Tech-savvy? Biz-Savvy?

An IBM development VP recently answered an interview. One of the interview questions was that what suggestions he’d have for the mass of developers for them to become successful in their careers. The VP mentioned that one important factor was to become biz-savvy.

Well, I believe this holds true for the typical developers who enjoy caffeine and coding through the nights. They do need to look beyond their Dilbert stereotype and become a little bit more biz-savvy if they don’t like pointy haired bosses to rule them.

But that also depends on who you are now and who you want to be.

I have personally seen more than a few great developers who shows excellent technical potential, and yet decided to do more business. They just became mundane business people.

This is especially a problem with the highly thriving and restless atmosphere in China. I grew up as a typical technical guy. So I can understand this increasingly heavy pressure from unnamable sources to developers. There are people who are making a lot and lot of money out there, by simply doing “business” stuff. Yet, developers are required to sit in small cubicles staring at computer screens all day while their bosses often don’t show enough respect to them.

This is a different story in China than in the US or other western countries. In China, young people have to fight for existence first. Young graduates coming fresh out of school are pressed to find better paid jobs. Their families have spent years of family income for their education. The government doesn’t pay for their unemployment. Their parents have retired, with little pension. Housing price has been skyrocketing. They will have to work for almost an entire life to afford a simple apartment. Everything is about money.

Yes, and it seems that the highest paid positions are in doing business. Everyone is talking about successful entrepreneurs. Everyone wants to do management.

I have interviewed dozens of students. And I can feel that for many of them, the sheer passion in technology is the least likely reason that they choose to become a developer. The valid reason is simply that being a developer has a steady pay at the moment. And many fresh employees eagerly seek to become “biz-savvy” even before they become “tech-savvy” enough. Because they believe they see more money in that.

What’s the problem? Why are less-than-2-year-experience developers crazy about executive biographies and fancy marketing stories more than ingenious technical stuff? Why do CS majored students long for consulting jobs where software productivity is sarcastically measured by lines of code?

Someone has to fix this problem in China. And I believe it’s the employers themselves’ responsibility to do so. Treat your developers fair first, before you even dream about your master business plan. Without the tech-savvy folks, nothing will be realized.