Are you a Programmer or a Coder?

Are programmers and Coders the most neglected link in the Software Development Chain? Coders are like smart assembly line workers as opposed to programmers who are plant engineers. Programmers are the brains, the glorious visionaries who create things. Large software programmers that often run into billions of lines are designed and developed by a handful of programmers. Coders follow instructions of the large program.

Some industry experts have put in that — if programming requires a post graduate level of knowledge of complex algorithms and programming methods, coding requires only high school knowledge of the subject. Coding is deemed repetitive and monotonous.

During many events, like the one last week in India at the annual fair of the software industry’s apex body Nasscom, no one mentioned anything about Programmer or aptly the coders. The event, which brought together software professionals from around the world, used up all its 29 sessions to discuss prospects to improve the performance of software companies. Panels chose to debate extensively on subjects like managing innovation, business growth and multiple geographies. But there was nothing on programmers/coders, whom we all believed are the driving force behind the success of any software company.

It has been an eternal battle between the business cubicles and the programmers box if technology drives the business or vice versa. Well, one compliments the other.

Are you a Programmer or a Coder?

In the Indian context, the software professionals aka the programmers aka the coders are the poster boy of Matrimonial classifieds. They are well paid, perceived to be intelligent and travel abroad frequently on software assignments. Or, are they really? Are they paid appropriately for the slogging they do? Are they really intelligent or they follow the directions of the business directives? They travel but do they have a choice, or are they flown and placed like pawns at strategic location by the kings (business tycoons)? Yes, it is an open secret fact which Software Companies won’t say/accept — that Software Professionals specially in India are not programmers but mere coders, they are the assembly line workers.

A Microsoft analyst have rightly said, “Like our manufacturing Industry, the Indian software industry is largely a process driven one. That should speak for the fact that we still don’t have a domestic software product like Yahoo or Google to use in our daily lives.” Is this also another reason that, IIT graduates have consciously shunned India’s best known companies like Infosys and TCS, though they are offered very attractive salaries?

American companies still feel that most of the so called engineers in Indian companies are mere coders. They are almost identical workers who sat along hours to write lines after lines of codes, or test a fraction of a program. They did not complain because their pay and perks were good. Another fuel to this fire is that of the Indian social fabric. Parents, families and spouses do not know or care about the type of works programmers or coders do, they are more interested in the Name of the Company they work for, their monthly paycheck and the ability to include terms like Software Professionals, BPO Team Lead, working in MNC, in their matrimonial classifieds.

Of late, there are uprisings everywhere, emotionally among Programmers in many software companies. They are yearning to do something on their own, something out of the ordinary due to the increasing feeling of dejection. Many programmers want to get out of their routine monotonous coding which no longer excite them. Programmers are toying with ideas of moving out of some of the reputed companies, where they are like caterpillars climbing a wall without knowing how high the wall is.

This is perhaps just the beginning.

Do you want to be a programmer or a coder?

Note: Inspired by an article from yesterday’s Times of India Print Newspaper – A myth called the Indian programmer.

UPDATES

  • 2007 Feb 19: Om Mallick talks about the Troubling Signs for Indian Tech Outsourcers and says that there is bad news for those investors in one of the many US listed technology outsourcing giants such as Infosys. They are no longer the cherished destination for the brightest and the smartest in India.
  • Aili

    I am definitely a coder,
    but sometimes I want to quit this job ))))

  • Pingback: certification gotcha - II « Yogesh’s Real Estate on Net()

