Another important tip from your friendly neighborhood dev
By Corey Adler, Professional Software Developer
Greetings again, Thwack! It is I, your friendly neighborhood dev back again with another tip to help you with your code education. I appreciate all of the wonderful feedback that I’ve seen so far on my previous posts( So You’re Learning to Code? Let’s Talk, Still Learning to Code? Here’s a Huge Tip, and MOAR CODING TIP! AND LOTS OF CAPS! ), and am grateful to be able to help you out in any way that I can. Although my previous posts have dealt typically with actually coding, this post is going to deal with something else. You see, I’ve been here trying to help you now for 3 posts, and I’d like to think that I’m doing fairly well on that score, but you should know that in programming, much like in other fields as well, there are people that mean well when they want to help you but will fail miserably when push comes to shove. The kinds of people who shouldn’t be allowed to teach at all—even when they are motivated and want to do so. When these people do come to your aid you’ll typically end up the worse for it. And so, to that end:
6) STAY AWAY FROM BROGRAMMERS. VERY, VERY, VERY FAR AWAY.
So what is a brogrammer, you ask? According to Urban Dictionary, a brogrammer is defined as: “A programmer who breaks the usual expectations of quiet nerdiness and opts instead for the usual trappings of a frat-boy: popped collars, bad beer, and calling everybody ‘bro’. Despised by everyone, especially other programmers.”
Now, before we get any further on this I want to emphasize that I am not singling out specific people. This is not a personal attack on anyone (in case any of the ones that I’ve met for some reason end up on Thwack, which I highly doubt). This is entirely a professional rebuke of the whole brogrammer mindset and attitude. It’s become more and more commonplace amongst entry-level software developers, and is one that can be highly toxic to those projects or people that are associated with them.
There are, traditionally, 2 problem areas that a brogrammer fits right into:
- Bad Craft
Let’s tackle these in reverse order.
What do I mean by “bad craft”? Oftentimes with brogrammers you will find an unwillingness to spend the extra time and attention to detail needed to create good code. Brogrammers tend to care about coming in each day, doing their 9-to-5 (not a minute more), and leaving to go have fun with their friends. They tend not to try and better their craft unless it’s absolutely necessary for them to keep their jobs (and beer money). Let me illustrate with an example: There exists a well-known company (name withheld for probable legal reasons) about which a former employee wrote the following:
” [Company] is run on a tangled mess of homegrown tools, horrendously fragile code and the worst engineering practices I've ever seen from any company. There is no QA, code reviews aren't taken seriously, anyone can commit to master and push their code to production at any time…Brogramming is real and [Company] exemplifies it. It was the norm for bros to knowingly push buggy, incomplete, untested code into production after a few rounds of drinks then leave the problems for others while they moved onto another project.”
Or how about from this company:
“Once you're in, you'll be subject to one of the most cliquish offices I've had the "pleasure" to work in (I've been in IT for 8 years). The best word I can use to describe the existing staff: brogrammers. Definitely male-dominated. Every guy is an alpha male who probably rather go and lift weights, instead of writing solid code. The code base is a mess. Barely documented, sloppy, and basically changed on an ad hoc basis (if you ask about requirements documents you'll be laughed at). Everyone seems far too busy to do any kind of peer-review and coaching amounts to an irritated developer grudgingly taking a moment to help, and the help amounts to the developer doing it and basically saying, "there" and leaving.”
As someone who is starting and out, and trying to learn the basics of programming it is incumbent on you to find the best role models, who will help you learn and grow in the ways of the Force (i.e. programming). Brogrammers are the complete opposite of what you need. They don’t want to use good programming practices or have clean, understandable code. In such circumstances you would most likely be worse off after asking them for help.
