So what exactly is a paradev?

What do you think of when you first hear the word paradev?

I’ll try to explain my meaning of the term with a true story.

A couple of years ago now, just after I started at ThoughtWorks, I read a tweet from a fellow ThoughtWorks developer here in Brisbane along the lines of “the paradevs at work enjoyed my lunchtime session on networking”. My ears pricked: “what’s a paradev?” I asked. “It’s someone who helps the developers develop” she replied. “Oh” I thought.

I admit my initial reaction was shock, what does that actually mean? The first things that came to mind were parasites, paraplegics, paralysis, paranoia, but these weren’t related ar all. She told me she came up with the term from professions such as paramedics and paralegals, basically jobs that function to support a higher paid, higher level profession such as doctors and lawyers. I was offended, how dare she call me that.

But that was then and this is now. I’ve since reappropriated the term, much like the term Queer was reappropriated two decades ago. I’m happy to be seen as someone who helps the devs: “if I’m going to be a paradev: I’m going to be the best darn paradev there is!”

The story gets even better though. Very recently I was telling this story to a fellow paradev who, like everyone else I tell the story to, hadn’t heard of the term. I saw him embark on some quick etymology to discover that para is also used to indicate “beyond, past, by” (think paradox: which translates to beyond belief). This same reasoning translates paradev into beyond dev or past dev. How apt!

He joked with me that paradevs are the people on the team that don’t box themselves into a narrow definition, happy to be generalists, and actually are happy to work on different things. Amen to that.

So to answer my original question: a paradev is anyone on a software team that isn’t a specialist dev-dev.

Author: Alister Scott

Alister is an Excellence Wrangler for Automattic.

6 thoughts on “So what exactly is a paradev?”

  1. I can’t find the term “paradev” anywhere! You answered “what is a paradev” here, but not your own question “What exactly is a paradev”… what do they do? Or is it a group term for anyone that supports development (testing, tech support, IT, perhaps a compliance person..)


      1. Aha! Thanks very much :). I like this term, it helps bring me on side with development and I intend to introduce it into conversations. Many thanks :).


  2. I think i understand the point you´re trying to make here, but what I don´t like is this term “basically jobs that function to support a higher paid, higher level profession”.
    Why is coding the highest profession in sw development? This makes all these “parajobs” second-class-jobs; why is e.g. product management or testing a lower level profession then coding?

    I also prefer another wording to express the -imho- same thing: All of the people working on the product are developing the product, be it tester, product owner, documentation writer or coder; and the guys usually named developers, the ones creating the code, are “coders”. I think this makes it a bit more clear.


    1. That’s why I didn’t like the term when I first heard it too.
      But I’ve come around: by changing the definition :)


    2. As a tester I don’t really feel that I develop the software, but give insight and feedback so that other people can do things better, which leads to better project development. I develop software indirectly.

      Also “coders” makes developers sound like they just write code. I believe they do more than that to develop the software (such as making design and architectural decisions).

      So I’m not certain that it’s clearer, or that it’s a better way of thinking about roles.


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