On problem solving

At some extense, all of us in the software industry need some humbleness. This feeling comes from the cringy answer to the question "what does a designer/engineer do?" that I've ready way too many times. I assume this is the continuation of that now forsaken practice of calling someone a "rockstar developer" some years ago.

What does a software engineer do?

Defining your day-to-day job is one of the first pivotal moments during your career. You need to stop and reflect on what you do to try and summarize it to someone who probably won't be familiar with the jargon. You end up making an ELI5 (Explain Like I'm 5 years old) answer. Even if you oversimplify, that's ok as long as your interlocutor gets a grasp of what you do.

But some people don't just ELI5 but also think like a 5yo and answer with the majestic: "I'm a problem solver". During my years at the university, I myself thought about Design in that view, I might have given that answer!

Please, get some perspective

It's true. Designers and engineers solve all kind of problems for their users, BUT limited to the use of the product they build. And let's be honest, 90% of that software won't solve any real-life problem.

All jobs fulfil the needs for a scoped problem. So what's the issue? That we lost perspective. That some hierarchy of needs is needed to see the bigger picture. That is not the same an ophtalmologist solving a vision problem, which affects many facets of someone's life, compared to someone who drew a nice set of icons or workflow. That it's not the same to implement a carousel in someones e-commerce than educators making arrangements for serving free breakfasts at school for children in need.

There are problems and problems.

What could be a more humble answer?

Enough rant. So what's my suggestion? We could opt for the classic self-deamining joking answer of "pushing pixels" or "write in color letters". Or we could go for a more professional but not ego-lifting version such as "I try to make the user of our apps get their tasks done as effortlessly as possible" and then you may accompany that explaining what your product does. Even better if you acknowledge that you're part of a team and answer something like "I'm part of a team that helps users with [whatever your product does]".

Whatever your answer, please don't lose your perspective. Everyone solves problems, but some are bigger than others.