Leonardo Da Vinci Required For Flash Developer Position. Please State Salary Expectations.

I was reading the "Da Vinci Code" while I was away on holiday. Alongside pretty much every other modern occupation, Da Vinci would have made a great Flash developer. He had the raw creativity so vital in the graphic design side of Flash, together with the analytic skills needed for the software engineering side.

Some of the Flash job ads I see might as well read 'Modern Day Da Vinci Required.' It's tempting to require someone who can do it all and they do exist. But those so gifted are few and far between. Try to remember the last time you met someone who was both very well dressed and also had a passion for the minutae of Star Trek.

It's not just that these skills are rare - but there is an aspect of mutual exclusion at play here. For whatever reason, maybe cultural, educational or genetic, those that excel in software engineering are more likely to be poor at graphic design and the reverse holds true also.

Most Flash developers are not Da Vinci. They are often great designers who have had to step outside their comfort zone to learn Actionscript. For the most part they'll complete projects and the software will work mostly as expected. The higher cost isn't always seen immediately but will be expressed in terms of more testing, more maintenance and lack of code-reuse. In other words, Software Engineering 101.

For projects that are programmatically simple or don't require much new code, this kind of developer is often a sensible, cost effective choice. But as soon as project needs any kind of complexity, you'll need an engineer to manage that complexity. Sometimes this person is called a "Software Architect". I use the term 'engineer' because it implies that the person isn't afraid to write some code as well as talk about it, but the most important thing to require here is a firm grounding in object-oriented development principles.

What's troubling is that good software engineers tend to avoid Flash. They'll see that Flash developers generally get paid less than Enterprise Acronym Buzz Word Programmers and will be concerned that 'Flash' will look poor on their resume. Sometimes, they'll just be plain religious about it. They'll make ill-considered, ill-informed statements about Flash on Slashdot and they'll worry about what their fellow Slashdotters think about their dabbling in 'not a serious programming language'.

Macromedia has been active in changing hearts and minds here. And it is a self re-enforcing cycle - the more software engineers that use Flash, the more seriously it is regarded as a platform for development and the more software engineers start to use it. If your company is about to embark on a Flash project with a lot of complexity, I suggest you flesh out your team with a talented software engineer who may not know any Actionscript yet rather than Flash designer who 'can do' Actionscript.

Posted by Alexander at March 1, 2005 12:25 PM

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