Do Software Engineers Rule the World?



shutterstock_127976582A guy I met at a client firm’s baseball outing had a singular statement:

Silicon Valley software engineers rule the world!

Do they?

His take was based on some simple facts: the world is run on software, the best of the best software engineers are in Silicon Valley, firms can never find enough good engineers to do work that is indispensable, the jobs pay well to do fun stuff so Silicon Valley engineers must rule the world.

There have been jobs (aka “roles”) that have worn a sort of masters of the universe badge from time to time.

In the 1960’s and ’70’s commercial jet pilots ruled the world. In what was at the time a regulated industry, an airline’s ability to operate hinged on having capable, well paid pilots flying in their cockpits. Not quite Top Gun, though many commercial jet pilots came via early careers in the military, but close enough. Kids dreamed of being jet pilots, that smiling man (sorry – no female pilots back then) who got to fly that big shiny plane.

Deregulation, industry consolidation, and rounds of airline company bankruptcies have taken the shine off what was once a glamor job.

Speciality doctors such as cardiac and orthopedic surgeons,  investment bankers (think  Barbarians at the Gates), even nuclear physicists (paging Dr. Strangeglove)  have all been seen at one time or another as “world ruler” roles – jobs that paid well, had prestige, and were “indispensable.”

Each time something’s shifted – technology changed, national or economic priorities modified, or industries cratered – and those indispensable world ruling roles became not so indispensable and world ruling.

Isaiah Harden said, “Life is nothing but a journey with valleys, mountains, zigzagging paths, caves, cracks, crevices, holes, obstacles, and bumps. So enjoy it while it lasts and face the things that get in your way with anticipation.”

Software engineers should enjoy the ride while it lasts. I hope it’s a great one.

History suggests it just won’t last forever.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub.        

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