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Glass_Knife

What it's like to be a software engineer (video)

14 posts in this topic

A friend posted this to my Facebook a few days back - it's uncomfortably familiar to some of the meetings I have attended.

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I am not an SE, however I can also imagine this is exactly what happens.

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I've been in several meetings like that.

 

I don't think it's fair to make this about engineers vs. non-engineers, though. Most of the meetings that went that way were all engineers - someone who's supposed to be an engineer could fill any of the roles in that video.

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It's interesting, because the issue here is not it being impossible, the issue here is communication.

 

What the engineer is doing wrong is he's saying things like "it won't work because <reason>", instead of trying to wrap his head around what the customer really wants by saying something like "Splendid idea, I am capable of implementing it. Could you demonstrate to me how you expect the end result to look like?".

 

The customer obviously doesn't exactly know the implications of her request down to the last detail. The customer and the engineer speak two entirely different languages, and it is the engineer's job to translate the customer's language into their own language without rejecting the customer's ideas.

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The customer obviously doesn't exactly know the implications of her request down to the last detail. The customer and the engineer speak two entirely different languages, and it is the engineer's job to translate the customer's language into their own language without rejecting the customer's ideas.


I would argue that the engineer shouldn't have been there in the first place. There should always be someone understands both worlds and is able to translate.

So yes, I can create anything you want, once I get someone to translate whatever gibberish is spewing out of your mouth.

With that said, your advice is quite sound. I respond from a place of frustration.
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I saw this on Facebook, as well. I received some messages from my friends expressing their condolences, and having a greater understanding for my stories now. tongue.png

 

I think the video is very well done: it has one of every speedbump that I encounter in my own meetings.

 


Could you demonstrate to me how you expect the end result to look like?".

I think we saw the end result when she drew the triangle. Guaranteed that someone high up would come knocking when that rolled out.

Edited by Ectara
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I don't think it's fair to make this about engineers vs. non-engineers, though.
It's just people who know the field versus people who don't. It would be exactly the same if the positions were reversed (the engineer calling the shots on marketing and asking a marketing expert to do the impossible).

 

 

True, but one of those things constantly happens in the real world, while I've never ever heard about the other.

 

My "favorite" exchange so far was something like this: "We need you to add this functionality."  "That's technically impossible."  "Well, you better make it possible, because we already sold it to the customer."

 

In fact, I got a little bit of naive hope that with reversed roles, engineers would be more likely to approach things by asking "would it be possible", rather than "do it, we don't care how" or "I don't want to hear about problems, I want solutions".

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It's interesting, because the issue here is not it being impossible, the issue here is communication.
 
What the engineer is doing wrong is he's saying things like "it won't work because <reason>", instead of trying to wrap his head around what the customer really wants by saying something like "Splendid idea, I am capable of implementing it. Could you demonstrate to me how you expect the end result to look like?".
 
The customer obviously doesn't exactly know the implications of her request down to the last detail. The customer and the engineer speak two entirely different languages, and it is the engineer's job to translate the customer's language into their own language without rejecting the customer's ideas.


Actually I think the expert grasps the intention of the client in the end (at least as far as that is possible),
but is faced with a business decision: They can either sell the simple solution (two perpendicular red lines) for a small amount of money or they can sell the same solution but claim it was more difficult (seven perpendicular lines, two of them red, five of them transparent) for presumably more money. So the question is: By how much do you screw your client over?
If the "client" is another department of your company then this is an obvious choice. Sell them the two lines and explain to them, why this gives the same result as 2 lines + 5 transparent ones.
If the "client" is another company, then this can only be decided by somebody who knows the dynamics involved: How high can we put the price before we loose clients to the competition, etc. and this is s.th. that the engineer can't and shouldn't decide, at least not alone.
 

My "favorite" exchange so far was something like this: "We need you to add this functionality." "That's technically impossible." "Well, you better make it possible, because we already sold it to the customer."


A couple of weeks back at CeBit I was on the other side of that, talking to a guy who tried to sell his product to a friend. It took way more persuation than it should have, before he fetched his engineer who then verified that their product wasn't capable of what the friend had asked for.
I think this (selling s.th. that doesn't exist) is the bigger and more common problem and it can only be prevented by placing the "expert" in those meetings, even if that results in communication problems from time to time. The confusion that arises from it is probably the lesser evil.
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Hahaha! Funny video. Never been in that situation, but I have no problem believing that that is what goes down. haha. 

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