A myth called the Indian programmer

They are the poster boys of matrimonial classifieds. They are paid handsomely, perceived to be intelligent and travel abroad frequently. Single-handedly, they brought purpose to the otherwise sleepy city of Bangalore.

Indian software engineers are today the face of a third-world rebellion. But what exactly do they do? That’s a disturbing question. Last week, during the annual fair of the software industry’s apex body Nasscom, no one uttered a word about India’s programmers.

The event, which brought together software professionals from around the world, used up all its 29 sessions to discuss prospects to improve the performance of software companies. Panels chose to debate extensively on subjects like managing innovation, business growth and multiple geographies.

But there was nothing on programmers, who you would imagine are the driving force behind the success of the Indian software companies. Perhaps you imagined wrong. “It is an explosive truth that local software companies won’t accept.

Most software professionals in India are not programmers, they are mere coders,” says a senior executive from a global consultancy firm, who has helped Nasscom in researching its industry reports.

In industry parlance, coders are akin to smart assembly line workers as opposed to programmers who are plant engineers. Programmers are the brains, the glorious visionaries who create things. Large software programmes that often run into billions of lines are designed and developed by a handful of programmers.

Coders follow instructions to write, evaluate and test small components of the large program. As a computer science student in IIT Mumbai puts it if programming requires a post graduate level of knowledge of complex algorithms and programming methods, coding requires only high school knowledge of the subject.

Coding is also the grime job. It is repetitive and monotonous. Coders know that. They feel stuck in their jobs. They have fallen into the trap of the software hype and now realise that though their status is glorified in the society, intellectually they are stranded.

Companies do not offer them stock options anymore and their salaries are not growing at the spectacular rates at which they did a few years ago.

“There is nothing new to learn from the job I am doing in Pune. I could have done it with some training even after passing high school,” says a 25-year-old who joined Infosys after finishing his engineering course in Nagpur.

A Microsoft analyst says, “Like our manufacturing industry, the Indian software industry is largely a process driven one. That should speak for the fact that we still don’t have a domestic software product like Yahoo or Google to use in our daily lives.”

IIT graduates have consciously shunned India’s best known companies like Infosys and TCS, though they offered very attractive salaries. Last year, from IIT Powai, the top three Indian IT companies got just 10 students out of the 574 who passed out.

The best computer science students prefer to join companies like Google and Trilogy. Krishna Prasad from the College of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai, who did not bite Infosys’ offer, says, “The entrance test to join TCS is a joke compared to the one in Trilogy. That speaks of what the Indian firms are looking for.”

A senior TCS executive, who requested anonymity, admitted that the perception of coders is changing even within the company. It is a gloomy outlook. He believes it has a lot to do with business dynamics.

The executive, a programmer for two decades, says that in the late ’70s and early ’80s, software drew a motley set of professionals from all kinds of fields.

In the mid-’90s, as onsite projects increased dramatically, software companies started picking all the engineers they could as the US authorities granted visas only to graduates who had four years of education after high school.

“After Y2K, as American companies discovered India’s cheap software professionals, the demand for engineers shot up,” the executive says. Most of these engineers were coders. They were almost identical workers who sat long hours to write line after line of codes, or test a fraction of a programme.

They did not complain because their pay and perks were good. Now, the demand for coding has diminished, and there is a churning.

Over the years, due to the improved communication networks and increased reliability of Indian firms, projects that required a worker to be at a client’s site, say in America, are dwindling in number. And with it the need for engineers who have four years of education after high school.

Graduates from non-professional courses, companies know, can do the engineer’s job equally well. Also, over the years, as Indian companies have already coded for many common applications like banking, insurance and accounting, they have created libraries of code which they reuse.

Top software companies have now started recruiting science graduates who will be trained alongside engineers and deployed in the same projects. The CEO of India’s largest software company TCS, S Ramadorai, had earlier explained, “The core programming still requires technical skills.

But, there are other jobs we found that can be done by graduates.” NIIT’s Arvind Thakur says, “We have always maintained that it is the aptitude and not qualifications that is vital for programming. In fact, there are cases where graduate programmers have done better than the ones from the engineering stream.”

Software engineers, are increasingly getting dejected. Sachin Rao, one of the coders stuck in the routine of a job that does not excite him anymore, has been toying with the idea of moving out of Infosys but cannot find a different kind of “break”, given his coding experience.

He sums up his plight by vaguely recollecting a story in which thousands of caterpillars keep climbing a wall, the height of which they don’t know. They clamber over each other, fall, start again, but keep climbing. They don’t know that they can eventually fly.

Rao cannot remember how the story ends but feels the coders of India today are like the caterpillars who plod their way through while there are more spectacular ways of reaching the various destinations of life..

