Common Sense Software Engineering: Letter to a Young Woman (Part II)


Author Notes:

This is the second part of a three-part series.   It is a huge piece of writing.  It resulted from a conversation I had with a young woman who showed interest in learning how to program and possibly enter the IT profession.  It is also an attempt to bring the realities of Information Technology profession as it is today into perspective so that a young woman interested in this field can make informed choices as to how she may be able to enter the field either professionally or for self-interest.

Those who read this piece and would like to pursue further study are more than welcome to contact me with their questions and requests for assistance at

I will do everything I can to help you on this long but potentially exciting journey while also offering advice on how to avoid the most serious pitfalls you may encounter.

In addition, since this is such a long piece, it is also available in downloadable PDF form at the following address…!AnW5gyh0E3V-g2bQ4UCq4Df-V2tf


The 21st Century

By 2000, Microsoft had introduced its next generation operating system, Windows 2000, which could take advantage of the newer 486 chip sets and then the Pentium chip sets, which though still 32bit machines could process computer instructions even faster due to advances in the internal chip architectures.

And then the economic bubble reared its head as a frenzy in the field began to unfold as the Internet became the platform of choice for development.

New startup companies began popping up in the technical industry like an uncontrolled growth in lawn weeds.  A new generation of young professionals was entering the industry in droves and was suddenly being offered highly inflated salaries for their technical, educational backgrounds, though few had any real-world experience.  Venture capitalists were pouring in monies like water into new companies that barely had legitimate business plans for development.

The result, in a word was… chaos.   The only real change to come out of this economic fantasy was a severe increase in working hours for developers and the beginnings of a decrease in job security.

After the bubble burst, thousands of technical personnel lost their positions while numerous companies collapsed under the weight of their own mismanagement.  One thing remained; business perceptions that development could be sped up increasingly by cutting corners in the design of applications.

Another outcome, though not a direct result, was that to increase the speed of development while at the same time cutting its costs, US businesses turned to outsourcing technical work at ever increasing levels.  And insourcing increased similarly as well with a new generation of foreign workers entering the US technical workforce who were not trained nearly as well as their earlier counterparts and nor did they have the engaging personalities of their earlier contemporaries.  Foreign outsourcing companies began feeding into the technical pipeline personnel that were simply not qualified to work in the technical profession from a technical standpoint nor from a personal one.

Many of the new foreign personnel were trained only in the details of technology and had little understanding of how systems and applications were actually built for longevity purposes.  They thought they did and many lauded it over their American counterparts along with the foreign management that was increasingly brought in at lower costs as well solely for the purpose of brow-beating developer staffs into fulfilling increasingly deadlier deadlines..  Until the US Millennials would begin entering the profession, the atmosphere in the Information Technology field became one of terrible pressures and arrogance, which caused a complete undercurrent of sociological disruption in the US technical workforce.  US citizens were being viewed as second class members of the profession since so many could not compete with the exploitative circumstances of both the foreign insourced personnel and the outsourced ones.

It was at this point that professional women in the field began leaving the industry in droves as undercurrents of the oppressive working conditions in the work place started to get out of control as developers were seemingly expected to be either working or on call 24/7.  To encourage this perspective, television advertisements began “glorifying” the non-stop work habits of young workers that provided no time for personal lives.

In short, female technical personnel reacted with a sense of sanity towards a profession that was barreling towards an all-consuming, technically-oriented lifestyle as the release of mobile computing technologies emerged along with a maturation of development techniques and tools that in reality had little alternative for innovation in the business environments.  To this end, developers who adapted to the increasing promotions of freely available, open-source software products (software\source code provided freely) started using them to design their own tools with the idea that redundancy was some form of innovation.

“Open Source” software was a new wrinkle in the profession that up through the early 2000s had a substantially successful “cottage industry” where software developers could sell their own crafted software for moderate prices under the aegis of what was called “shareware”, which was simply software that either had a trial period or limited feature sets both enforced by licensing.

The “Open Source” movement grew out of the sociology of the growing Java Community in which many of its promoters were quite young and were still living with their parents or academics who saw writing software on their own time as a way to promote their own ideas.  However, to be fair, this movement was also given impetus by Richard Stall’s “Free Software Foundation”, which promoted that all software should be free.

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