The most common misconceptions about developers

Heard any good developer jokes lately? How about the one where the SQL query went into a bar, walks up to two tables, and asks, “May I join you?”

There are plenty more where that came from, and plenty of developer stereotypes and misconceptions to go with it, so we asked Intuit® developers about one big misconception in a recent Twitter poll.

The results? Unsurprising.

Debunking developer stereotypes and misconceptions, one at a time

When asked what the most common misconception is about becoming a software developer, the 8,900+ developers who responded were evenly split:

  • Must be good at math, 26.5%
  • Need a college degree, 23.3%
  • Can fix any tech issue, 28.5%
  • You will have no life, 21.7%

None of these are surprising considering how developers—and other technology experts—are often portrayed in movies or on TV. Take the show, The Big Bang Theory, for example. You’re probably not going to find a more social-adverse, science-and-computer-loving trio that so successfully embodies the developer stereotype.

The question that must be asked then is, are these really misconceptions or is there some truth to them? We’ve found that there may be a grain of truth in some and not even a little bit in others. Let’s take a look.

Can fix any tech issue

Pretty sure we can just debunk this right now: Being a developer does not mean you can fix any and all tech issues.

Developers research, create, test, modify, and maintain software programs that take away a pain point for the end user, but this doesn’t directly translate into knowing how to fix any and all software and hardware issues. It’s like going to your primary care doctor with a complex health problem. They have enough rudimentary medical knowledge to answer the basic concern, but may have to refer you to a specialist to fix the issue.

Keep in mind, there are probably quite a few developers who are good with a variety of tech issues, so don’t hesitate to ask—just don’t be surprised if they don’t know everything. Speaking of which, how many developers does it take to change a light bulb? None. That’s a hardware problem.

Moving on.

Must be good at math

You don’t need to be a math genius to be a developer, but you probably should have the basics under your belt … algebra, calculus, logic. You should also be good at, and enjoy, problem solving.

Additionally, the type of developer you’re interested in becoming (front-end developer, back-end developer, mobile developer, information security developer, information security developer, and so on), as well as the type of projects you’ll be working on, will determine how much math you’ll need to know. Not all developers and not all projects will require deep math skills.

Developer Heather Simpson is a perfect example. She’s an Intuit staff data scientist whose career began in social sciences. “Although I don’t have a math, computer science, and physics background, I believe my degrees and language capabilities have given me some advantages, such as data intuition, knowledge of experimental methods, and, of course, knowledge of NLP methods.”

She and her team won the Scott Cook Innovation Award for their creation of an exciting machine learning model. You can read more about Heather’s developer journey in How diversity is driving innovation, but the main takeaway is this: She doesn’t have a degree in math and she’s still rocking it as a developer.

Need a college degree

This is not true.

It’s a known fact that you can be a self-taught, online-learning, bootcamp-attending developer. A computer science degree is great, but you can also learn the skills you need outside the classroom.

Intuit Senior Developer Relations Engineer Brinda Sivalingam recently shared 3 free online learning resources for developers, and the Intuit Developer Team (that’s us) shared about 4 online bootcamps to help improve your skills. All of our online and bootcamp course suggestions, and many more we don’t mention, can get your career as a developer jumpstarted.

From there, it’s up to you whether you continue to learn and grow your developer skills as well as produce a portfolio that will keep your career moving forward.

You will have no life

Some developers would say this isn’t a misconception.

Others would say just the opposite.

They are all correct. Why? Because every developer bases the truth of their statement on their own experience. Depending on where they work, their personalities, and what they enjoy doing, having a life is relative. And, if we’re going to get truly existential, what is having a life anyway?

For Senior Developer Relations Engineer Ramya Kasaraneni, having a life includes outdoor sports and family. She subscribes to the ideology of working to live, not living to work. Working at Intuit has given her the work/life flexibility she needs to make that possible.

“I can prioritize my tasks so that I can spend valuable time with my family and enjoy my personal pursuits, including adventure sports on land, air, or water,” she says.

Senior Developer Relations Engineer Nimisha Shrivastava agrees. “Intuit allows its employees a good work/life balance. My hobbies are observing human behavior, traveling, and watching movies. I get to enjoy doing them because I have the ability to prioritize what impact the work will have in the short and long term and schedule accordingly.”

Being a developer doesn’t automatically consign you to not having a life. Yes, you will spend a lot of time doing a stressful, detail-oriented, and technical job (that you’re hopefully passionate about), but if you find a balance, you can, as the saying goes, have your cake and eat it, too.

Joking aside, developers have rewarding careers

Here at Intuit, we love to smash misconceptions and stereotypes. Whatever your background, gender, or race, we won’t stereotype you or your abilities to become a successful developer. Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi says, “For us to make the best decisions as an organization and to have the best debates, it’s important that a diversity of voices are heard. As we say at Intuit, diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice.”

Don’t let developer stereotypes and misconceptions deter you from becoming a developer. It’s a fact that it can be a rewarding career choice for many people.

On that note, we’ll leave you with one more joke. How is “debugging” like being in a crime drama? You play the role of the detective and the murderer.

You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: All jokes were found on the internet. We did not make them up.