Neither a Programmer Nor a Coder Be

C.Q. Ritty

The Glamorous Life of a Systems Engineer (SE)

Hello World! For the record, I have nothing but respect for programmers. In fact, I took several challenging programming classes back in college, and I learned to code. More importantly, I learned to truly appreciate the unique combination of wizardry, sweat, and caffeine that ultimately leads to good software.

We need programmers. We should all make a concerted effort to support these talented albeit socially awkward individuals. Personally, I try to deliver Red Bull, Pringles, Skittles, and comfy seat cushions to their chilly dark caverns whenever possible. (Note: They seem to prefer snacks that can be eaten with just one hand.)

I do not want to become a programmer. This is not my passion, nor my field of expertise. HOWEVER, I am a big fan of network automation and scripting. If I need to configure 100 firewalls to deploy for a chain of retail stores, I really want to automate the whole process. This saves a lot of time, and also greatly reduces the likelihood of errors. How does automation work? Well, all you have to do is write something called a script. This is a small set of very specific instructions, written in your favorite scripting language, perhaps Python.

So, the big question: Is a script a program? Well, technically, I guess so. Just like a tricycle is technically a vehicle or instant noodles are technically dinner. So maybe it’s just a question of quantity. How many lines of code can I write without becoming an actual programmer? Surely 10 lines of scripting does not a programmer make. 20 lines? 50? How about 100? Hmmm… I suspect that we may be pushing the limits at this point.

The moral of the story: Automation is a wonderful thing, so don’t repress all of the memories from your college coding classes. As an SE, many of those principles, even rudimentary programming skills, will continue to be very useful throughout your career. But a little bit can go a long way!


Stay tuned for more nerdy columns about my experiences as an SE.

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