and sends them to the stores to be prepared? What about the fact that sites like and Priceline eliminate the need for many receptionists at hotels, and how the shopping carts on alleviate the need for sales staff in the stores?

Should we feel bad about these things? I mean, we developers are just being good at our jobs, no? If we don’t do it, someone else would. And though some previous generations might disagree, advancing technology is integral to the betterment of our lives and those of future generations. So, to recap: we’re taking food off people’s tables, it stinks but we’re going to keep doing it.

Okay, so here’s my call to arms: we have a responsibility as people that are profiting from this current economic downturn to reach out and help those who aren’t.

I guess that’s just an opinion, there’s no science behind it. I can’t prove it to you, or show you the business need. I will plead to your sense of social ethics and say that we developers, as a group, often preach the need for the parts to support the whole; for the development community to petition the conglomerates; for the developer icons to lead the community; for the conglomerates to provide for our needs; for the visionaries to provide for our future. This business works for us. It’s a functional model and it gives us our buzzing little hive of activity and enjoyment.

How much better would this world be if we could apply these principles to the rest of it?

For the sake of this argument we represent the conglomerate, refactoring people out of their jobs for our own profit and personal advancement. We expect Microsoft, Apple, and Google to give back to us with tools and ways to develop our professional careers. What does that mean for our little model?

Well, I’m not saying you need to run a business out of your home and hire all the receptionists you’ve gotten kicked out of their apartments (or homes) to now answer your cell phone. What I think would be a great place to start is in your own circle of friends/family/coworkers (present or former) and look for need. It’s there – it’s likely glaring at this point.

Don’t make them feel like you’re doing them a service. If you’re feeling especially adventurous with your karma, try to do it without them knowing it was you. Help them with a bill, a reference, assist them in finding a new job, or watch the kids so they can go on interviews. Get them a suit, introduce them to recruiters, or, if you work for a large company, check for openings.

If we all take the time to do this in the next months (or years) we can at least do our part to bring health to the community that surrounds us. After all, we’ve always known it would be us nerds that would end up saving the world.

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