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What is the biggest misconception about being a software developer?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

Discussion (60)

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pjotre86 profile image
pjotre86

I'm not an expert for installing printer drivers on windows.

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hamzaanis profile image
Hamza Anis

Nor I can repair the printer.

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iam_timsmith profile image
Tim Smith

I came here to say this.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Or, worse yet, diagnosing printer driver problems anywhere. It involves a lot of dark magic that I prefer not to defile myself with, haha.

(Props to anyone who CAN do this!)

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melaniephillips profile image
Melanie Phillips

This ^ lol

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

That you need to be "good" at math. Most developers only use basic arithmetic.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

I'm not bad at math per se, but yeah, math is not really at all what I do. The ability to think logically might be associated with mathematics, but they are really entirely different disciplines.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

Logical thinking would be more tied to philosophy imo.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Really depends. I've been running into a lot of linear algebra lately, and I've had a profound use for statistics in prior projects.

I think developers in general just need to be able to understand the concepts, not necessarily do the calculations on paper. There's plenty of resources for understanding in the hey-hoo is going on.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

This is not what the average developer has to deal with. The misconception is you can't become a developer if you aren't good at math.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

Define "average". (Spoiler: there isn't one). Each subspecialty has its own domain knowledge you need to know. That's why I specified, you need to be able to understand the concepts. You don't necessary need that knowledge right now, and you might never need that knowledge, but you never know when you will!

It's like with anything in coding: just develop the skills and habits to be able to learn stuff. Whether you need linear algebra and C, statistics and pandas, or Ruby and basic addition, is going to depend entirely on your present project. The trick is just to be able to pick up linear algebra, C, statistics, pandas, or Ruby when they prove themselves necessary.

What we don't want to do is tell developers, "oh, you can totally blow off math, you'll never use it," because that is literally exactly as wrong as "you need to know linear algebra or you're doomed." The right attitude is you should be comfortable mucking about with numbers when the need arises; it's okay to learn concepts on a need-to-know basis.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau • Edited

Each subspecialty has its own domain knowledge you need to know.

You've just proven my point, its not a requirement to be good at math to be a developer.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

Sorry, no, I haven't "proven" your point; you've actually completely missed mine in its entirety.

As I said, it is a requirement to be able to muck about with the numbers when the need arises.

It is NOT true that you need to learn linear algebra or calculus right now or you're doomed. You might never even need any particular branch of mathematics. That is the full extent of your point, and I never disputed it.

But if you do need to have the ability to handle mathematical thought, otherwise you're going to be in hot water sooner or later in your career. That much is certain. That's my point, and it is the necessary completion of your entirely-true-but-still-incomplete premise.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

But if you do need to have the ability to handle mathematical thought, otherwise you're going to be in hot water sooner or later in your career.

Clearly. Not sure what your point is, logic here is circular. Of course you'll need more advanced maths if you need it.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

Not sure what your point is, logic here is circular. Of course you'll need more advanced maths if you need it.

You're still missing the point. If you're reading someone's logic as circular, you can usually depend that you're overlooking something in what they're saying.

If you're going to be a programmer, you absolutely must be capable of working with numbers, period, end of story. The only thing that varies is the particular branches of mathematics, and which apply to you. But you will need to be able to pick up new concepts in math as needed if you're going to be a programmer.

Some people cannot handle math at all. No matter how hard they try, they cannot wrap their minds around computation. This is different than liking or hating math (or math class, as the case often is). It's whether you have the ability to, as I said, "muck about with numbers".

Do you need algebra? Statistics? Calculus? Set algebra? Linear algebra? Number systems? Geometry? Binary? It depends. You're welcome to wait on learning or mastering any of the preceding until the need arises. (You can practically guarantee you'll wind up using at least one of the preceding in some fashion sooner or later.)

Do you need the ability to work with numbers? Definitely!

No matter your branch of programming, develop your ability to work with mathematical thought. It will be needed in some form sooner or later.


Yes, I can hear the objection now. "But I don't use math in my particular specialty."

Sure you do. Almost all of us use algorithms, which are build on algebra. Frontend work? Hello geometry. Using that handy "set" data structure? Set algebra there! Data science? Stats...stats everywhere.

You can't escape it. You will use math. Get comfortable with mathematical thinking, whatever branches of math you use.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

Do you need algebra? Statistics? Calculus? Set logic? Linear algebra? Number systems? Geometry? Binary? It depends.

I have never used these things professionally (not even binary). I think you're describing your own experience which doesn't relate to most. Most software developers are going to be in web which doesn't require that kind of knowledge.

Do you need the ability to work with numbers? Definitely!

Yep, just need arithmetic for most jobs.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

I think you're describing your own experience which doesn't relate to most. Most software developers are going to be in web which doesn't require that kind of knowledge.

I'm not as myopic as you seem to think. I've been involved in training interns, mentoring young developers, speaking, and writing across many programming specialties for some time. I can see many miles beyond "my own experience".

