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.