Your job is trivial. (But I couldn’t do it.)

Ever had a conversation that could be summarized like this?

Your job is trivial. (But I can’t do it.)

This happens in every profession. Everyone’s job has difficulties that outsiders dismiss. I’ve seen it in everything I’ve done, but especially in software development. Here are some posts along those lines.

12 thoughts on “Your job is trivial. (But I couldn’t do it.)

  1. Coincidentally, today. Working on a tech paper with a colleague who doesn’t know LaTeX. Hours of my time converting Microsoft Word to LaTeX for submission (symbols, equations, refs, citations). When I’m done, he tells me he’s in the middle of a major re-write… Arrrgh!

  2. An even more dangerous situation is when someone considers a job trivial but actually thinks they can do it.

    I’ve come across developers who think business analysis is a piece of cake and a lot of managers who seem to agree. I think documentation gets a bad rap because so much of it is cruft (usually not the fault of the people writing it, but rather inflexible processes). Assuming the processes are solid, talented business analysts who produce useful documentation are so vital to have on a complex project it’s disturbing when that type of work is assigned almost at random to non BAs.

    The worst situation I ever encountered was a department that assigned all testing work to BAs. The BAs were unhappy and felt out of their comfort zone (and obviously felt way more stressed). The clients were definitely unhappy due to the amount of bugs that made it into production. The developers were unhappy because the BAs were constantly busy juggling two different roles.

  3. An example of this kind of job is being on the wait staff in a busy restaurant. Doing a good job there is quite difficult, more so than many people seem to recognize. I’m often amazed at waiters memores – I’ve seen wait staff flawlessly remember 10 or 20 complex orders all delivered at high speed, while I’d have trouble remembering one or two.

  4. (More generally, and this was intended to be the point of my comment: many apparently menial jobs have this character that a random person off the street would do them terribly, without quite a bit of hard work aimed at improving.)

  5. Of course the worst thing is when you find yourself thinking “My job is trivial but I can’t do it.” I’m not ashamed to have been in that situation (it could happen to anyone,) but I am a bit ashamed to have stayed in that job as long as I did.

    These days my job is at least not entirely trivial and I can just barely do it. My plan for the future is to do increasingly less trivial things while keeping “just barely able” as an invariant. Hard to get that exactly right though.

  6. I remember having the following conversation:

    – This is 5 minutes work
    – Okay, I’ll just sit 5 minutes then watching *you* doing it.
    – I did not say that it was 5 minutes work for me. I said it was 5 minutes work for you.

  7. @SteveBrooklineMA

    Word documents are XML, write a converter, xslt file or read up on the OpenXML SDK 2.0. Personally though, I think the science community is being stodgy and recalcitrant hanging onto LaTeX for dear life.

  8. Stodgy, eh? I don’t think it’s that we all like LaTeX (although certainly some do) so much as that no one’s managed to come up with a decent alternative. Have you seen the equations MS word sets? They’re practically unreadable.

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