When people ask what I do for a living, I generally tell them first that I am a coder – plain and simple. The conversation usually ends there.
Taxi to the Dark Side ipod Most people understand that being a coder means something to do with computers, that it usually involves 0’s and 1’s, endless pages of data on a screen, large books that can be tripped over and an inability to converse with others outside of programming circles on any level. For some of the coders I know this is probably quite true!!
When people ask my wife what I do for a living, she generally tells them I run my own business – now that’s a bit different. The question usually comes what does he do etc. etc.?
The response is a world of difference, but it pretty much sums up a post by Jeff over at Coding Horror about the one thing every Software Engineer should know – How you market yourself!
In the early days of the business I coded everything myself, I had to! Long late nights, and getting up at 4am to reboot a server was the norm – so was the painstaking weeks to fill in my own tax return etc. Starting a business can be really hard!
My circumstances have changed a lot since then, I’m now married and have other things to concentrate on, different priorities in my life – I’m not sure I could start a business like BetterWebSpace again now if I’m really honest.
These days I take more of administrative role and outsource big chunks of the coding work – I do still like to get my hands dirty with some PHP scripts but they generally are fun things (or things I couldn’t explain to someone else – like my Quickbooks accounting import scripts!). I’d like to outsource more so I can concentrate on growing the business, but I’m maybe too much of a control freak with the business and want everything to be just right – the temptation to talk to a VA is always there to see if I can get rid of more of it – maybe I should do that again.
You could argue that you can be just a good coder and no good at marketing, I believe that’s true as well.
In a bigger company that idea really does work, the engineering team turn up in Jeans and T-Shirt and are hidden from the customer, and the sales team are suited and booted. Interestingly I think most clients of those companies would probably rather talk to a coder working on the product (one with reasonable hygiene that speaks non-techie at least!) than the sales team. The sales team often have a tendency to promise the world and don’t know the product as well as the client or the coder (much to the annoyance of both parties!), in these cases listening forums are a great way to cut out the middle man!
With small companies you have to become a jack of all trades, if you have a skill it will be utilised in one form or another! I don’t mind at the moment having a little bit of knowledge in all the areas, but at some point I’m going to have to outsource more and more of the work – that or employ someone!
On that note, I’m going to go and make some lists of things I might be able to outsource to people with more knowledge than me!