Coders – a reflection of Silicon Valley and Engineers

Coders-Clive Thompson

I admit. I have always been fascinated by "coders," "programmers," or whatever you call individuals who build software solutions. Heck, I took my wife to Silicon Valley as part of our honeymoon. That should show my interest in software and organizations building software. Little did I know that 20 years later, from our honeymoon trip, I was leading and facilitating management workshops for industry-leading software vendors in Silicon Valley. If one dreams enough, the dreams will eventually be fulfilled.

I started my career as a product manager within the business intelligence/data warehousing domain and am honored to have led product development of more than 20 international software solutions in my career. Some of my developers were, in my mind, real rock stars creating solutions that were hard to believe it was possible to do.

Due to my background and fascination with the topic, I selected the book Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the Worldby Clive Thompson, a longtime Wired magazine writer. He views "coders" from an anthropologist's eye, their different personalities, and what typically motivates a programmer. When reading the book, I could see some of my "behavior" in the past, especially when working on something when it is hard to tolerate any distractions to avoid losing the feeling of "flow."

You do not have to understand anything about programming; the author clearly explains concepts relevant to the story. If you work with developers, it would be good to read the book to understand some of the things that make the profession different from many others. You might appreciate things that you had no clue about before.

The author describes several well-known coders as part of the storytelling, from the first coders—brilliant and pioneering women—to programmers of our time, such as the creators of Facebook's News Feed, Instagram, Google's AI, and many other stories.

I have always considered coding/programming to be an art form where skilled individuals create something that, in some cases, has yet to be created. Programming is typically a lonely journey and will take you to a world where you might be "stuck" for a while, and I have noticed in my own experience that coding does not stop when you exit your computer. In many cases, the algorithm will stay in your head, and you keep "coding" when you do other things, such as having lunch or going to the gym. If you are married to a coder, you might even see this "blank look" in his/her eyes, which could be a sign that he/she is still programming.

I have read most (that I know of) books that deal with similar topics, such as "Hackers" by Steven Levy, "The New New Thing" by Michale Lewis, and Bo Bronson's "The Nudist on the Late Shift." They are all interesting reads.

The book by Clive Thompson brings a fantastic and more recent view of the life of software developers, and especially if you work within the software industry, you should take a look. For the generation that is now getting into the software field, I think it is a good historical perspective of where we came from so the reader will understand the evolution of the software industry and the souls creating the solutions—the "coders."

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Dr. Petri I. Salonen

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