To those new individuals entering the programming job world currently, thoughts and ideas of high paying salaries, high tech sounding titles, and working remotely on a beach in Mexico circle around their mind. And while those things are definitely a part of the current programming culture, they aren't the most important aspect and I would say they mask the underlying importance that programmer's take on.
Behind that shiny veneer, there lies a complex sub-world of gears and electrical currents that help to make our busy societies go round. It is no secret that most of what helps us get through our day to day currently, is based around software. We receive instant communication from our friends and family through software. We can receive documents and images in virtual mailboxes that can store millions upon millions of records and barely scratch the surface of our storage capacities. And we can order food, hail a car, invest our money, calculate travel routes, find homes to live in temporarily, learn a skill or two, and we can do it all through software and a few clicks of a virtual surface.
In our current society, this is how we define progress. This is how we are able to continue creating things, both personally and for the collective groups in our society and abroad. It may seem like a small task to order food through your phone. For a few OrderID's to get grouped together, sent to a tablet miles away, triggering someone to begin preparing food, while someone else is notified to come pick it up, and to drop it off at an awaiting address while you watch the car icon get closer and closer.
It may seem trivial. But for the first time in history, we have more and more time opening up for ourselves, in order to figure out what it is that we should be doing with our lives. And that's not a small thing. That's where our future progress and innovation come from. If we were to add up the hours that it would normally take us to grab lunch, stop by the department store for a new dress shirt, grab dinner and then drive the hour home after work day in and day out for years, you'd be looking at enough time to start an electric car company and build rockets. So even these seemingly unimportant applications, bring with them vast improvement and big change.
Data and attention have become the biggest commodity in our society, which small blotches of virtual real estate selling for thousands of dollars to even millions in some cases. The more taps and clicks an item gets on a screen, triggering a counter to increase, the more perceived value that something has. And again, this isn't bad by nature. It's just the current way that people can express their likes and dislikes in real time.
And behind every tap and click, there is some code that some programmer wrote to manage the entire thing. On the micro level, they were just storing values in a database. Maybe they were even just updating a counter. Something so trivial in appearance but complex in that they'd be one of the few people that would even know to do such a thing at their company. On the macro level however, they just created a way for you to express your likes on a clothing style, which in turn triggered the company behind it to begin producing more of said style, which means fashion now takes minutes to begin to spread, as oppose to months or even years as it made its way across the country and in some cases across the world.
And that's the real power behind a programmer. They receive instructions, and begin to work formulating algorithms in order to execute effectively and they manage the process going forward to ensure accuracy. They diagnose and improve accordingly as the project progresses and they learn how to do it faster and better each time. Information, fashion, story-telling and learning happen in real time across vast networks of people and communities.
And life is shaped based on those decisions. While the job may not always be glamorous or even high paying, it is impactful in some way. A simple function written without too much thought can at some point change the way that we communicate with each other. And that's the importance that I wish more programmer's could see, as oppose to just the extra zero on the paycheck or the ability to work from home.
Walter Guevara is a software engineer, startup founder and currently teaches programming for a coding bootcamp. He is currently building things that don't yet exist.