Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Software Maintenance - the stigma

I've been a support manager for the last six years.

There is a definite stigma surrounding support, and certainly around support developers, i.e. individuals who change underlying code in applications for maintenance/bug fixing.

I have seen this again, and again over my career, and in my recent job search.

In one of my recent interviews, I heard that Support Managers are more customer focused, have less imagination/creativity than Development Managers (I  have no clue where this comes from), and just a little annoyance to stick in my craw - make less money.

The simple fact is that a support manager and a dev manager share 90% of the same skill sets. They both usually come from a development background and they are both managing people. If one is developing a piece of software, the other has to accept and maintain it. There's a good chance that the two of them look at the same code base, discuss the same applications, use the same tools and manage a team of developers.

For developers, it's even worse. Sometimes, the developers themselves think that support developers are simply the cast-offs of the dev side of things. That dev is all creative and cutting edge and that support is simply drudgery.

The fact is, to do support well, you NEED good people. The skills sets of support engineers versus development engineers is even more closely aligned than dev manager and support managers. And this culture is rampant in the software development world. I don't get what the problem is with a developer who enjoys solving the problems of a product. There is a real skill to working through the puzzles, to pulling a string and making it all unwind. There are some dev personalities who just enjoy maintenance more than new development, and rather than abuse this fact, and frown at it, I say we embrace it and reward developers who are good at maintaining software.

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