114 Responses to “A myth called the Indian programmer”

  1. Babu Says:

    IT Enabled services have created different types of programmers in the industry. There is a lot to with the management which determines a developer’s projects and eventually his/her career path. There is no consistency in managing developers in ITES. If a new project comes up, they just throw in available “resources” (aka developers – I hate that word “resources”). HR plans and yearly reviews discuss developer’s career path and interests for namesake. They are mostly designed towards marking 70% of developers as “average” to keep their salaries to minimum. ITES companies give two shits about your interests and career development. Its a big factory where a developer has no control over where his/her career is headed.

    Few good and lucky ones come under the observation of managers and get to work in development projects (depending on their managers). Most of them work in releases, maintenance and support projects and end up doing the same things again and again. After sometime, they are hooked into this monotonous work. Add deadlines and careless QA to the mess, you get chaotic software development. They get used to that too. This experience is the same for all my friends who work in different companies. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in any other industry or country. It is very common given the nature of ITES business.

    My other rant with developers is their learning process. A very few of them continue to learn new stuff and work on them in their leisure time. Most developers attempt to learn something only if they are given a training or forced to know because they need it at work. Even at work, they are happy to spend time chit-chatting, playing table tennis, etc. Very few programmers self-learn and are aware of what is happening in the software industry.

    I think this situation is changing with lot of startups coming up. Good developers now have an option to get out of the ITES factory and try something new, if they want to. I bet there is a huge number of developers who are happy to do the monotonous work, get nice paychecks and go home. When they get a chance to bitch about it, they will. But there is a significant number of guys/gals who would try challenging path.

  2. Ram Krishnaswamy Says:

    Having been closely associated with an Indian software company in Bangalore I feel compelled to vouch that what the author says is true and that most (meaning majority) of so called Indian programmers are mere coders. The monotony of the job and the long hours of repetitious work, year after year, is driving many Indian male programmers to alcohol addiction, marriage breakups and nervous breakdowns. Now that is the prize many will be paying in years to come.

  3. Dr. Jai Maharaj, Jyotishi Says:

    In my old-school, early-IITian psyche, an engineer followed one of the following disciplines, aeronautics, biomedical, civil, chemical, electrical, electronic, mechanical, nuclear and textile (did I forget a few?), with sub-disciplines within (such as petroleum within chemical, highways within civil, railways within mechanical, etc.), but a “software engineer”? The concept has been difficult me to accept since the computers we used back then used to be the size of an entire building basement and programming them was not too much of a rocket science. Oh well, one lives and learns.

    Jai Maharaj, Jyotishi
    Om Shanti

  4. ramesh rajamoni Says:

    It all depends on the project/product/domain and your Project manager on how your are moulded. The managers look upon you as mere coders, they want the job done thats it. We resources dont have that freedom. but if this situation goes on, one day coders will be replaced by some automated s/ws which involve very little human intervention. ( Even todays rational suite tools are capable of producing codes from use cases.) Resources especially indian resources are not given proper exposure/training to involve in learning programming skills. They need to be given oppurtunities and their voice need to be heard by superiors, so that future applications are intelligent and smart, rather than just automating some task. Also indian programmers are not bold to take risks, they are satisfied to code as others and see that is passed by the quality dept. They just translate the requirements into machine code! , Live to learn!!

  5. Slashgod Says:

    It perfectly suits the temperaments of these deadbeats who study engineering at an ratty unaffiliated engg. college just to get a job at a software company.
    For many, this is making it.

    Those with more drive and vision will find a way to a meaningful vocation.

  6. abc Says:

    There are all kinds of people the smart ones and the not so smart ones. the not so smart ones remain coders all their life due to their capabilities. The others graduate to become developers.

    As usual the ratio is small like in any other industry. It is not correct to paint such a gloomy picture.

    A significant portion of Vista was done in India. Google finance is done in India. So much of Cisco’s software is done in India. IBM’s file system, a significant part of it, is done in India. The author probably is not well informed.

    My company does great work.

    • Ryan Says:

      No….no it doesn’t. You are a clueless cretin working a glorified production line.

      Now back to your station monkey boy!

    • pseudoswamy Says:

      I was one of the developers on Windows’ Vista’s networking stack; I can assure you very little of Vista was done in India.

    • Whatever Says:

      You mean Microsoft Windows Vista – The operating system that never worked™.

      • Gouthaman Karunakaran Says:

        Please don’t pass off Vista as an operating system that didn’t work. It took Microsoft towards the right direction and made them release Windows 7, which I honestly think is the best OS they’ve ever worked on. Windows 8 looks pretty awesome as well.

    • lol841701254l Says:

      “A significant portion of Vista was done in India. Google finance is done in India.”

      Typical Indian falsehoods.

