Friday, March 05, 2004

Software Salesman

One thing I was not prepared for when I started working for a big company was the extent that salesmanship plays in day to day technical decisions. In all my previous experiences a group of people would come together and reach a consensus on what needed to be done. Ideas went back and forth until everyone understood the scope of the problem and developed a plan to deal with it. It wasn’t a democracy mind you, someone has always had the power to make a final decision; the difference was that the decision was formed in the context of a group discussion.

In a large organization with a hierarchical structure that’s not how things are done. Most developers are a level or two below any decision maker so they are generally out of the decision making loop. The ideas that get presented to the decision makers come from an ‘elite’ rank of ex-developers, called architects, who exist in a psuedo-development world between the decision makers and the development staff.

The architect ranks tend to be made up of two main categories of people: developers who are just so damn good that they rise to the top on the power of their skills or intellect and developers who are great at convincing decision makers that they have a clue. It’s this later class of architect I label salesman.

Not all architect salesmen are bad; some are good leaders who know their own limitations and actively engage their development peers to come up with workable plans that benefit the project. Unfortunately there is a dark side as well and it’s populated with egotistical sycophants whose only goals are self aggrandizement

The funny thing is that everyone at the development ranks knows who at the architect level fits into which category. It’s only the decision makers who have been hoodwinked.

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