Tuesday, September 13, 2005

chefs and software engineers

this might sound stupid, but i was thinking about chefs and software engineers and i realized that they are very similar: each has some big project (the right meal, the right application) and they are trying to realize that. they experiment, but they mostly understand the effect of removing or adding any particular ingredient.

neha told me that there's a big difference in that chefs can have this thrill and almost sensual pleasure in making food, whereas software engineers just don't get that. hmm.. well i don't know about the type of pleasure in either setting, but i'll tell you that when you solve a problem in either realm there's a big thrill.

i think the big difference is timelines. you can't have an iron chef tv show for software engineers because it takes at least days, if not months or years to build good applications, whereas you can make a pretty good meal in an hour or less, with enough underlings :)

6 comments:

Neha said...

i am here to poke big holes in your analogy.

first, some software engineers don't work on "the right application." some just work on algorithms. what chefs just fiddle around with recipes but never make anything?

the thrill part -- i think chefs enjoy it WHILE they cook. also, it's not so exact... throw a little of this in, a little of that, change it around today, experiment. with software engineers, i think there is an optimal way to build a product.

as to the iron chef comparison -- top coder!!!

Neal K said...

I do think the analogy is valid, but just to make things interesting, I'll argue that it valid to the point of irrelevancy. You could compare the two to countless other professions or tasks wherein people create some "big project." Engineers, toy designers, writers, lawmakers, fashion designers, teachers, Jerry
Bruckheimer...

omar said...

-- ok i'm sort of BSing now but just for fun --

i disagree with both of you. a small algorithm is like salad dressing.

as to neal's point, complexity is a big part of what i'm discussing. i argue that the fundamental tools a chef is using (food ingredients, maybe some cooking devices) have good analogies with what software engineers work with, and that translates into similar methodology in design. on the other hand, fashion designers are working with very complicated fundamental tools. the fashion designer is working with the human body, which is far more complicated than even the most fickle ingredient (an ingredient that changes as it is exposed to air, for instance). similar with jerry bruckheimer -- he's producing a film and the fundamental toosl he's trying to coordinate are very often people, and that's a very different challenge.

that's just one difference, but i argue that it's a huge difference.

ps neal good to know you're around!

seema said...

i don't know what to say about this, except that i have never watched iron chef and that i'd like to.

but i just wanted to say hello, and that i had to create a blog to say hi to u omar. it's beamherup.the rest.

bea said...

Alright, being that I'm the actual chef of the bunch, Omar's got a point--to an extent.

1) Most chefs, when they are working professional, do not enjoy what we do. Standing on your feet 16 hours a day in a hot kitchen getting screamed at your superior is not fun.

2) There are executive chefs, who sit around all day long and actually don't cook--they actually do just fiddle around with recipes to make them CHEAPER, and go tell an sous chef "Make that" and see the result. I work with such a chef right now.

3) The type of Chef Omar refers too, is some abstract stereotype that we all associate with when we think of the word Chef, but in reality, no chef is anything like that.

Software design takes a lot of ingenuity, design planning--cooking is really just throwing things together and seeing what happens.

s said...

I have to say that that I as a software developer get an amount of pleasure out of designing a good solution and coding a good implementation for a problem that I would consider at least equal to that of a chef preparing a great dish.

They make interesting allegories for each other, I guess.

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