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If you’re an avid TV watcher or movie-goer, chances are you’ve recently seen a developer portrayed in the media. But just how realistic are these characters (many of who are referred to as “hackers”)?  

One of Stack Overflow’s Data Scientists, Julia Silge, analyzed data from our 2017 developer survey to find out which fictional developers were most realistic and least realistic. Respondents thought the most realistic developers were Elliot Anderson from “Mr. Robot,” characters from “Silicon Valley,” and characters from “Office Space.” The least realistic developers to respondents were Stanley Jobson from “Swordfish,” any character from “NCIS,” and Neo from “The Matrix.”

We asked a handful of developers to let us know what the media gets right and wrong when they depict these fictional developers. Here’s what they had to say.

developers in the media.png

What the Media Gets Right

Sarah, a software engineer, credits “Silicon Valley” for their accurate representation of developers in the media. She says, “Software developers either love it or hate it. But there's one thing everyone agrees on: it's terribly accurate.”

Regarding movies, she says, “’The Social Network’ is still one of the best portrayals of software developers in movies. It accurately depicts a certain kind of origin story and startup culture that many people have tried to emulate in hopes of Facebook-level success. I also like Zuckerberg's communication style in the movie. I've met plenty of software engineers that take the same blunt, to-the-point approach to communication.”

What the Media Gets Wrong

Jason Ephraim, a Campus Director at coding boot camp Digital Crafts, says that the worst representation of developers in the media is the 90’s movie “Hackers.” He says, “Being a software developer or coder does not require one to become counter-culture or sell-out. Not to mention, the movie had as much to do with real web development and software engineering as ‘Finding Nemo.’ Being a software developer does not make someone a hacker, a geek, or even necessarily a genius. Computers and programming languages are just tools, and their growing accessibility in terms of education, affordability, ease of use, and proliferation makes it impossible to generalize the types of people that work with them.”

“Being a software developer or coder does not require one to become counter-culture or sell-out." - Jason Ephraim [Tweet This]

Sylvain Kalache, the Co-Founder at Holberton School, lists the popular TV show “Mr. Robot” as portraying developers in an unrealistic light. He says, “I dislike ‘Mr. Robot’ because it paints the most cliché developer stereotype: introvert, white, and asocial with absolutely no soft skills. The tech industry needs diversity in gender and ethnicity, but also walks of life and personality.”

“The tech industry is not only building computers; it has become way more than that. Amazon is not a tech company, but a retail company. Lyft is not a tech company, but a transportation company. And Facebook is not a tech company, but a media company. We need diversity to build robust teams that will build products that will fit a large audience. Successful companies are not operating locally for a specific crowd but internationally for an, obviously, diverse crowd of people.”

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