Connie, age 3, sits behind a laptop and addresses her developer Dad. "Sorry Daddy," says Connie, "I'm doing my working. You have to be quiet. Don't talk to me. You stay there and play with my Peppa Pigs. Remember they are mine."
Non-techies often find it difficult to understand what developers do all day. So you can imagine a 4-year-old really has trouble. I spoke to kids in several programmer-families and found that even the older ones had trouble grasping what their parents actually did. The good news is that most of the kids thought that programming was a fun job. The bad news is that they didn’t think it was an important one. (At least it’s not as important as being Batman.)
Here are the questions we asked, and the responses we got from each child.
What is your Mom/Dad’s job?
Linde (age 4): Play games on your iPad! (Linde’s Dad actually makes enterprise software.)
Nora (5): You are the boss. You control the computers. And tell the people what to do.
Beorn (4): Her work is to play games and do writing and do everything. And give us lunch.
Beorn’s brother, Raziel (6): To do a lot of math and do a lot of science and eat lunch.
What kind of things does he/she make?
Nora (5): You make the computers go bleep bleep so they can talk to each other. (Nora’s Dad once used an old modem sound to demonstrate how computers communicate.)
Raziel, whose Mom makes games, thought that making games was very easy on a laptop.
How long would it take you to make a game on a laptop?
Raziel (6): Three minutes and three quarters.
The vast majority of the kids I spoke to thought development was a fun job. However, there were some dissidents.
Is programming a fun job or a boring job?
Raziel (6): "It might be both, which is a straight mouth, not completely happy or sad."
Oliver (9): "A strange job because it's like school but there's no teachers."
The kids were in almost universally agreement that development is not an important job.
Is it an important job or not so important?
Elliot (6): It’s kind of important. Because if you want to make robots do things you need to know how to program.
Oliver (9): Not so important. It's not quite as important as the people who arrest all the people who aren't nice or the armies that fighted in World War I and World War II.
What does your Mom/Dad’s office look like?
Nora (5): Your office is where Sinterklaas comes! (Sinterklaas, or Saint Nicholas, brings presents to Dutch kids on December 5th; Nora's family lives in the Netherlands.)
Linde (4): It's very quiet. And there are lots of people sitting with their headphones on.
Ella (10): His office looks cool because it has a mini sweet shop and it has a sofa and a TV.
Connie (3): I'm trying to eat this pasta. Connie points to her full mouth.
Notably, not one child said they wanted to be a software developer.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Linde (4): A dinosaur.
Benny (5): I want to work in the mine. (Benny’s Dad explained that he makes a joke about sending him to work down a mine.)
Harvey (5): A mechanic so I can work out what a car would look like inside. Because it would be interesting.
Oliver (9): Archeologist and scientist because I want to become famous. I want to discover a new type of dinosaur. If I become a scientist I would want to try and make morphers so everyone can morph into power rangers.
Beorn (4): When I grow up I want to be Batman!
Beorn’s brother Raziel (6): A police officer because a police officer can keep everyone safe.
Beorn (4): And Batman helps the police officers!