When people picture technologists, such as software engineers and the like, their mind conjures up images of a twenty-year-old pimply guy wearing earbuds and a hoodie, with the hood pulled all the way up to his eyes. He is typing frenetically at his keyboard, and is in a very dark room, like a basement or a garage. He doesn’t stop typing, only taking his hands away from the keyboard to chug down some more Red Bull. And he does this for ten hours straight. This paradigmatic programmer is not exactly what you might call a social butterfly.
But does this reflect real life? Do coders get to talk to other humans at work, or are they just sitting in front of a computer all day?
In reality, while software engineers do spend quite a bit of time at their computers, they can have a lot of social interaction at work, both among other engineers as well as other employees at the company.
The amount and nature of this social interaction often depends on two factors:
The first factor is the particular organization the developer works for. Some companies have more meetings, fostering a little more social interaction, while other companies have fewer meetings. Some companies foster more human-to-human communication by the way they structure their development teams and by the personalities they hire to be part of that team.
The second factor that determines the amount of social interaction is how proactive that particular individual is in seeking social interaction. That is, if you’re the type of person who wants more social interaction, you can typically get it by actively engaging in more collaboration with your peers, and inviting them to talk or do something with you while you take a break. If you’re the type of person who prefers less social interaction, then yes - you can put on your earbuds, and pull up your hood - and people will generally leave you alone.
In some organizations, software developers actually write code together. Called pair programming, this practice involves two developers sitting at one computer and writing code as a team. Pair programming is a very social activity, as two individuals are working together to solve a single problem.
Being a software engineer, then, contrary to popular belief, can be a very social career. Ultimately, though, the amount of human-to-human interaction depends upon the particular organization that you work for as well as how proactive you are in seeking social engagement.