  7. Vinay Says:

    The author’s view is right, no doubts. But then I wonder, how wrong is it to start out as a coder? What did you expect, that programmers would grow over night? Did we imagine that companies based out of the United States of America would just send over key work here? That is not going to happen. We need to make that happen. We need to improve our colleges so meaningful work is done there. Do not expect businesses to pay for experiments. That does not happen even in the west. Take a look at any of the major IT breakthroughs and all of it took place in universities, not in businesses. Those breakthroughs were later made into businesses.

    Do not blame the Microsofts, Googles, Yahoos and IBMs, blame the IITs, and other engineering colleges. Our educational institutions fail big time. Not only do they kill free thought through silly examinations, they fail to create human beings. We are so busy churning out developers, doctors and accountants that we forget to build human beings.

    All said and done I dont see what is wrong with a majority of our kids in IT being coders and not developers. At least they take home better pay packets and lead fuller lives.

    As to the comment on drinking, I honestly don’t see it. Where did that come from? I work in a high pressure environment and most of my colleagues are teetotallers. The majority dont even smoke.

    At 35 many of them have homes (on loan, but they have the wherewithal to pay for them), cars, are members of clubs, take holidays abroad, take care of their parents.

    Where is the problem?

    • orclev Says:

      Coders have no place in modern software development. There was a period in the late 90s when middle-managers thought they had figured out a great scam that involved laying off high paid US developers, and hiring dirt cheap Indian “developers” (read coders). That went on for all of about a year before the results of that idea started to trickle in, and upper management figured out they were getting what they paid for and decided to cancel all the outsourcing and bring the jobs back in house, or at least to local contracting shops. Of course, the software industry being what it is, and business being what it is, it’s taken about 10 years for everyone to learn all this, but we’re finally at the point now where outsourcing to India is almost universally understood to either be the act of a clueless moron, or admission of the fact that you don’t actually care if your product works or not so long as it’s cheap.

      If you’re someone living in India you should deeply care about the ratio of “Coders” to “Programmers” your country is producing. As things stand now, India has developed a reputation as the place software goes to die. As languages and tools develop, more and more of the programming process that used to be repetitive and require minimal thought is being eliminated. This is the bread and butter work of “Coders”, and as it’s eliminated so too is the need for a “coder” on any given project.

      I’ve been in the industry long enough that I’ve worked with some really abysmal Indian coders, and some really good Indian programmers, but sadly the former far outweigh the latter. I dream of the day the opposite is true, and not just for those from India, but from all countries.

  8. avinashsingh Says:

    All IITs and couple of NIT/RECs are doing wonderful work. “they kill free thought through silly examinations” I do not agree with you. myself too from IIT Kanpur, many exams are open book exams, and in most of exam papers you will not find any traditional questions directly from any book. I wonder for many question you will not get any clue from google as well. purpose of these exams are to enahnce free thoughts only.

  9. Narasimha Says:

    Coding in Indian IT industries never makes u a developer.
    They only ruins ur spirits & makes u frustrated.
    It is my 1 year experiance in IT Industry.
    Any IItian or few NITians feel this.
    Because they know the brain we have and the amount we r using.

  10. abhijeet Says:

    New Delhi, India – Indian software giant Tata Consultancy Services, part of the same organisation that recently started exporting cars to South Africa – will provide information technology and engineering services to Ferrari for the 2005 Formula 1 season.

    Teams of TCS engineers will work on the development of the Italian team’s race cars and provide solutions to its roadgoing sports car.

    “The F1 car is the most complex and advanced car platform there is, packing research in aerodynamics, engine technology, brakes, tyres and design, to name just a few,” said TCS MD S Ramadorai
    Teams of TCS engineers will work on the development of the Italian team’s race cars

    “This collaboration is a tribute to our work, to the solutions we provide and to our engineers who strive ceaselessly to make this company what it is today.”

    TCS will be the first Indian company to enter the F1 world.

    “We only work with excellent companies because that is what makes Ferrari what it is today,” said Jean Todt, Ferrari’s MD.

    “TCS has what it takes to help us retain our pole position.”

    India’s biggest software services exporter, part of the giant Tata industrial conglomerate which also makes the cars and bakkies which recently started to arrive in South Africa, did not give any figures but media reports put the deal in the multi-million dollar range.

    TCS’s second-quarter net profit before a one-off charge leapt 52 percent to $125.65-million this year as outsourcing orders surged.

    • Ryan Says:

      Put enough monkeys in front of computers and maybe, just maybe, you will be able to sift through the crap and find a small piece of usable code.

    • Ryan Says:

      Also, why do all Indians feel compelled to use so many buzzwords and fake titles. Most Indians are printing business cards thay say “Senior Software Engineer” by the age of 9. What is it with you f*ckers and compulsive lying? Everyone can see through. Quite frankly it’s just entertaining.

