I have been working for a few years in technology, mostly doing platform engineering. I’ve done work for small companies but more often for larger companies. Software engineering is my vocation. When I was little I wanted to be an inventor, and programming is my outlet to make useful gizmos like I always wanted to. So in general, its a pretty good thing to be doing. With that said, I want to talk about one thing that bothers me:
On a day-to-day basis, few tasks relate to the impact of our work on people’s lives.
This is not to say that there is no impact of the tasks we do, simply that it is not often the focus of our efforts. We augment our software and remove technical deficiencies, but no-one asks us to question if the system will be useful.
The problem is not specific to platform or software engineering. In large engineering projects, many people are needed and the individual’s work may not be useful in isolation. The traditional view would be something like this:
Engineers do practical, quantifiable things to shape the world, and subjective things like feelings and emotions are nebulous and unquantifiable. Furthermore, there’s a division of labour, and the strengths of engineers lie in abstract reasoning and attention-to-detail, not in emotional intelligence.
From what I see in software engineering, this view is incomplete. There is too much churn in technologies and too many ‘best-practices’ rabbit holes to get lost in. The purpose of the work is everyone’s responsibility. We can all gain if each person can engage more with the outcomes of their work.