My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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An interesting discussion going on over at programming reddit got me thinking about what features I'd like my ideal job to have. Aside from "an easy, overpaid job that will get bring me fame and fortune," here's what would make up my list:
  1. Interesting Work: You can only write so many CRUD applications before the tedium drives you insane, and you think to yourself, "there's got to be a better way." Even if you don't find a framework to assist you, you'll end up writing your own and copying ideas from the others. And even that only stays interesting until you've relieved yourself of the burden of repetition.

    Having interesting work is so important to me that I would contemplate a large reduction in income at the chance to have it (assuming my budget stays in tact or can be reworked to continue having a comfortable-enough lifestyle, and I can still put money away for retirement). Of course,the more interesting the work is, the more of an income reduction I could stand.

    Fortunately, interesting work often means harder work, so many times you needn't trade down in salary - or if you do, it may only be temporary.

    The opportunity to present at conferences and publish papers amplifies this attribute.

  2. Competent Coworkers: One thing I can't stand is incompetence. I don't expect everyone to be an expert, and I don't expect them to know about all the frameworks and languages and tricks of the trade.

    I do expect programmers to have basic problem solving skills, and the ability to learn how to fish.

  3. Sane Management: Don't make me delighted to have a broken watch. I shouldn't have to turn back the dial on it to meet deadlines. Or put more strongly, management/customers shouldn't be given the latitude to control all three sides of the iron triangle of software development.

    Scope, Schedule, and Resources. Choose two. We, the development team, get to control the third.

  4. Trust: One comment in the reddit discussion mentioned root access to my workstation and it made me think of trust. If you cannot trust me to administer my own computer, how can you trust me not to subvert the software I'm writing?

    Additionally, I need you to trust my opinion. When I recommend some course of action, I need to know that you have a good technical reason for refusing it, or a good business reason. I want an argument as to why I am wrong, or why my advice is ignored. If you've got me consistently using a hammer to drive marshmallows through a bag of corn chips, I'm not likely to stay content.

    I don't mind if you verify. In fact, I'd like that very much. It'll help keep me honest and vigilant.

  5. Personal Time: I like the idea of Google's 20% time. I have other projects I'd like to work on, and I'd like the chance to do that on the job. One thing I'd like to see though, is that the 20% time is enforced: every Friday you're supposed to work on a project other than your current project. It'd be nice to know I'm not looked down upon by management as selfish because I chose to work on my project instead of theirs.

    I wouldn't mind seeing something in writing about having a share of the profits it generates. I don't want to be working on this at home and have to worry about who owns the IP. And part of that should allow me to work on open source projects where the company won't retain any rights on the code I produce.

  6. Telecommuting: Some days I'll have errands to run, and I dislike doing them. I really dislike doing them on the weekends or in the evenings after work. I'd like to be able to work from home on these days, do my errands, and work late to make up for it. It saves the drive time on those days to help ensure I can get everything done.
There are some other nice-to-have's that didn't quite make the list above for me. For example, it would be nice to be able to travel on occasion. It would also be nice to have conferences, books, and extended learning in general paid for by the company. I'd like to see a personal budget for buying tools I need, along with quality tools to start with.

But if you can meet some agreeable combination of the six qualities above, I'll gladly provide these things myself. If you won't let me use my own equipment, and you provide me with crap, we may not have a deal.

That's my list. What's on yours?

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