They don't pay you to type

June 30, 2021
I'm a very fast typist. But that has no bearing on my ability to solve problems with code.

A few years ago I was working as a backend developer on a web application. One day the CEO of the company asked me to fix a bug in the frontend code. Now, I’ve dabbled in some JavaScript, so I can read through most frontend code and get a general idea of what’s going on. But the last time I was doing any serious frontend development was back in the dark ages of jQuery 1.4 or so. React and Angular weren’t even concived of yet.

So when I was asked to fix a bug in a modern web frontend (probably using React or Vue), I protested, and said it wasn’t really my area, and that I didn’t know how to do it.

A couple hours later he came back to me and said, with clear frustration, “I fixed it. See? It was EASY!” and he showed me a 1-line fix in GitHub.

What the CEO forgot in this instance is that he didn’t hire me to type 1-line fixes. If he had, I would have been perfectly capable of typing in the fix, and probably faster than him (I am a very fast typist). Of course, that assumes that he showed me the appropriate fix to type in first, of course.

Instead, he had hired me to solve problems. And neither the difficulty of a problem, nor the time it takes to solve it, can be measured by how many lines of code it takes to solve.

The fact that he was able to solve the problem in (apparently) a few minutes may indicate that the problem was in fact easy (for someone with the right knowledge).

Never measure your worth as a developer (or that of any other) by the number of lines you edit, or by how long it takes to fix a bug. The problems you’re paid to solve are much more complex (and we hope interesting) than that!

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