We are a spectrum of jobs, not just one
A couple of days ago, I wrote about the problem of encountering problems in seemingly randomly-sourced third-party software from the wide world of the Internet. I got a bunch of feedback: mostly good, but some people who seemed rather angry that I brought it up. They apparently like the situation of putting together jigsaw puzzles with hammers, scissors, and tape, instead of having finely-crafted pieces that are designed to fit together.
Other people reached out to me, and I had a bunch of conversations this past week. This dichotomy started emerging: the fact that there's "this group" and "that group" and they aren't really doing the same job. Externally, the people might all be seen as "software engineers" or something similar, but their day to day lives might be very different.
The problem, then, is when you hire one for the other job. In one case, you might get someone who's in completely over their head when they can't find an existing module or snippet somewhere. In the other case, you might end up with someone who thinks they're surrounded by a bunch of people who are speaking a different language, and feels very much alone.
This has become excruciatingly clear in the realm of reliability. Jobs are posted, people sign up, and then they find out that it's not actually based around what they think of as "engineering". It's actually just scurrying around, tidying up after vendor stuff.
I realize now that we need to label this properly. It's "managed vendor stuff ops", as a friend called it. When I read that off the window of my chat client a few minutes ago, it was like a bomb went off in my head. This is it! This explains so much!
It's VendorOps. You are hired to tend the vendor's stuff.
The mess we've all gotten into is thinking these are all the same job. They aren't! If you see them as different jobs, then you quickly realize that comparing the abilities of people in one vs. the other is folly. It's an apples and oranges situation: they aren't based around the same things.
The problem is that people think it's the same job. It's not!
I'm going to point out right now that I think there's room for both groups of people, and the other groups that we are probably aren't even aware of yet that have been lumped into the "software engineer" bucket. I bet people would be a lot happier if they actually had a job that mapped onto what they are willing and able to do, instead of having to pretend they are something else.
To bring this full circle and tie up the loose end from the top, remember those angry people? They invariably seem to be the ones who are not very good at something being discussed, and are in danger of "being exposed". They've "Peter Principled" themselves into a bad spot, and are lashing out like a trapped animal. It's not pretty. But, when you see it this way, it starts making sense. Of course they defend their position. It's almost rational now. They're actually in a different job.
We (as humanity) could do a lot of good by just letting people do the jobs they actually would rather be doing, so they can stop pretending to be something else. They wouldn't have to worry about being shown up by someone else, and could probably shine. That is, for any given person, there's almost certainly some place where they can do their thing and feel fulfilled.
VendorOps. Just call it what it is.
You will get takers for the job. You will get people who want to do that kind of work. You will also select out the people who don't.