      • Ashok Says:

        Ryan, I am not sure whether you are a plain idiot or uninformed dumbass. If you have nothing to offer to the discussion here, stfu.

        No doubt there are a lot of coders who spent time coding repetitive stuff, but there is plenty of development being done in India. (I have worked in Intel, Google, Cisco in India..can tell that from my exp.)

      • sriram Says:

        We’re like that only.

        But everyone else is like that too. I have met a staggering number of drones in any number of IT companies in the US and Europe and Japan, across industries. There are thousands of people doing IT stuff who can’t code their way out of anything, leave alone design or build new stuff. One “senior business analyst”‘ job at one of these companies was to make popcorn for everyone at 10:00.

        The basic trouble is that this industry rewards mediocrity handsomely.

      • Raul Says:

        Now we can see why all companies just run away from ur home countries…u don’t know anything except using words…I doubt u r totally uneducated….u never replied anything regarding IT excepting F*ck …even in which u r uncapable and Indian s have mre population …maybe u should use ur mouth to make some babies …. Tat might atleast put ur name in the “ass in the mouth ” book of records …bloody idiot who can’t debate

  11. abhijeet Says:

    all this tamasha is not limited to software engineering only.no one wants to do the donkeys job in any field.in mechanical engg people don’t want to work in assembly line and call it monotonous . no one wants to work on shop floor..they think its dirty and too demanding.everyone wants to become design engineer and work on cad/cam in a.c. offices.
    they all want to design the next merc or make a new boeing.but how many are really capable of doing so ( IITian included).
    just find out how many engineers in other field are actually working on something path breaking or exceptional.it will rarely be the case.
    in any organisation 70-80 % people do the grunt work.let it be google/microsoft/ford/ge,etc,etc…it makes no difference.
    its the same story everywhere.

  12. Vinay Says:

    I take back what I said about the IITs. As an Indian I sincerely hope what Avinash says is right.

    Now I have a question. If the IITs are really doing good work, where is the application of all that research?

    This is not a gauntlet. Please do not take it as one. It is a genuine question.

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  14. _raghava_ Says:

    Ignorance !!! All discussion simplified and summed up. I too am a software engineer in one of the so called technology companies. [the name itself is a misnomer as we in fact have not done anything technologically but to provide end-to-end service] Similar to this article, there was one from Harsha Oak. Very truly explaining what exactly happens in Indian software industry. Agreed that we were poor till now, but even though now we have money and capability, most of the software majors in India wont invest in RnD just because
    i)It is _NOT_ profitable. When they can earn money with no risk maintenance projects and still boast abt sustained business with clients, will they ever think of taking risk with regard to products? NO.
    ii) Very few _worthy_ programmers are available. [A simple fizz-buzz (refering to codinghorror articles) is enough to evaluate an indian ‘programmer’]
    Apart from this the general fact about the coders. They think a filthy rich campus with all out of the world kinda facilities will give them satisfaction. I bet half the population in top software companies hardly has ever heard abt Linus Torvalds / GNU / FSF. Forget this, most of them wouldnt have seen an OS other than MS windows. Basically that ppl choose software as a way to earn a living. A guy who switches lanes from Mech/chem/EnC to software industry … remains here for abt 4 years … and when someone asks him some fundamental CS related question answers “I am not from CS background, I dunno”. This is the most annoying factor. Even after being in the industry for abt 4 yrs, they still want to remain unchanged. Very few .. _few_ ever get a chance to enhance their skills and out of these few , further a very few will be interested to. 🙂 end of day, slogging will result in exhaustion leading to absolutely ZERO innovation. All I could gain from my > 27 months of experience in Indian s/w industry is that, a person willing to keep his skills updated, joining a company for brand value is a very bad option. Only startups will help to reduce this number of coders and attract more of them to be actual developers.

  15. _raghava_ Says:

    Had missed it out. It is NOT the fact that all IITians are geniuses and all others who graduated from some other college are hopelessly ridiculous dumb idiots. There is an equal mix of the tribes. 🙂 All that is needed to be a programmer is the zeal to learn and discover and the dedicated effort. Doesnt necessarily mean that only IIT/NITs represent the Indian talent. But, I do agree that most of the ppl who opt for engineering have only one thing in mind, ie .. ‘getting recruited in campus by some MNC promising a routine 9-5 job and a hefty paycheck in the month end’ … I feel so sad abt this. Only those who love programming can truly understand and enjoy the spirit, feeling and joy that is attainable. Programming was/is/will never be a jay Oh bee … its an art, forever.

    Currently listening to : the Code Monkey song.

    • indian dick Says:

      “All that is needed to be a programmer is the zeal to learn and discover and the dedicated effort. Doesnt necessarily mean that only IIT/NITs represent the Indian talent.” +1 rightly said.

