Explain about what you do at work to anyone of a different profession.


This seemed to be a ridiculously pointless thing to do for the first couple of years of my employment. Whenever my civil contractor neighbour or friend’s mom (housewife) or some stranger I meet in a train – asked me this question “Ok youre a software engineer… what do you do at work?”

I mean, how could they possibly make any sense about .NET or web services or Java applets or servlets? Theres no way I could convey anything that could make sense to them.

Also sometimes they had the fear of not understanding anything and not wanting to sound stupid esp in front of a younger person, or maybe it was just a question to make superficial conversation and they were really not interested.

So I would just reply “oh.. computer programming” and usually the person would say “ah! ok” and nod understandingly and either of us would change the topic.

It was only over time that I realised those were stupid assumptions I had invented myself.

One time when I ditched that assumption was when my (late) Thatha (grandpa) hadnt been satisfied with my brief attempts at brushing off the topic. Even at 91, he had not lost that spark of curiosity and was keen on learning things. He was genuinely interested in knowing about my job. I tried explaining the concept of programming starting off with “I tell the computer what it has to do”. That led to a long conversation… including how almost every computer in the world was connected with the internet – he was absolutely astounded! I will never forget that day – we both had a great time! 🙂 He was delighted with some google results for his favorite topics like homeopathy. Then he himself asked me to search for Parkinson’s Disease which he was supposed to have had, and was keen on knowing more about it!

Later Ive always tried explaining to anybody who asked me. Its quite hard really – I had to literally struggle for words and concepts! But its good fun esp if we try to explain it in a way that they dont fall asleep 😉

[Whats the use? Well not that my Thatha wouldve started preparing a resume … its no use really if youre going to look for some end result out of it.]