Having said all that about “bad craft”, let me just mention that this problem is a drop in the bucket compared to the other problem—that of rampant sexism. Now, there is no possible way for me to fully cover all of the horror that is sharing an industry with these “people” in a short space such as this, but let me at least give you a taste of what I’m talking about. You see, because the above stuff that I wrote about bad craft? I wrote that 6 months ago. This next part? It’s taken a while. It’s been difficult to put my feelings into words that I can type without dry heaving into the wastebasket next to me at the thought that these “people” use the same tools that I do, use the same languages that I do, and pretend that their jobs are the same as mine. Let’s see some of the horror stories that I found in my research, both online and talking to my female co-workers.
- Take, for example, a very famous social media company who decided to have an employee appreciation party. They even, it being an employee appreciation event, decided to let the employees vote and decide what type of party it was going to be. Not a bad idea, right? Pretty innocuous…until they voted to have it in the style of a frat party. The real cherry on top? Said company was embroiled in a lawsuit brought by a female former engineer for discrimination against women. How inclusive of them.
- Or those times that my friend C, a fellow developer, would try to make suggestions to a client about the project she was working on and have them be rejected…only for said client to accept it once one of her male coworkers suggested it.
- Or, as Leon sent me on Twitter, that time that someone spoke at SQL Saturday and received an evaluation form from someone that suggested that she could improve her speaking by wearing a negligee. (http://bit.ly/1TmgQ5a)
- Or the engineer who was asked whether her job at the company was to “photocopy [stuff]” and that she was “too pretty to code.” (http://bit.ly/1CHmRqx)
- Or the whole ball of putrid, stinking mess that is Gamergate.
- Or the women who have gone to conferences…and been groped. (http://read.bi/1YGqcMI)
- Or the developer conference in which a company sponsored a Women in Games lunch…and then had an after-party featuring scantily clad women dancing (http://bit.ly/1VqXgcl)
- Or any of the tons of other stories that I found online while feeling my heart sink deeper and deeper, wondering how the heck we in programming and technology as a whole fell this low this fast.
The industry of Grace Hopper. Ada Lovelace. The ENIAC Programmers. Adele Goldberg. So much of the foundations for what we do every single working day of our lives we owe to these and other noble women who labored to provide us, their future, with this amazing gift. And now? We get excited that big tech companies like Google and eBay have 17% of their developer force as women! 17%. Since when has 17% been a big number? 17% is only a big number when you’re a 3rd-party candidate running for public office. For myself, I went through college only once having a computer science major class with more than 3 women in it, and that was only because it was cross-listed with the art department—which 2 of the women were from. We once could proudly say that nearly 40% of our graduates were women. Now? It’s less than half of that. Sure, there are tons of factors that can play into that, but none of them hurts more, none of them is quite as much a punch to the gut as brogrammers.
Because this is not who we are. This is not who we are supposed to be. We can and should be a hell of a lot better than this! We are the industry of outsiders. We are ones who played D&D and Magic: The Gathering in high school instead of trying to be like everyone else. We are the ones who talked about Science Fiction until people’s ears fell off. We are the ones who, when other industries demand suits, ties, and other more “professional” attire, said “No, thank you.” We were going to show all of them how we do things—our way. And yet we’ve fallen victim to this just like everyone else has. We let this happen to ourselves. We have no one else to blame. No one else that we should blame except ourselves.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is one. Brogrammers are a dollar store mustard stain on our industry, and one that seemingly keeps on growing. Their sexism as well as their lack of caring for the craft that we hold dear to our hearts hurts all of us who strive for better every day. Who think that these attitudes are obtuse, thick-headed, and generally uncouth. But even you, the programming novice can help out. Even you can do just one tiny little thing to help us fight this scourge of human garbage. Stay very far away from them. Don’t give them, with their pathetic, tiny little brains, the dignity of even acknowledging that they have some skill. And, if it’s not too much trouble, be sure to tell them all of this if they ever ask you why you don’t ask them for help. Because we don’t want them here. Don’t be quiet. Don’t be afraid to stand up against them. And don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that they have anything that we should learn from.
Let me know how you feel in the comments below, and please feel free to share your stories about these and other tech troglodytes either here or by messaging me on Thwack. Until next time, I wish you good coding.