  16. Pravas R Mohanty Says:

    See entire educational process is wrong in our country. ‘‘proof by analogy’’ is fraud commented by C++ author Bjarne Stroustrup. How can we judge a top scorer(IITs,NITs) an inovator No way(atleast I can’t), you Can’t too, but a foolish can predict he must/may be an inovator, he also impress with you CS % because he can’t ask any question to these people(so called Inovator) but I can , can anybody tellme how can you develop a kernel for my pc or any other uP ? hove you developed ?Yes I am, how can I develop a natural intelleigence software through slope matrix-brain receptor method. So our education system should track psychology of student(about inovation,design,creative etc) from the begining schooling & preapire a confidential report for central database system & it will be carried out during his/her admission at IITs,NITs & others

  17. vill Says:

    Burn in hell damn mere coders!!! Since major companies espablished their division in India a quality of software fall down and now every release is non-functional at all until 3 patches are released. This is a sad fact! But not only indian is to blame, I blame those bastards who looking of cheak labor force — stupid idiots doesnt see difference between digging grave and programming a software.

  18. The Big K Says:

    Right said. I wrote an article couple of days ago on a similar topic. Search for “Sorry State Of Indian Engineers” on my blog.

  19. Bobo Says:

    Who wrote this garbage? Another faking fraud Indian? No software in the world contains “billions of lines” – not even a huge operating system like Windows. Who is this ignoramus?

    The degradation of software development by India has been your own downfall. This once prized and revered profession of art has been reduced to ‘coding’ – commoditized garbage. And now you morons wonder why you are no longer intellectually challenged in you jobs? Your low-grade dog-food approach to everything you do is the cause of all this.

    You people should stop destroying the world and go back to what you are best at: poverty & unemployment.

  20. Mike Says:

    Good programmers do both the design work and the implementation work. Any programmer who cannot design, implement, test, and ship a product single-handedly shouldn’t be in the industry.

    “Coders” is a word invented by Corporate America and India, Inc. to degrade the programming profession so that programmers’ salaries could be lowered.

    Programmers eclipsed politicians, lawyers, doctors, and all other elites in the 1990s. The rest of the world was jealous. Everyone wants to be like the American programmer, but “assembly-line” programmers are useless. Good software is an art. Good software takes time. Trying to reduce software to an assembly line is stupid. It can’t be done. Sure you can try to make software that way, but it won’t be any good.

    A decade later we are seeing the fruits off all this commodity software mentality: a destroyed economy and no innovation.

    Software used to be a great industry to work in. Not any more. It has been degraded and destroyed by India, Inc. and moronic American business executives.

    You guys can have the IT industry. No one wants to work in that ruined industry any more.

    • indian dick Says:

      why the fuck then you american ass holes are out sourcing still..

    • indian dick Says:

      Look inside Google, Facebook and other big companies in USA, you will find smart indians carrying the world on top of their heads. whether you accept it or not, its the fact!

    • indian dick Says:

      those guys just dont come into spotlight!!

    • Raul Says:

      It happens.when we snatch ur jobs,u gotto curse ur brains for being rusted all along.maybe u come to India and say these words aloud and get it serviced and if u r talking of economy…please control..first pay ur debts and goin to recession every two years(oh ya u take loans again) .ur politicians r more dumber than u r ..ain’t it?.and why s Obama always worried about Bangalore.build one if u can don’t just keep talking out here

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  22. profunksticated Says:

    Come on Bobo, don’t blame the Indians for doing what they are ordered to do.

    Corporate America and its control of the United States government is largely responsible for the unleashing of “commoditized garbage” software on the world.

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  26. Tom Nguyen Says:

    Absolutely true, Indian programmer* has no passion to work and little brain. They created very messy code to maintain

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  33. DaveF Says:

    The entire Indian education system is geared toward “professions” and “trained” personnel. Ever since the British set up the IAS and IPS civil service hurdles, every aspect of Indian society has turned into an entrance exam, score, and finally an entitlement to a comfortable job.

    What this misses is true “education” and “learning” that can lead to innovation and creativity instead of mindless service jobs for distant beneficiaries. Even the so called Google, Microsoft jobs are nothing but labor intensive jobs — not the kind that would lead to innovation. Put it another way, how many IT firms in India today would hire someone like a Steve Jobs, a college dropout?

    Until the system of education and rewards are changed toward thinking and action instead of rote memory and studying for entrance exams, it is hard to see how this myth of an Indian programmer be debunked for good.

    • indian programmer/coder or whatever Says:

      “The entire Indian education system is geared toward “professions” and “trained” personnel.” – They tell the very same thing in USA.

