Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hi. My name is... and I am a software developer

It wasn't until I started writing that I realized a lot of interesting things had actually happened in my life that were worth writing about. This one is about how in my opinion software developers in Africa are not tooooo 'respected' as we'd expect or as is in the West.

Have you ever been a in social gathering of professionals where everyone had to introduce themselves? I am sitting in one. The first guy does his intro. My name is... and I am a bank manager at... He gets nods and an applause. You can see everyone is impressed. Next guy takes the floor. My name is... and I am the country director for Microsoft. Everyone nods harder this time and the applause is much louder. You can get a chick or two just by being a Microsoft staff - any staff, but to be country director! That guy could have a whole girls hostel named after him. A beautiful lady introduced herself next as an estate developer. Had it not been for the loud applause she got I never knew estate developers were that popular. The applause is over and the guy before me is introducing himself. My name is... and I am the IT manager of... he mentions one of the big banks in the country. He also gets a very loud applause and heavy nods from those gathered. At this point I am a little confused at what triggers the nods and applause because in my mind I knew what the definition of a typical ghanaian IT manager was. Maybe they were actually applauding the bank. My thoughts didn't matter anymore because I was up next. Hi! My name is Michael Ocansey and I am a software developer. A few heads nodded but there was no applause. I could tell from their faces they were waiting for me to finish my introduction, but, I was done. No. I had to think and act fast. I won't be the only one to get no applause so I added... I consult for the UN in Geneva and currently in the country on holidays. Applause applause applause applause applause. Oh so this is how it works huh! I had beaten them to their own game. The applause was so loud for a moment I thought I was in church. Even though I got a very loud applause I was quite depressed. I couldn't believe an estate developer was more well known than a software developer. It was very clear these people were applauding the UN. Unbelievable but can you really blame them? A lot of factors have together defaced software developers in Africa.

Once bitten twice shy. Never mind if the phrase makes no English sense. That's a very wise and popular saying in Ghana that means, you are always careful the second time after having a first bad experience. If a con man managed to trick you into giving him something valuable, that trick will definitely not work on you a second time. A lot of individuals and companies have had very bad experiences with a lot of software developers in the past. A few years back when technology got introduced to Ghana (I am referring to the visual basic 6 days), software development was quite expensive - well very expensive. Companies paid well to have softwares (POSes, accounting and payroll systems) built for them but the software developers or development companies didn't do good work enough to match the amounts they charged. Their support services were also terrible. Those episodes left many who were already scared of computers very bitter. Other developers have succeeded in getting all of us a bad name. One that is taking too long to erase. You know how we say it in Africa. "One bad nut spoils the whole soup".

We are still embracing computers and technology. Bankers and accountants are very well respected and popular no matter how corrupt they are because, money has been with us forever. Computers haven't.  In some parts of Africa the era of the computer is still a new thing. Many people are still scared of the computer. Many people still have little or no knowledge of what the computer is. The 'I.T and computer stuff' is tagged as a thing for the 'small boys' of this generation. Unfortunately around here, monkeys play according to sizes so it'll take a long while before we are classified as 'big boys'. Until then, the small boys ' place is at the bottom of the ladder.

A hungry man is a puppet. Hate me all you want for saying this but truth is, there are too many hungry developers in Africa. Thanks to our extended family system, the developer has more responsibilities than  income. Often times I have seen developers cheapen our trade just because they needed some quick cash  to survive. I did that a lot of times until I got older and wiser. I still get hungry and tempted sometimes but I have learnt to resist because I have come to realize that the moment we accept any meager wage from clients for work done, they really don't see the sense in respecting such a 'cheap' profession. Of course, we don't have to be extortionists and demand a client's kidney as wages but then, let's learn to walk away from insulting wages else we'll end up being insulted.

Seeing is believing. A lot of what we do is not really understood by a lot of people around us. How can they appreciate you when they can't even understand and appreciate what you do. They need something they can see and touch. Give them a house, a car or an iPad and they'll hug you. On a fine day they may even kiss you. Give them your code and they'll ask if you have a national health insurance card so they take you for a thorough brain check up. They just don't get it so don't really expect them to get it when you proudly say I am a software developer. Don't be fooled if they say "Wow". Be shocked!

Hi. My name is Michael Ocansey and I am a software developer. It is ok if you don't directly understand what I do because in so many indirect ways I see you appreciating stuff I and people just like me have built to make your life worth living. You being able to access and read this story even proves one of my colleagues succeeded in making your life worth living. I don't know which of them exactly. Maybe the one who made your computer. No, I think it's the one who made your browser. Probably the one who made your smartphone. Who knows, it may be the one who invented the internet or even the dude who wrote this blogger website.

Much respect to all my fellow software developers who make the world better for all of us. Keep working your magic and - #morevim like a Ghanaian software developer will say!


  1. You're funny. Trust me. But I really enjoy your articles. Very impressive. let me go continue reading the rest of it

  2. Michael, I didn't know you can write like that. This is a master piece. It is funny and informative.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks Sammy .. am glad you liked it. Check out the other articles as well whiles you are there. :)

  4. that's a cool one, reflects the reality... but I guess it's about time software developers stopped talking about the code. (ie. the javas, phps and C#s etc.) for example, instead of giving me a code, i'll suggest you give me a software that automates some aspect of my task that is currently manual... and u'll get the hug

  5. This an old post, but i still make a comment. You're right, 90% of my friends dont know anything about my wed development business, when i spent most of the with my computer, they think i am eating salad made from grass.

  6. nice piece man... u are too good, keep the good work :)