John and Wally, Part 5.

Wally: “Up or out, me boy. There’s a lifespan – or in my case, half-life – of a developer in their current role, which is strongly dependent on their manager.”
John: “Up or out? Like the military?”
Wally: “Well, we’re more flexible than they are, thankfully. But the principle remains the same. Companies, you see, are social affairs. They’re staffed with people, operated by people, and so work on social principles. They’re social hierarchies first, and tools for organizing work second at best. So, here’s the thing. Middle management, especially at a penny-pinching org like ours? Doesn’t really pay that well. There may be very few good managers out there, but there are loads of people desperate to try. But us code monkeys? We actually are doing quite well on the salary front. But, if we keep getting regular raises and sometimes bonuses, we can get up into real-person money, the kind managers are supposed to make. And that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It kind of points out that hey, we’re supposed to be pretending that the tech workers are all more or less interchangeable, so what’s with this guy? Or girl, of course. The aforementioned Secret Mistresses of the Mainframe hit this hard. So, if your company likes you, they’ll start pushing you early into a semi-managerial role so they can keep you in a respectable manner. Because to them, respect and pay are inextricably tied to joining the management club, and not something they can give out to code monkeys.”
John: “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Wally: “True. In start-ups with maybe a dozen people at most-”
John: “No, it doesn’t need to be that way about the engineers. There are a lot of big companies that pay their engineers really well!”
Wally: “More than management?”
John: “Well, management is hard as well!”
Wally: “Really? How hard? How hard relative to the people who want to do it?”
John: “Hmm. Well…OK, it’s not just that management is hard, it’s that getting into a position where people will trust you to be a manager is hard as well. Probably harder.”
Wally: “And we’re back to the white rich Yale grads, I take it?”
John: “Mmm. Maybe. There should be a better way.”
Wally: “You ever fire a gun, John?”
John: “I have not, no. Wait, I’ve shot an air rifle-”
Wally: “Doesn’t count. Look, while I’m giving you reading lists, I recommend you do that, too. Here in America, guns are important. They’re a cultural touchstone, and they affect a lot of people’s lives, directly or indirectly. And like ’em or hate ’em, if you’ve got an opinion on them at all, it should be done with firsthand knowledge.”
John: “So how does that work, then?”
Wally: “Go to a gun range, ask about their beginner classes, go to one, and do everything the instructor says. It will actually be really cheap. A lot of gun nuts view subsidizing firearm safety the same way you view open source tools: a moral imperative.”
John: “Gun nuts…but then, you call yourself a code monkey…”
Wally: “Clever boy!”
John: “And me a boy. I think you’ve got a thing about disrespect…or maybe disrespectful words for things.”
Wally: “As I said. Now go on, and come back when know what cordite tastes like.”
John: “…huh, apparently it’s sweet and slightly cloying-”
Wally: “Put that smartphone away! That’s cheating!”


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