  34. ZSJ Says:

    I guess if you never hired a ‘developer’ from India, or a team of them, you wouldn’t know the obvious fact that this article presents.

    Nice perspective on how much of the industry is built around the elephant-in-the-living-room.

  35. sidcool1234 Says:

    This indeed is a painfully accurate picture of the Indian IT industry. It’s not about good or bad, it’s the way it is. It could be a personal choice, but coders should not have any air of arrogance about their jobs.

    And not to mention, I am one of those being talked about here.

  36. sidcool1234 Says:

    Reblogged this on Sid-Thinks and commented:
    Reblogging this post, very accurate.

  37. lynn Says:

    What’s not being said in this article? Anything to do with the overall economy being in the dumper?
    How about the fact that companies who outsource don’t know how to utilize the resources they’ve hired, they just know it’s cheaper.

  38. Ram Says:

    I don’t think it is just a myth with “Indian Programmers”. Most programmers even in the Silicon Valley do the grime job of coding.

  39. Anand Jeyahar Says:

    Reblogged this on Anand Jeyahar's blah..blah..radio static…. and commented:
    Another post on indian s/w engrs… and whole lot of rants in the comments… i guess, it’s from a lot of s/w engrs in india.. Kinda makes me sad….. Disclaimer: I work in the same industry, and consider myself a software mechanic… not sure whether it’s meaningful to attach the engineer title to software,

  40. Amit Baranwal (@amitbaranwal53) Says:

    Being a student, I didn’t have a real taste of it yet,but if this is the Truth then its really sad…

  41. Akhil Says:

    Being student i feel what’s in the article is true…. i just hope the whole situation will change soon for good….. & just hoping for it will be the most stupid work to do…. we must lead the change…

  42. watch a video Says:

    Good programmers do both the design work and the implementation work. Any programmer who cannot design, implement, test, and ship a product single-handedly shouldn’t be in the industry.

  43. csabill Says:

    Most companies are not google or M$ or FB. Most code is written to be thrown away. A coder is sufficient for these jobs.

    It is blatantly false to say that Indians are not good programmers. It is also blatantly false to say that every Russion (put whatever country you want) programmer is good. Shit exists everywhere.

    I suggest that you guys look at the history of companies like Informatica (which does most of its development in India).

    There is no start up culture in India. Nada. Zero. This is where programmers are required, not in TCS or Infosys.

  44. Brajeshwar Says:

    I started asking that question pretty long back – Are you a Programmer or a Coder?


  45. phobius Says:

    A very interesting and insightful article, though I question the legitimacy of over defining the terms “programmer” and “coder.”

    In fact, I would personally reverse your definitions:

    The term ‘coder’ was generally self-applied by hacker types, ie. the programmers who built the majority of our past and present software.
    Whilst I would agree that this hacker archetype is not necessarily known for overarching structural concerns, personally I’ve found those of the broader – and some would argue, more practical – inclination to program more like “assembly line workers” (using previously established methodologies and pre-made components to construct something larger), whereas ‘coders’ often will get caught up in the (sometimes less business-oriented) task of refining the components themselves. In other words: innovators, not implementers.

    Thanks for the article, I hope the above paragraph does not read as pedantic or unappreciative.

    • Kishore Subramanian Says:

      Agree with the term “Coder”. I think of “Commodity Programmer” vs “Programmer”. A Commodity Programmer is someone who can be easily replaced by another person.

      • phobius Says:

        but how do you compare the replaceability of
        (a) The guy who came up with an exceptionally fast sqrt() routine
        (b) The guy who recognised a need for a fast sqrt() routine in his software and utilised someone else’s implementation?

        They’re both inherent parts of the wheel, and a large quantity of programmers/coders/software engineers aren’t equally genial at both.

  46. Amit Says:

    Non-Indian, Non-Asian programmers are jealous .. read ‘ryans’ comments… pure jealousy the west is going to shit and Asia is rising… I hope your race reels in poo for the next melinium.. which it will do you jealous evil fuck.

  47. Doable Finance Says:

    The software industry needs developers who can develop a software product from start to finish. May that be in India, U.S., or some place else.

  48. jpalala Says:

    for those who want to read the story of the caterpillars (mentioned in the final part of the article above, ) i think i found it:


    actually they dont stay stagnant, they became butterflies

  49. Jags Says:

    You nailed it! Bang on!…sad but true.

  50. vcash Says:

    I hope this has changed. This article was written in 2007, I wanted to go study Computer science in India – dropped out of some fake ass university in Nigeria…

    My understanding is that having practical programmers is far more important that dudes with only theoretical knowledge.

