Dan Kim

I'm a boring programmer (and proud of it)

I have a confession to make — I’m not a rock star programmer. Nor am I a hacker. I don’t know ninjutsu. Nobody has ever called me a wizard.

Still, I take pride in the fact that I’m a good, solid programmer. One who works hard at his craft and really enjoys it, even without the fancy labels.

Yet every week I see a call for ninja programmers, who I assume slice lines of code with incredible precision. I read about tech rock stars, who I imagine write functions as beautiful as the “Stairway to Heaven” solo. I hear people throw around the word hacker (and the associated hack, hackfest, and hackathon) as if haphazardly chopping something into little bits or prying your way into an unauthorized system is a good thing.

And lest we forget about those amazing wizards, who can turn nothing into something with their…

There are no magical spells that will fix your code’s ills. With such cool sounding names and implied mystical skills, it sure sounds like these are the archetypes that all programmers should model themselves after.

But what if, like me, you don’t relate to these labels at all? If you don’t share the sensibilities of a rock star-ninja-hacker-wizard, you must be doing something wrong, right? Nope.

Real role models (the “boring” ones)

I’ll admit it — instead of ego-filled, high-risk, thrill-seeking badasses who can conjure up magical solutions, I have much lower key role models. I’m more akin to a librarian, scientist, artist, and carpenter.

Compared to a rock star-ninja-hacker-wizard, those labels do sound a little boring. But you know what? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Because when it comes to programming and building great products, I don’t want a rock star-ninja-hacker-wizard lifestyle. I don’t need the spotlight or fame. I don’t want to stay up until 4 a.m. every night and burn out. There are no magical spells to cure my code’s ills.

Instead, like a librarian I enjoy quiet and order. When code is well organized, things are easy to find and less likely to break, avoiding a bunch of noise and heartache.

Like a scientist I enjoy analyzing problems, trying different angles to solve them, and then sharing my findings. I want to understand how things work, and I want others to benefit from that understanding.

Like an artist I need to occasionally think outside the box, tap my creativity, and be able to see in abstracts. I want to embrace imperfection.

And like a carpenter, I really enjoy building things. Sometimes that means following a specific plan, and other times you just work with what you’ve got.

I bet there are a lot of you out there who’ve thought along the same lines. You see these silly terms used so casually — they make no sense, yet are often used to describe seemingly attractive job postings. Part of you scoffs, wondering how the use of this lingo ever got started. But a small part of you wonders why you can’t relate to being a rock star-ninja-hacker-wizard.

For those of you who feel that way, I say this — don’t listen to it. Ignore it. If you see a job posting with those words, run away fast and far. Relish the fact that you’re not a rock star-ninja-hacker-wizard. You’re probably already a great programmer doing great work, just without all the unnecessary glitz and glamour.

And whether you know it or not, everyone around you appreciates how much of a quiet badass you really are.