"Most software developers" are not "in web" as you are implying...web just happens to be the popular frontend to a myriad of specialities. And even if you are merely doing web frontend, and nothing else, algebra and geometry are still at play. How do I know? I've done web design frontend longer than anything else as a programmer.

I'm speaking about more than just "arithmetic", another specific branch of math (which, of course, shows up in most others). I'm talking about mathematical reasoning, and the ability to pick up new math concepts as needed. (Oh, and by the way, I'm also an experienced math tutor for everything from pre-algebra straight into calc.)

Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time communicating and collaborating with people in innumerable specialities in programming — the many differences between which I am always fascinated by — I suspect the person here conflating his limited experience to "everyone else" is you, albeit without realizing. But in your defense, I can guarantee you've been using far more math than you know.

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau

I'm not sure where you're going with this, my point stands. You don't need to be good at maths to become a developer, just need the basics.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

The fact you still aren't following at this point actually demonstrates that your argument is incomplete. But then, it is possible you don't understand what math inherenly is — and many don't — so you have to settle for the incomplete argument that "you don't need to be good at <insert a particular branch of higher math here> to become a developer."

For the sake of your own growth as a professional, stop responding to this thread, go back, and read my statements slowly and carefully. Think about them. You're smart. If you put some thought into it, instead of focusing on what you'll say next to "win" (and win what?), you'll understand what I'm trying to explain to you.

Understanding, I'm not saying you're entirely wrong, just incomplete in your understanding, and thereby drawing a flawed conjecture.

Here's an analogy of where your argument is falling apart. Your point is effectively "the sky is blue, therefore paint the balloon blue and it'll always be invisible against the sky (unless there are clouds)." I'm trying to explain that while the sky is often blue, that's because of how light diffuses, meaning the shade (and even the color) can vary, thus you cannot paint the balloon to be invisible, even without clouds. But instead of stopping and considering the nature of light diffusing, you keep on hammering that "the sky is blue unless there are clouds".

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aghost7 profile image
Jonathan Boudreau • Edited

For the most part, you've misrepresented my point by saying things like this:

What we don't want to do is tell developers, "oh, you can totally blow off math, you'll never use it,"

I wasn't suggesting that math is useless or anything if that was what worried you.

For the sake of your own growth as a professional, stop responding to this thread, go back, and read my statements slowly and carefully. Think about them. You're smart. If you put some thought into it, instead of focusing on what you'll say next to "win" (and win what?), you'll understand what I'm trying to explain to you.

So, not only have you used strawman arguments but you're now resorting to personal attacks? At least we do agree, this thread is a waste of time.

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

For the most part, you've misrepresented my point by saying things like this:

And that once again underscores that you're not really reading my responses. It's your choice. I'm sorry you chose to rush through, misread and misunderstood things in your haste, and got your feelings hurt as a result.

So, not only have you used strawman arguments but you're now resorting to personal attacks?

Hmm. I see neither strawman arguments nor personal attacks on either side, speaking as someone who has done a fair bit of formal structured debate.

It is not a personal attack to point out a flaw in your rhetorical approach...or if it is ad hominem to disagree with how someone responds, then you're guilty of ad hominem from the first response, and every subsequent response. (And you didn't.) It's also not a personal attack to point out an error in conduct, as I'm doing now. I think you're intelligent enough to learn from your mistake, otherwise I wouldn't bother.

I wasn't suggesting that math is useless or anything if that what worries you.

A careful read will reveal that is not what I was saying. But you have overlooked about 90% of what I've said so far, so I'm not surprised you missed that. Like I said, please go back and re-read for your own sake. I know you're smart enough to understand it. You just need to slow down and focus more on learning than winning.

At least we do agree, this thread was a waste of time.

We don't agree on that at all. If you choose not to take a learning attitude to this, it may be a waste of time for you by your choice, but it will be insightful for many who read it. As for me, I always benefit from debate, in that it helps stretch and strengthen my understanding of a topic, whether my debate partner chooses to approach it in a healthy way or not.

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webbureaucrat profile image
webbureaucrat

This is quite an assertion. Developers use discrete math all the time.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author • Edited

I'll start by saying: That I know how to use all software.

If anything I'm less likely to know how some random program works because I spend so much of my time using software that is somewhat standardized. I learn mastery of new things that build on old things, I'm not necessarily good at using any other program inherently.

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Alan Barr

One misconception is that all software developers love learning new technology constantly and will do it in their free time. Training is a great investment if you have a team of people tasked with doing something new.

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ben profile image
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Paul Facklam

That software developers can solve anykind of computer problem (by only having a look at it).

My is not working anymore. Can you have a look?

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unsungnovelty profile image
Nikhil

That software developers are boring since we are always in front of the computer for our job.

I guess the pandemic gave a lot of people what it's like to be in front of the computer all the time, I think!