    You guys are just one step closer to true explosive development

  51. Coders vs Programmers | Software & Hardware for Geeks Says:

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  52. Richard Bucker Says:

    Back in the 1980s I worked as a contractor for IBM in their OS/2 support center. We had a lot of specialized knowledge when it came to debugging customer problems and more importantly OS/2 internals. A lot of the OS/2 specific technical work was learned on the job but you had to really know how the machines worked in order to properly debug problems. So imagine my shock when the Director of the department sent a fax to the public fax machine that he was going to outsource to India? At the time the general belief was that (a) there was a language barrier (b) they were not technically inclined.

    Not much has changed since then except that the Berlin wall fell and the east is now more open. Many of the really technical societies that were hidden behind communism have been making inroads into capitalist society.

    At the time, we were sincerely scared that our jobs were going overseas. And they were and they did. But the good news is that so did the desire for nice things. Those foreign nationals got the taste for bling. So their salaries demands increased. And so now it’s probably close to a 1:1 and the big differences are still communications… but now we have adopted telecommuting and an affinity for people or teams in a closer timezone so that the impact on “our” lives is minimized.

  53. Mitul Dadhania Says:

    As Owner of IT Software Company, I always ask question to new employees or in the Interviews,
    What your Goal while Joining Software Industries?,
    1: You want to be a good Coder?
    2: Good Programmer?
    3: Or a Developer

    Never find satisfactory Answer 🙂

    Sometime Answer is: I am a BE Computer/ MCA/ BE Soft. Eng. That’s why I want to Join IT Company and do a programming Job 😉

  54. Vinay S Says:

    Nice write-up Avinash.. I am a faculty working in an Engineering college. I have been in this profession for a decade now. I can say that hardly 2-5% of the students studying CS / IS come under the category of Programmers. Rest are all coders. Engineering colleges affiliated to state universities / deemed universities give a predefined list of lab programs. Most of them mug it up and clear the exams. As a faculty, if we give something out of syllabus which makes them think to answer a question, the higher ups in the institution question us since it reflects on the result. Colleges are content with percentage of students placed and not the quality of students. The academic environment except for IIT/ NIT never promote students to think on their own. Unless this improves i can vouch that we will keep producing more coders and not programmers.

  55. akshar100 Says:

    Most of the engineering college in India are just shops that sell certificates. Students know nothing about software engineering and coding. Add to it the importance we give to dud companies like Infosys and TCS. These companies are sucking valuable human resources. They suck as using them.

  56. Kishore Subramanian Says:

    Good article and I agree with most points.

    It highlights one of my fears for the Indian Software Industry as a whole that sooner or later “Programmer from India” might become an oxymoron. It is a generalization and of course there are some bright spots but we are headed into some rough waters. I know some of my comments might not go well with some but I feel we are in denial. Here is why:

    1) Indian S/w Consulting companies (most) are on the same path as Chinese manufacturing companies. They continue to take up “lower value add” work and scale up by adding Commodity Programmers (“Coders” as the author calls them). The Outsourcing companies want this as they get to offload and scale the “lower value add” work while they go up the value chain. This leads to #2 below.

    2) A typical Indian Consulting Company (Infosys, TCS and the like) does not require a real Programmer. They just need a Coder (as the author put it). For them, their coders are a Commodity that they can quickly replace and frankly, it seems to work just fine. And of course, the “Manager” to manage the coders. This leads to #3 and #4.

    3) Lack of Good Mentors: I hope you agree that an Engineer becomes a good Programmer only by doing stuff and learning from others who have done it before. Mentoring plays an important part in the process of learning. In fact, you cannot become a practicing Physician unless you have had a certain # of months under the guidance of a Senior Physician (Mentor). A Vocalist or a Musician typically has a Guru to guide and mentor him/her. It is friggin important to have someone to guide you or look upto. But the # of Senior Engineers who have done stuff and can be Mentors to young Engineers is fast diminishing due to the “Commodity Coder” mentality. Which then leads to #4.

    4) Most young Engineers look up to their Managers as Mentors and want to be like them in future. Soon, very few will aspire to be an Amazing Programmer/Creator.

    If this leads to a vicious circle, it will lead to the Death of the Indian Programmer. If an Engineer is a Programmer at heart, he/she should consciously escape from this vicious circle.

    As an aside, I wonder how many Engineers with 3+ years of experience at Infosys can get into Google or Facebook. Not because they are not good enough but because Infy would have killed the programmer inside them.

  57. Ankit Shah Says:

    Nice article. Now we know the problem but what will be the solution….

  58. Eric Irwin Says:

    Interesting article, although I am not quite sure I agree with certain statements.

    “Over the years, due to the improved communication networks and increased reliability of Indian firms, projects that required a worker to be at a client’s site, say in America, are dwindling in number. And with it the need for engineers who have four years of education after high school.”

