The universe of software development might be infinite

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

May 7, 2014


Ancient proverbs say “There is only one truth: the universe is infinite.” —Daniel Jackson, Stargate SG-1

This past week, my brother-in-law and two of his kids stayed with us in our town home in Florida. It was a great opportunity to chat about software development given that we both work in the field, albeit in very different areas.

He works for a very small company and essentially pair programs with the one other long term developer at that company. He does the backend and database stuff while the other guy is the front end developer. There are may be some other devs there, but no one apart from the two I first mentioned has been there more than three years.

The differences between my brother-in-law and me? He is a dyed-in-the-wool Microsoft lover. He does everything from top to bottom using Microsoft’s stack. When I asked him about some of the tools he uses and why, a common answer was that such-and-such integrates with Visual Studio or MS SQL Server. The thought of it all makes me cringe.

By comparison, I have been writing code to run on SUN servers for years. I moved off of Windows the minute I had the chance when VMware hired me over four years ago. I happily traded in my corporate Dell for a MacBook Pro and couldn’t be happier.

Are you ready to hear the arguments that flew back and forth? Who won the debate over best stack? Well forget about that. We didn’t argue about anything. There was no condescension. Instead, there was nothing but mutual recognition that neither of us are about to change our platform. Instead, we traded tales and woes we had both encountered. It also gave me more insight to his world of software development.

Something that really caught my attention was how many things he would mention that I had never heard of. Companies, people, products. Having been in this industry for over seventeen years as well as being a computer kid, I thought by now I had a good sense of just how big the reality of software development stretched. Not a chance. That is a humbling feeling.

One thing we enjoyed sharing were mutual loathings of things like discovering queries written by junior developers. Heh.

He laughed when I told him about finding a query based on views that ended up joining the same table ten times and took twenty minutes to run. I described how I rewrote it using the tables directly and it went sub second. The users were so astonished at improving one part of their daily work that they gave me a small certificate as an award. To me, the best reward was removing something that must have been living hell to deal with.

In exchange, my brother-in-law had seen one of his DBAs write a stored procedure that was loaded with garbage. Given my brother-in-law’s authority as CTO, let’s just say that DBA didn’t have to report to work the next day.

Bottom line: the more people I meet in this industry, the more I realize how much bigger the universe of software development is. I feel like my skills are better than ever. But to think you can picture it all is impossible. Never fear that there isn’t room for you to carve out your own hacking nitch. Come on in. The water’s fine.


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