You are not your programming language

You are not your programming language. You are not the web stack you've learned. You are not your text editor you write your code in.

I was reading a post by Dave Newman the other day (yes, so were 46,840 of you) and he ended with the quote above. As I start to look for my next opportunity, I'm reminded that I didn't start with the tool set I have now, and I certainly won't end with it.

When I began working on the web there weren't nearly as many frameworks, languages (Ruby didn't exist, let alone Rails), or even server packages (thank you lighttpd!). I wouldn't say developers were limited, but it did seem that getting a job in the field was less about what language you knew and more about what methodologies you practiced and how well you were able to learn. Nowadays you see companies looking for a .NET developer that knows some JavaScript, or a C# person with good communication skills. But what do you really want? I venture to guess that when upper management comes to tell you there is a new project your team is leading, and the client needs it to be entirely in OSS projects your going to be in trouble.

So what do you look for as an employer? And what do I as a potential employee focus my energy on?

I'm no rock star.

Okay, maybe I am. Besides, this is my blog and I can say whatever I want. But the thing is, you don't want me to be a rock star C# guy. What you want is for me to understand more abstract concepts and technologies. You want me to be able to pick up that new language when project X comes along. And you want me to be able to code in any environment (yeah, I'm talking to you Dreamweaver).

So why oh why do you ask me if I know about feature X in language Y? Or if I have ever used this or that IDE? How is that possibly relevant? Whether or not I know it there will always be something that I don't know. I don't want to know one language and use it for everything; I want to know lots of languages and use the right one for the job, even if it means learning a little more about it.

Published on September 25, 2010