So, did you ever think that a man who revolutionized the world of coding back in 1991 by developing Linux, a Unix-like Operating System would ever consider himself a code manager instead of a code developer? Well, yes he does believe he can’t code anymore. While attending Open Source Summit in Europe, Lyon France, he had a public conversation with Dirk Hohndel, the Chief Open Source Officer of VMware.
“Code manager instead of a code developer”
So what does he do now, if not coding? Torvalds said he didn’t consider himself a programmer anymore and his job is more of a code manager instead of a code programmer. He said, “I don’t know to code at all anymore. Most of the code I write is in my e-mails. So somebody sends me a patch, I pseudo code. I’m so used to editing patches now I sometimes edit patches and send out the patch without having ever tested it. I literally wrote it in the mail and say, ‘I think my job is done,’ but this is what I do, I am not a programmer.
“My job is to say no”
When Hohndel asked him what his job was, he replied, “I read and write a lot of e-mail. My job really is, in the end, is to say ‘no.’ Somebody has to say ‘no’ to this [this patch or that pull request]. And because developers know that if they do something that I’ll say ‘no’ to, they do a better job of writing the code.
He explains more about his current work, “Sometimes the code changes are so obvious that no messages really required, but that is very very rare.” Torvalds says to get your code to pass, it helps to explain why the code does something and why some change is needed because that, in turn, helps the managerial side of the equation, where you can explain your code to me, I will trust the code.
So does Torvalds enjoy his current work?
According to Torvald, he is pretty much happy with his current work as well, except for a few things. So what are the aspects of his work that he does not enjoy as much as he enjoyed coding back in his programming days? Torvalds explains, “What is maybe slightly not fun is we have to have a lot of rules in place. It was much more freewheeling back in the days and there was more banter and you could try things. There is a lot of seriousness, but the reason I’m still doing it is, it’s the right thing. So right, I may spend most of my time reading email, but part of the reason I do that is [otherwise] I’d really be bored.”
Just like everyone else…
So has this new job been smooth sailing for him? There are gray areas everywhere. According to Torvalds, while he is pleased with what he is doing with Linux today, he too has his moments of doubt like all of us do about our personal abilities. He said he once suffered from Imposter Syndrome, a condition when one starts to doubt his/her abilities.