  • ASHUTOSH CHAUDHARY

    well iam literaly sorry to say that your differenece about coders and programmers does not sound correct. and when you say that india does not have companies like google or microsoft. let me make you clear that main language on which most of the programmers are working is the c. Ok got it and c was developed by the bell lab teams not by the like of google or microsoft or the like of bill gates. all of these firms harnessed c capabilities. although a few developed c further. so initially nearly all languages are based on c and your so called programmers are developing their languages from c language like php is developed from c language so that does not make them programmers, they themselves too are coders. if you so called programmers lived in U.S or out of world then they should have created a more competent language to c. But reality is a bit changed the real programmers who developed c in 80's got nothing where as the people who harnessed c's power became billionaires.
    A programmer is of no value if a coder is not there to implement his ideas. what if a language is developed but there is no application concerning it. let me tell you gone are the days of real computer scientists (not mere programmers) today more or less all are either developers (language improovers or coders). and please dont be swayed away by someones word, after all everone has its own luck. And also guys do stop blaming indians although iam also too much like you in this case (zero tolerance) but let me tell you in this era where you live the one whom you think is better is the other way.

  • ASHUTOSH CHAUDHARY

    well iam literaly sorry to say that your differenece about coders and programmers does not sound correct. and when you say that india does not have companies like google or microsoft. let me make you clear that main language on which most of the programmers are working is the c. Ok got it and c was developed by the bell lab teams not by the like of google or microsoft or the like of bill gates. all of these firms harnessed c capabilities. although a few developed c further. so initially nearly all languages are based on c and your so called programmers are developing their languages from c language like php is developed from c language so that does not make them programmers, they themselves too are coders. if you so called programmers lived in U.S or out of world then they should have created a more competent language to c. But reality is a bit changed the real programmers who developed c in 80's got nothing where as the people who harnessed c's power became billionaires.
    A programmer is of no value if a coder is not there to implement his ideas. what if a language is developed but there is no application concerning it. let me tell you gone are the days of real computer scientists (not mere programmers) today more or less all are either developers (language improovers or coders). and please dont be swayed away by someones word, after all everone has its own luck. And also guys do stop blaming indians although iam also too much like you in this case (zero tolerance) but let me tell you in this era where you live the one whom you think is better is the other way.

  • anonymous

    "Indians are mere coders and not programmers. This is because no Google or Yahoo was created in India"

    This is a highly flawed and shortsighted argument.
    There is very little difference between a coder and a programmer. The basic difference is that a programmer views it from an software engineering point of view whereas a coder has a smaller picture, just that of the program and its execution.
    But there is no natural law that states that Indians cannot think intellectually. If Indians could not think intellectually, how did an Indian called Sabeer Bhatia create Hotmail, a new and original idea.
    Most often a programmer does coding too and if someone has worked in a software industry in the US will know that sometimes the design as well as code is done by the same person, at-least in smaller firms. I don't think there is anything wrong in doing that. There can be creativity in everything, even if its something as simple as creating a website.
    That India does not have a Google has nothing to due with the intellectual capacity of its people, and everything to do with the infrastructure and resources that people over here have. Its takes time to stand on a pool of resources and start thinking about starting new things. In India, a job and survival is more important to most Indians than discovering new ways of doing things. Venture capital is almost non-existent for a person with ideas unless it falls into one of the tried and tested categories. Government support is also dismal because most elected people do not understand what is the meaning and importance of science and technology. So an entrepreneur, inventor or research is pretty much on his/her own. In the West these factors give a significant advantage to its inventors. Also since population is comparatively very low, there is less pressure to feed mouths and more space to start thinking creatively. Resources per person are also more.

    India is surely getting there and will surely get there when it become wealthier from revenues generated by low-cost services provided by "coders", but to blame it for lack of inventions when it just started off on the track of technology and economic prosperity is sheer childishness. Also given the fact that there are indeed Indians who can invent things, disproves the assertion that Indians are not inventive and intellectual by nature and it seems that instead of looking for racial, cultural or genetic reasons, we must be looking for personal, administrative and economic reasons to locate the true .

    • Gautam Somani

      I dont agree with you. There is a vast difference between a programmer and a coder, something which I myself (a system admin) have seen in the small IT company (around 40 IT staff) in which I work.

      We have just 3 to 4 people who actually discuss, decide, test, evaluate the logic of the program, and then they explain it to mere coders working under them, who will first try to use their mind to get it done, but will definitely fail and will then google to get a code, and then copy-paste it and tweak it according to their needs.

