I am not a software engineer

Software engineering, knowledge work, or most broadly any type of white collar labor is, primarily, the production of our own psychology. Our mental capacity is our means of production. We embody the values of our work. Our identity is tightly bound up with our careers, knowledge, skills, methods, company, and our industry—we are our work.

Having our identities bound to our work, and most dangerously, to an employer severely limits ones ability to negotiate wages when that identity is immediately laid bare in monetary value—our human value is our wage.

Beyond wages, this mindset limits the horizons of what is possible to do with our own lived time.

”I need to do software engineering forever, for I am a software engineer”. We can create art with software, we can also create software as art, we can also choose to not make software, and we are still the same person. Software is something we create; we also create ourselves.

As someone who has spent a lifetime in software engineering, who has credentials in the field, and who’s hobbies and interests have, at various times, fallen into the bin of “software engineering”, I have often identified my worth with my current job, wage, and employer. I have put all my eggs in one basket. Identifying who we are with what we do is a cognitive limit.

This is to say, I refuse to self-identify only as invested in my work, my career, my achievements. This might have been okay where we talked about the idea of a career as a vocation, but not now—when the only horizon of intelligibility available according to the dominant mindset is one where we understand our selves only in terms of pure utility, or economic productiveness. This I refuse.

I do software engineering. I am not a software engineer.