Most product managers develop a close working relationship with their engineering team over time. Although sometimes a little quiet, they’re a lovable bunch of nerds — right? On weekends they probably go home to drink Mountain Dew and play online games until the wee hours of the morning. They wake up at 10 a.m. and start again.
Raise your hand if that’s what you think about engineers. Whether you did or not, there are likely a lot of things that you might not know about your technology team.
Stereotypes abound. The unique skills required to be a successful software developer add to the proliferation of myths. Misconceptions range from whimsical — “engineers love RPG gaming!” — to sweeping generalizations that are simply untrue — “developers are all introverts.”
But if you can get to know your engineers as the three-dimensional human beings they are, it will only help you relate to them better — both professionally and personally.
So without further ado: Here are a selection of common misconceptions about developers — debunked by six developers at Aha!
Myth 1: All engineers were computer science majors
Many people assume that all engineers majored in a field related to technology — unless, of course, they dropped out like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. In fact, many find a passion for the field later in life. Others, like me, honed their skills on the side while pursuing humanities or liberal arts degrees. (I majored in English and Religion in college.) Strong programming skills take time and effort to develop. But perhaps more than any skilled job in history, that progress can occur on an individual basis rather than through formal training. What unites developers is their passion for quality code, regardless of how it was acquired. — Nathan
Myth 2: Engineers hate speaking in public
This myth plays along with the stereotype of social ineptitude. Supervisors and colleagues often presume that engineers despise speaking in public. Yet engineers are no different than other people. Some of us hate public speaking with a passion. Others seek it out especially in particular contexts. I lead a small group at my church regularly and thoroughly enjoy the experience. It allows me to explore ideas with other members, and help lead and direct discussion. — Alex
Myth 3: Engineers loathe sports
This is one of the most pervasive myths about engineers — that we have a general disdain for sports (much less any aptitude for them). It is also one of the most inaccurate myths. In high school, I played tennis, cricket, and soccer. Some of the engineers at Aha! have competed in sports across the spectrum, including football, baseball, squash, rugby, and even badminton. Many software developers find sports to be a welcome part of their daily routine. After staring at a computer screen all day, some fresh air and time outdoors (or on the court) can be essential to maintaining a healthy perspective. — Toray
Myth 4: All engineers are loners
Another common misconception is that engineers are all loners, introverts, or shut-ins who avoid social interaction as much as possible. I’m quite the opposite. I thoroughly enjoy working remotely with the distributed team at Aha!, but sometimes I crave the social interaction and atmosphere of an office environment. I’ll often take my laptop to a coffee shop — and I even joined a coworking space where I can work with others in an office-like environment. Engineers run the spectrum from introverted to extroverted … just like all people do. — Chris K
Myth 5: Engineers love new technology
Engineers work with technology all day, so when the latest and greatest becomes available, they can’t wait to try it — right? Actually, the opposite is often true. Because developers spend so much of their time using technology (and fixing technology), the last thing we want is to deal with bugs and issues that often come with bleeding-edge software. I hate dealing with buggy new gadgets. Many of us frequently prefer to hold onto a phone, laptop, or operating system as long as it is functional — or until the stable version of a new product is available. — Chris W
Myth 6: Engineers are terrible writers
The one strikes a more personal note. Many colleagues have assumed that since I am an engineer, I am a poor writer or do not enjoy writing. In fact, I find writing and coding to be very similar activities. Both require clear and creative expression of ideas in a coherent and readable flow. The primary difference is the language — not the type of thinking required. While it is true that many engineers do not write well, this is more frequently a consequence of experience, not talent. Just like coding in a new language, writing effectively requires practice and diligence. However, it is no more foreign a craft to engineers than it is to anyone else. And the skills that engineers develop through coding often make us better writers. — Zach
Hopefully, our collection of myths from Aha! engineers will help you get to know your own development team better. Don’t stop here though. Why not ask your team about their unique hobbies, passions, and skills? You never know what you might find.
What are some common misconceptions you have heard about engineers?