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Hackers and Suits: 10 Tips for Managers to Bridge the Gap

Hackers and Suits: 10 Tips for Managers to Bridge the Gap

Managers and software developers live in two separate worlds. An expert programmer shares his advice about how to motivate, communicate with and (maybe) understand these strange people who build the software solutions upon which you rely

There is a great divide in the realm of information technology. I'm not talking about Windows versus Linux or Java versus .NET - no, nothing like that. The gap I'm referring to is between software developers and the people who manage them - what I call hackers and suits.

Let's clarify one thing first: The word hacker is used in at least three senses. There is the Hollywood sense of a kind of "digital burglar" (more properly called a cracker); there is the sense of a person who throws software together quickly and without skill or caution; and finally there is the "true" sense of the word: a craftsman who is a master at what he does, knowledgeable and capable.

Never fake it! Honest ignorance is always better than pretending knowledge

It's the third sense I'm concerned with here. If you're unfamiliar with this usage, refer to the Jargon File or even better, read Paul Graham's excellent essay "Hackers and Painters".

And what is a "suit"? Well, if you don't know what one is, you might be one. The term is common (though not universal) slang for a manager - deriving, of course, from the contrast in dress code. In many or most firms, developers are permitted to dress casually. Managers tend to wear suits - in some cases even appearing to like wearing them - and this sometimes puts developers on their guard.

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