      And this is happening in many small IT companies across India. Not sure of the rest of the world. These self-proclaimed software engineers don't try to use their brains at all. In fact even in their graduation of software engineering, they had never studied the subjects thoroughly. They just mugged up things a month before exam, and write the answers. Never did they even read the reference books on subjects completely even once.

      As for the example of Sabeer Bhatia: just quoting one guy out of more than millions of IT people is not at all justified. It just cannot mean that everyone else is also equally brainy, intelligent, or a logic builder. NOPE. Not at all.

      I know coders, with whom I have worked on projects, who know nothing of logics and algorithms or new advances in software designing concepts, and yet they do get hired by big MNCs. And they want the MNCs for the same reason the author has stated. Good Salary, which means Good Life and a chance to marry a Good and beautiful girl. And that is what their families want to.

      And the root of the problem is the education system, which has been heavily commercialized. The colleges and universities just enroll students to get money (fees) from them. They don't care how good the professors and lecturer are. They don't even care about the attendance of students. Students come, they bunk in class, the attend some, they mug the answers, they try some coding, they pass the exams, they give interviews and that it.

      Even the companies who hire them know this, and hence they pay the the real programmers more. Lot more that the coders get. And even after getting hired, these coders just wait for years to pass and for the normal promotions to come and to finally get into management. After all, after working as a coder for 8 to 12 years, anyone would learn enough to lead a team or manage a project.

      And Yes! Like the author said in the end, there are some who want to do some real coding. Real programming. But again, there lack of skills and knowledge hamper that thinking too. Some of them do manage to relearn the basic skills and kinda restart their coding life, but rest, they just think and dream.

  • anonymous

    "Indians are mere coders and not programmers. This is because no Google or Yahoo was created in India"

    This is a highly flawed and shortsighted argument.
    There is very little difference between a coder and a programmer. The basic difference is that a programmer views it from an software engineering point of view whereas a coder has a smaller picture, just that of the program and its execution.
    But there is no natural law that states that Indians cannot think intellectually. If Indians could not think intellectually, how did an Indian called Sabeer Bhatia create Hotmail, a new and original idea.
    Most often a programmer does coding too and if someone has worked in a software industry in the US will know that sometimes the design as well as code is done by the same person, at-least in smaller firms. I don't think there is anything wrong in doing that. There can be creativity in everything, even if its something as simple as creating a website.
    That India does not have a Google has nothing to due with the intellectual capacity of its people, and everything to do with the infrastructure and resources that people over here have. Its takes time to stand on a pool of resources and start thinking about starting new things. In India, a job and survival is more important to most Indians than discovering new ways of doing things. Venture capital is almost non-existent for a person with ideas unless it falls into one of the tried and tested categories. Government support is also dismal because most elected people do not understand what is the meaning and importance of science and technology. So an entrepreneur, inventor or research is pretty much on his/her own. In the West these factors give a significant advantage to its inventors. Also since population is comparatively very low, there is less pressure to feed mouths and more space to start thinking creatively. Resources per person are also more.

    India is surely getting there and will surely get there when it become wealthier from revenues generated by low-cost services provided by "coders", but to blame it for lack of inventions when it just started off on the track of technology and economic prosperity is sheer childishness. Also given the fact that there are indeed Indians who can invent things, disproves the assertion that Indians are not inventive and intellectual by nature and it seems that instead of looking for racial, cultural or genetic reasons, we must be looking for personal, administrative and economic reasons to locate the true .

  • http://pravinranjan.com DELL

    Current topic is similar to a perfect elastic or better you can say a typical long lasting indian TV serial (KSBKBT).

    Here, lots of people misguided topic to India, US, outsourcing... blah...blah...blah. There wz no need of it.

    Question is simple...Do you know what you are?

    A coder is what just write codes.

    A programmer is what this about design, paradigm and usability and then write codes.

