I attended the the last Google devfest, hosted at the Co-Creation Hub, on the last day of 2012.

Why did I go? For the internet, mostly. There was the slight possibility that I might learn something useful, but I didn’t think it likely. That’s because I can’t code to save my life…except if you allow a smattering of HTML and just enough PHP that allows me edit WordPress themes without breaking them. So while everyone else was feverishly installing the latest Android SDKs and IDEs, I was watching YouTube.

Just as I was going to nod off — the coding session was about to begin in earnest — I watched an interesting exchange between the fella who currently had the floor, and the rest of the audience.

“How many of you present are developers?”, he asked

Almost no hands went up.

Now, remember…this was a developer event. There were supposed to be developers there. But I chalked the lukewarm response up to shyness.

“How many of you are designers?” he asked again.

And again, almost zero hands.

By now, I’d concluded that everyone was just “forming”. You know, playing it cool. They didn’t want to seem like the class goodie-goodies. The response to the next question revealed that I was mistaken.

“How many of you are both developers and designers?”

This time, nearly all hands were up. Interesting.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it odd that the same people who eagerly raised their hands to indicate that they were both designers and developers declined to do so on the first and second questions? Or is it like being a developer, a designer and a “designer-developer” — if such a term exists — are mutually exclusive?

Anyways, their quirky logic aside, the most important impression I took away from that brief episode is that most of our developers consider themselves proficient at both writing code and UI/UX design. And that by itself says a lot. It explains why a lot of them are running one-man startups instead of collaborating. It explains why so much of our locally developed software and web services look, feel, and handle like crap. It also explains why they can’t get funding –investors typically prefer to put their money in strong teams comprised of individuals with unique core competences.

If I had to choose between a dev with one single super power and another who’s an average all-rounder, I’d pick the former any day of the week. When someone claims that they can “do everything”, I’m instantly suspicious of them. Granted, there will be the rare exceptions to this rule. But a jack of all code is often master of none.

[image via Flickr/Jim Penucci]

Bankole Oluwafemi Author

Get the best African tech newsletters in your inbox