    I actually believe the truth to be the exact opposite of what you state. From my experience working with “outsourced” work, in this case India, I have quite a different perspective. We still have work that is being done by “developers”(…sarcasm) in India, and due to the lack of communication from geographic separation, and what in my opinion has been a decrease in the reliability of Indian firms, I feel that the number of engineering jobs has began to increase(look at the statistics).

    My belief is not just for Indian firms, it is for all outsourced worked. I feel that the disconnect in communication has turned to be more of a hassle than anybody had originally anticipated.

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  62. Praseed Nair Says:

    Reblogged this on Praseed Nair's Blog and commented:
    Touched me as I have a lot of so called friends

  63. Quora Says:

    As a US citizen, how can I distinguish myself from the scores of talented programmers in India & China?…

    It’s important to make the distinction between a programmer and a coder. Most of these “talented programmers” in India and China are more the latter and are not truly problem solvers. That’s where we step in. It’s our job, as programmers, to take …

  64. ricoh Says:

    Failed to grasp …what’s the difference between a coder and a programmer ?

  65. anoramlsoftwareengineer Says:

    this is typically called a frustrated author, programmers are coders, only difference is that they got opportunity to work on a complex system which a person can use his brains to overcome and find the solution, are you thinking great scientists are made from IIT, MIT, they are very normal person with extraordinary enthusiasm to know or you can say curiosity. . with anonymity i would say i started a career in a indian based company and grew as a full-fledged developer/tester, three patents in my name, 2 are on review, grow up man, dont think that IITians/mitians could work on complex system, are you thinking they took more nutrious food, i would say grow up and start solving problem instead creating confusion here.

  66. raj Says:

    Quote–‘A Microsoft analyst says, “Like our manufacturing industry, the Indian software industry is largely a process driven one. That should speak for the fact that we still don’t have a domestic software product like Yahoo or Google to use in our daily lives.”

    Why didin’t the MICROSOFT analyst name any microsoft products

  67. Coder In India Says:

    Well … Whatever author above claimed are certainly true for the most of the software developers in India. Many became programmers by chance not by choice. Many want to leave the industry after 1 or 2 years in the industry because simply they couldn’t cope with the programming. But they had to continue . If you want to get respect you have to be working(If software engineer means you get more respect). The general thinking is that Lets work for few more years and get into non technical role which are plenty in any Indian services company.I had many friends who used to hate coding like hell. But still had to do it. Up course there are few who left the industry simply because they couldn’t cope with the programming. You know where are they now< most of them are in top IIM's . Do you guys think they were not suitable enough to be a programmers? I don't think so. If person as enough aptitude and English skills to secure a score of almost 100% can't be programmer. But They were really mediocre when they were coders.

    So it is all depends on persons interest.Many are not interested to be programmers. It is mainly due to the bad practices of Indian services companies. They want resources in masses. It is really foolish to think companies as big as Indian service companies would have all good programmers, Up course there are really good programmers and medium and bad programmers. But the ratio is what is staggering.

    I worked in one of Indian MNC Close to 3 years. My own opinion these companies purposefully creating low profile engineers so that they never leave there company. Even many are happy because the work they get is pretty simple(Add here and there one line,/fix few bugs/ call client ). So whats the big deal. At the end you learn or won't learn you are getting salary.

    The whole service industry works on only one principle.: Find one or two really good programmers and rest mediocre programmers who wold simply fix some bugs nothing more than that.

    I happened to be one of the biggest victim of this. Wherever i go my manager used to tell i heard you are the one of the really good programmer , you have to tc of this whole project. For those 3 years i forgot that i am a human being and worked almost 14 hrs /day .

    Well ti reaped benefits out of that though. I got top ratings , many awards, so on.

    But once i left the company and joined one of the product based companies realized that the kind of knowledge what i have built was quite superior than the so called high profile developers in highly valued company. Again same old managers story…

    So guys don't worry It is not only programming what we have here in India, If i am not wrong 70% people won't do programming., They either do consulting, Quality, Testing, Management, Product management, Business analyst……………………

    So why are you guys so worried. Because Wherever you go those 1 or 2 bright developers would be there and they will take care of everything. So just relax and chill.


  68. Thetruth Says:

    Bombing india into the stone age is the appropriate solution. Let’s give pakistan some cash to cover the expense of the bombs and GET ON WITH IT.

    Fekkin sand n1ggerz

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  72. jimmy Says:

    data entry job is the right word than coder?

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  79. Rahul Says:

    Great article. Hearing from what some of my friends have to grind up at work this seems very appropriate at times. However, I feel the times are changing and India is having IT project of it’s own.

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  82. Poonie Nahasapeenapetalon Says:

    “I was using this awesome program/game the other day. It was built in India…” <— Said no one. Ever.

  83. Squiffy Lornan Says:

    Go back to driving your rickshaws if you gross curry stinking indians are not happy

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