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Computers are pretty damn interesting if you ask me! And people who can make things that run on them from scratch— How can those folks be boring!

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unsungnovelty profile image
Nikhil

Exactly! We kind of make things out of thin air you see. :D

But yeah, people think we are a bunch of people who are boring and uninteresting. :-/

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codr profile image
Ilya Nevolin

I have an idea, can you build it?

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Justin R

split the gainz...

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald • Edited

I know, right?

"Yeah, so, I have the concept. I just, like, need someone to code it, that's all."

Uh huh. So, you're good with a 95-5 split, right? Because that's the work distribution we're looking at. (Plus extra if you get underfoot with your big ideas.)

Everybody thinks their ideas are solid gold bars. Most — the majority of mine included — are basically just scrap aluminum.

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Aleksandr Hovhannisyan • Edited

That all developers are paid 100k+ salaries out of the gate (even as juniors). There's a lot of misinformation out there, mostly from job search sites that give you an average salary rather than a median or bootcamps that want to mislead people who are switching careers. The crazy outlier salaries you see some juniors getting ($130-140k+) are inflated—it's only because those companies are in high-cost-of-living areas like California, Seattle, and New York, places where you'll probably be paying $2k+ to rent a small place. About a year ago, I had to have a big reality check when I realized that my salary expectation were unrealistic for my level of experience and the locations to which I was applying.

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giang vincent

true. In Viet Nam, developers usually get paid from 300 - 500$ per month, Which is enough for living only :v

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Giuseppe Silletti

That they are supposed to be coding monkeys. There's a whole non-technical side of software development that is usually forgotten (ex. understanding the impact of the work on the business or product's users)

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frankity profile image
Douglas Brunal

Not an expert fixing phones or stealing someone girlfriend's social networks password.

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pazvanti profile image
pazvanti

Ohhh! You are a Java Backend Developer? It means you know Spring, Spring Boot, Play, JSP, JavaEE, Tomcat, AWS, Azure, Vue, React, Bootstrap, Angular and all the others!

Yah... does not matter that only a few are actually Java...others are Javascript or DevOps-related... Java can be replaced with any other language...the list will be the same.

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Muhammad Hasnain

Can you please recover my Facebook account and other such questions that people ask me tells me the misconceptions they hold. In our country, people don't really respect such fields, they usually go for medical and other engineering fields because that will guarantee them big bucks and what not.

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kirancapoor94 profile image
Kiran Capoor

The biggest misconception I have come across is that — software development is easy.
This is especially said and implied by seniors in our industry who have 10000+ hours under their belt. They keep forgetting their origins...

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bias profile image
Tobias Nickel

that there is a shortage in software engineers. I think having more software engineers leads to needing even more software engineers.

when companies would not constantly add new experimental software to be used, it would be easyer for them to find the people who already know the stack.

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Ossi P.

That you get to work with new tech and just innovate all the time. Most companies have legacy software that still runs fine serving customers and you're gonna have to touch it. Maybe it's all you do while there.

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Tim

I think it is a big misconception that using an application with some level of skill is the same as developing an application for the individuals to use. I believe it is a true false equivalence that many regular computer users make.

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Pandita

that people don't believe that after working I'm tired because software development is not a physical work ;------;

I'm constantly exercising my brain! It gets tired DX

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Jack

💯

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Max Ong Zong Bao • Edited

You know nothing of business or has little to no social skills that allows you to interact with normal ppl.

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giang vincent

haha , LOL

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ImTheDeveloper

When asked the following in a meeting you have just joined:

"So what is the solution for X"

I think this adequately applied to when I was a developer as well as solutions architect. I dislike listing the many options available and sounding like I can't decide which is best like that.

Picking the right solution needs an understanding of multiple views/facets and randomly being asked in meetings is cringe.

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Fran C.

That we want the code "to be beautiful" when we are in fact worrying about the cost/benefit implications of every new patch so that we don't get into a tech bankruptcy.

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Fahme Bnchi

Working on weekends

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ben profile image
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Julien Maury

that all you do is coding stuff. I disagree. The most interesting part is thinking and documenting my work.

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perigk profile image
Periklis Gkolias

That the job is "paid to google things". Sadly from an opinion coming from "senior engineers" too

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ashuk profile image
Ash

Those who know JavaScript know Java

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ryencode profile image
Ryan Brown

That we don't know or care much about hardware, network, infrastructure or security concerns. (This coming mostly from people just focused on those areas)

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Mugoya Dihfahsih

using html, what a misconception

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Zachary Stone

That I eat cheetos while I code and it's only in terminal windows with a black background and green font.

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Mauro Garcia

That you can "fix" any phone that "is running slow" in 5 minutes.

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Faridzi

Random friend: Can you please hack into this account? I want to ....

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Milebroke

Perfect software

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michelledev

Devs are creative, however, they are sometimes the most creative people I know.