I am getting fed up of hearing this

We only do software …

I strangled the scream that was welling up inside me.

If there is one thing I dislike about generic software jobs it is the attitude that we only do software. I feel that this attitude fails to accept that software is part of a system, albeit often a crucial one. In my case, the system is an innovative scientific instrument. This is not a piece of software that exists purely in the binary innards of a computer. It reaches out and controls things in the real world: valves, relays, vacuum pumps, etc.

And I think of myself as a systems engineer; not just a programmer who uses a “requirements gathering process” to work out what to do next and how to do it. I feel that my systems knowledge allows me to make informed decisions based on prior experience with other (often quite different) systems. My boss, however, does not want to that. I was told in a recent feedback session, “we do software, not hardware”. I have a lot of experience writing software at the software-hardware boundary. It has given me a lot of insight into how hardware and software should be co-designed. I enjoy this. He finds this troubling. If I speculate, I think this is because he does not want the responsibility of a software-related hardware design decision going wrong.

So what do I now? How do I keep doing what I feel I am good at if I constantly get feedback, in all its implicit and explicit forms, that says “we don’t like that, please stop doing it”? Is this another reason for dusting off the CV and looking around?

Or am I just getting overly sensitive to my environment? I have come from a RTOS/Unix/Linux environment into a Windows only environment where the developers know Windows well but other platforms might as well not exist. They can make Visual C++ .NET sing but, once I got into it, so could I; and I still have RTOS/Unix/Linux skills.

So what am I saying?

I am not a coder.

I am not a developer.

I am a systems software engineer.

Please don’t waste my experience by trying to turn me into a coder. I have far more than that to offer and you are wasting my time, and your money, if you do so.

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2 thoughts on “I am getting fed up of hearing this

  1. Gordon, back when I did technical work, I said exactly the same thing. Except, no one knew what a systems engineer was — except that the ones who thought they knew thought I did requirements. Grr. I finally called myself “a software engineer who works on systems.” I *like* working at the intersection of hardware and software. I don’t think there are too many people like us.

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