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Of painters and programmers

If you happen to read this blog then let me issue a caveat up front. I am NOT suggesting for one minute that the skill set needed to be a painter and decorator is in any way akin or at a similar level to the qualifications and talents needed to become a software engineer.
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Written by Adrian Bridgwater on

If you happen to read this blog then let me issue a caveat up front. I am NOT suggesting for one minute that the skill set needed to be a painter and decorator is in any way akin or at a similar level to the qualifications and talents needed to become a software engineer.

I am merely trying to bridge the divide that always opens up when non-techies ask you what you do (or in my case, what I write about) and look at you like you've just started talking a foreign language.

So I go swimming every night and there's always a bunch of chaps in the sauna afterwards who like to chew the fat and discuss work. There's a coffee trader, a TV producer, a building surveyor, a retired Irish jockey and a painter called Dave.

Now I was chatting to Dave this weekend trying to get a price for a bit of a job round at my place and trying to learn a bit about how he does what he does. When I told him he was expensive Dave tried to justify his position by saying that he was an expert professional and after all - he couldn't do what I do for a living.

... and as I left I thought, well how would I explain programming to a painter?

Dave goes into a potential clients 'gaff' to 'do a reky', rub his chin a lot and generally mutter phrases like, "well, it's gonna cost ya" - and programmers meet their customers to perform requirements management before a project commences.

Dave then costs up the job based on what he has seen - programmers might undergo configuration management procedures to determine what the current status of the systems in place are, it's best to know what you're working with before you start.

Dave puts down a foundation coat to make sure the rest of the paint sits on top of a good base layer - programmers make sure they adhere to proper design procedures and have a solid technology backbone with backup and disaster recovery provisioning to rely on.

Dave waits for one coat to dry in one room while he gets on with painting another room - programmers put segments out to test while they carry on with other elements of design and coding.

Dave makes sure his boys work hard and don't just sit around drinking tea - programmers rely on (or suffer!) the direction of their team leaders and project managers.

Dave's customers change their minds and need and an extra room worked on and may even ask for colour changes - programmers employ change management and application lifecycle management techniques to deal with these kinds of things.

Dave puts some little finishing touches on the job to make it look nice - programmers focus on the GUI & front end of the application to make sure the users are happy.

Did I bother trying to use this example to explain things? No of course not. Is this just a bit of fun? Yes of course it is. But how often do we hear IT companies telling us that their "innovative solution" helps to bridge the IT to business divide? Heck - IBM has themed its last four year's Rational Users Conferences around this idea with labels like "Better Software = Better Business" and "Software in Concert" (with business that is) ... will they do it again I wonder - I'll be at the show in the USA in June to find out.

Will Dave be there too? Nah, he's got a monster of a job on over in Croyden this summer by all accounts.

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