Roles: Questioning My Identity in the Software Realm
For the past couple months I've been drinking in (watching) the videos on the Yahoo UI Theater. After watching Peter-Paul Koch's (PPK of Quirksmode) video: Fronteers: Guild of Front-End Developers, I've been questioning my place in the software sphere. PPK makes the point that organizations should have clearly defined “front-end engineer” roles for maintaining standard compliant sites, maintaining conceptual integrity of the product / web application, and so on. This is a common train of thought, in the Mythical Man-Month (1975), Fred Brooks suggests that a software team should be run like a surgical team where specialized roles like the surgeon, nurse, aesthetician, and so on be delegated and adhered to throughout the duration of the project. Most organizations don't have these roles defined, but that's another story.
Above: PPK's Video from the YUI Theater.
The categorization of roles and topic of role is common in most companies and often discussed during interviews; most interviewers or companies want to know what position you play and how you'll fit into their organization. The interview question is generally mutually exclusive, your choices could be: a Generalist, a Specialist, a Software Architect, a Business Logic Developer, a SOA Developer, a Database Analyst / Programmer, a Graphic Designer, a Web Developer, a Business Analyst, and so on… However; everytime I answer this question I can never respond with an answer that I'm satisfied with, I always feel as though I'm pigeonholing myself into some stereotype or category. From my experience some of the stereotypes associated with roles are: “Web Designers”: artsy, can't really grasp difficult problems, “Generalist”: technically competent, doesn't understand good user interfaces, often doesn't understand the big picture, and so on. It's kind of like someone asking: “what kind of music you listen to?”, but only letting you choose a single genre, then having someone psycho analyze you based on your genre selection – speaking of which, here's a link that already does this (kind of): Which genre of music fits you.
This all brings up the question of identity. What am I, what is my role, what single role do I feel fits my skills and experience? Perhaps I'll start labeling myself as an information technology (IT) addict. :) I love, eat, dream, breath, drink technology. I have an obsession with the Software Development Lifecycle, I always have a couple IT related books on the go, I listen to IT related podcasts while commuting, I like writing code, I write code after work, I write code on the weekends, I contribute to online forums, I edit IT books, I like using Test Driven Development, I like front end work, I like back end work, I like it all.