If you’ve watched a movie with some hacking into a system, you’ve probably seen this before: someone typing insanely fast and numbers flashing rapidly in front of your eyes.
That must be what software engineers do right? I will admit it looks cool, but this is one of many misconceptions about the software engineering world.
I’ve seen and heard a lot of myths and misconceptions about software engineers floating around — whether that’s from the internet or even from my own parents who still don’t fully understand what I do for a job. Well, I’m here to debunk these 5 myths and share my experience in the world of software engineering.
Myth #1 – Software engineers write code all day.
The first of these myths is that the only thing software engineers do is write code all day. This is an understandable assumption because our job is to write code, but it’s not entirely true. In reality, software engineers only spend fractions of the day writing code.
To explain, I’ll use the example of writing a paper or essay. To write something such as a research paper, you have to first do research into the topic before you can even start writing. The same is true with writing code.
Software engineering consists of tons of problem-solving to produce a product. A lot of the time is spent researching and brainstorming how to solve a problem. You can’t jump straight into coding the same way you can’t jump into writing a research paper without research.
Even once you start writing a paper, there will be moments you stop writing and take a moment to think about your wording or reread what you’ve written. The same is true for coding. You’ll often write a couple of lines of code and then stop to brainstorm more or talk with your co-workers for help with the code.
All this to say that software engineers don’t spend all day in front of a computer writing code. We stop to think, we stop to take breaks, we stop to interact with people, and so much more.
Myth #2 – Software engineers are the same as IT support.
Now this one is a funny one. I’m sure a lot of software engineers will relate to people thinking you are IT support because you work with computers. I’ll often get people asking me to fix computers/electronics because they know I’m a software engineer. Although a lot of software engineers may be tech-savvy and can fix hardware problems, that doesn’t mean software engineers are the same as IT support.
Software engineers, as the name says, create and develop software. On the other hand, IT support will help implement that software and deal with issues related to it. I’ll leave a quote from Nodeflair that does a great job of explaining this.
A software engineer understands design, implementation, and management of software information systems and hardware processes. Whereas, an IT support engineer works on installation, development, and implementation of computer systems and applications.
In summary, can you find software engineers that can fix your computer issues? Yes. But does that mean that all software engineers can? Definitely not. Software engineers are not IT support. So, the next time you encounter an issue with your computer, don’t expect all software engineers to be able to fix your problems. Maybe try restarting your computer first.
Myth #3 – Software engineers type really fast.
This one is based on the example at the beginning of this article. A common misunderstanding is that software engineers type code really fast like in the movies.
You’d be surprised that, when it comes to typing speeds, the average for programmers only ranges from 4o-70 words per minute. Compared to the global average typing speed of 41 words per minute, software engineers are only slightly faster at typing. This does not constitute the speeds portrayed in the movies.
To further debunk this myth if we refer to myth #1 and the nature of the work of software engineers, not only is it not plausible to write code that fast, but it is also not necessary.
This is not plausible because of the fact that writing code takes time. With all the processes involved, you don’t spend too much time actually writing code. For example, a software engineer might think for 10 minutes to write only a couple lines of code.
This is not necessary because software engineering isn’t about typing as much code as possible. It’s about typing code that is clean, concise, and efficient.
The reality is that movies don’t accurately portray software engineering. If it was, it wouldn’t be as exciting to watch. This doesn’t mean software engineering is boring, but the processes involved and the ability to tackle problems to build software are what make it so beautiful.
Myth #4 – Software engineers are introverts and anti-social geeks.
Now this one might sound ridiculous but this myth often stems from a mixture of other software engineering stereotypes. Given the myth that software engineers are just people who sit at a computer coding all day, this myth may be an assumption that comes from that. The idea that software engineers just code all day and don’t interact with people could not further from the truth.
Software engineering is not different from any other job, we enjoy interacting with other people and it is often essential that we do so to work as a team. Outside of work software engineers do just about anything else other people would do. Play sports, travel, pick up a new hobby, hang out with friends and family, etc. Pretty much anything you could think of.
Will you find a lot of introverted people in software engineering? Yeah definitely, but you’ll also find many extroverted people as well.
The bottom line is. You don’t need to be a certain type of person to be a software engineer, so you can’t assume that they are a specific type of person.
Myth #5 – Software engineering is boring.
Now this one is subjective. I may be biased, but I will try my best to describe why I think software engineering is anything but boring. I like to describe software engineering with the following analogy.
Software engineering is like being in your own world where you are the creator at the center of it. The possibilities are endless, and you have all the tools needed to create anything you want. You aren’t limited by any physical boundaries. You can take your ideas and turn them into a reality.
To build a house, you need a ton of physical materials and a lot of time and money. To build software, all you need is a computer and some time as a starting point. Software development allows me to turn my ideas into reality, and that’s what makes it so exciting and interesting.
Software is continuously improving and developing. It’s exciting to see what new innovations software will continue to bring to our world. The possibilities are endless.
There we have it, five myths about software engineers and reasons I think that they are not entirely accurate. I hope this sheds a little light on what it’s like being a software engineer. And, hey, maybe this will inspire you to consider learning how to develop software.
For my fellow software engineers, have you ever experienced these myths, and are there any that I missed? For those who are not software engineers, are there any other questions that you might have about software engineers? I’d love to hear from you, please comment down below!