    Ultimately a coder is somewhere within a programmer but a programmer's domain is much more bigger than a coder.

    Now think about a coder, who writes codes for a company for years now thinks to do something different. He starts thinking about something new. He is just trying but his try pushes him a step towards a programmer.

    So what do you think now?

    Whatever you think, I just love to solve coding puzzles. I love my work. Call me either a coder or a programmer or a developer or a nothing. I don't care.

  • http://pravinranjan.com DELL

    Current topic is similar to a perfect elastic or better you can say a typical long lasting indian TV serial (KSBKBT).

    Here, lots of people misguided topic to India, US, outsourcing... blah...blah...blah. There wz no need of it.

    Question is simple...Do you know what you are?

    A coder is what just write codes.

    A programmer is what this about design, paradigm and usability and then write codes.

    Ultimately a coder is somewhere within a programmer but a programmer's domain is much more bigger than a coder.

    Now think about a coder, who writes codes for a company for years now thinks to do something different. He starts thinking about something new. He is just trying but his try pushes him a step towards a programmer.

    So what do you think now?

    Whatever you think, I just love to solve coding puzzles. I love my work. Call me either a coder or a programmer or a developer or a nothing. I don't care.

  • http://www.seowaukeshawebdesign.com Waukesha

    Splitting hairs about job titles is a waste of time and only important to those who need a title to identify their place in the technology pecking order. Most people I work with could not come up with cogent definitions that could distinguish coder, programmer, developer, engineer, architect or designer - nor do they care. Time, budget and specs... that's what they care about.

  • http://www.seowaukeshawebdesign.com Waukesha

    Splitting hairs about job titles is a waste of time and only important to those who need a title to identify their place in the technology pecking order. Most people I work with could not come up with cogent definitions that could distinguish coder, programmer, developer, engineer, architect or designer - nor do they care. Time, budget and specs... that's what they care about.

  • luke

    I have found that Indian coders are like an ant lost in the carpet, they simply can't find the way out!

    Even after step by step instructions of what is required they simply can't understand the concepts.

    Babysitting this type of programmer is needed and it is extremely time consuming and frustrating. They also will never admit that they don't understand what is required but the poor results always show their lack of conceptual thinking.

  • luke

    I have found that Indian coders are like an ant lost in the carpet, they simply can't find the way out!

    Even after step by step instructions of what is required they simply can't understand the concepts.

    Babysitting this type of programmer is needed and it is extremely time consuming and frustrating. They also will never admit that they don't understand what is required but the poor results always show their lack of conceptual thinking.

  • http://pravinranjan.com DELL

    Luke :)

    send ur project to me. Don't be upset.

  • http://pravinranjan.com DELL

    Luke :)

    send ur project to me. Don't be upset.

  • http://www.algorista.com.br Hamilton R. Amorim (O Algorist

    This article is only a great effort to create a huge apartheid between TI workers. Technology have a hungry for new jargon, and those words (coder, programmer, developer) are only a reflex of this fact.

  • http://www.algorista.com.br Hamilton R. Amorim (O Algorista)

    This article is only a great effort to create a huge apartheid between TI workers. Technology have a hungry for new jargon, and those words (coder, programmer, developer) are only a reflex of this fact.

  • Anonymous

    Coders and programmers are secondary to true software engineers.

    http://www.fastcompany.com/node/28121/print

  • abc

    Is this also another reason that, IIT graduates have consciously shunned India’s best known companies like Infosys and TCS, though they are offered very attractive salaries? --- This is not true; In IITs, for Computer Science students the salaries offered by MNCs (and many other companies)  are significantly higher than what is offered by Infosys and TCS.

  • L Radhakrishna Rao

    What else would you except from indians, whose very mindset to get educated it just to get a 'JOB'. And the saddest part is that indians, even after getting a JOB, don't explore things in the field of software engineering. Programming is one part of software engineering, there are other elements too like architecture, technology, process, compliance etc.